Nigeria: Agric, alternative to crude oil: The Edo example

Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State (Left), Osarodion Ogie Esq, Secretary to the State Government, (second left), Mr. Bashir Kadiri, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, (middle) Mr. Monday Osaigbovo, Commissioner for Agriculture, Edo State, (second right) and Mr. Oluwole Adeyegbe Managing Director, Saro Agro-Sciences Limited (Right) and others during the governor's inspection of the 450 hectares maize farm joint venture in Sobe, Edo state.
The Independent | 3 November 2017

Agric, alternative to crude oil: The Edo  example
By Oluseyi Taiwo-Oguntuase

Edo– Apparently worried by the wavering and dwindling fortune of the country on the sole dependence on the oil sector as the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, the awareness of the danger this poses to wellbeing of the country has obviously resulted in increased awareness of the need to look the other way.
In view of this, the three tiers governments, the Federal, States and Local Governments as well as conscious individuals are beginning to look in the direction of agriculture, which is the largest employer of labour and an emerging major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Thus, the need to feed the growing population estimated at over 170 million has become a challenge that has propelled new thinking and pushes in the drive to attain food sufficiency and security for the citizens.
It was on this premise to enhance food production, provide more jobs and enhance the growth of agriculture among its citizens that the Edo State government developed a blueprint to harness the potential of agriculture to boost the economy of the state.
According to available reports, of the 923,768 Square Kilometre landmass of Nigeria, it boasts of about 84 million hectares of arable land with less than a third of that Edo state boasts of about 1.1 million hectares of that quantum.
INDEPENDENT gathered that Edo State is predominantly agrarian with a landmass of about 19,187 square kilometres of which about 70 per cent is cultivatable for agricultural production.
Records also showed that agriculture accounts for an estimated 40 per cent of the State’s GDP. Thus, these potentials give the state an immense advantage in the area of primary agricultural production.
However, with a vision to create 200,000 jobs in the state, Godwin Obaseki, the Edo State governor has crafted policies and initiatives to encourage more youths into agriculture through a value-chain driven agricultural development model designed to ensure smooth commodity-to-market flow.
These plans are why the Edo State Alaghodaro Investment Summit was birthed.
Addressing newsmen, Asue Ighodalo, Chairman of Alaghodaro 2017, said Obaseki understood that a revitalization of the moribund agricultural sector would  require much more than the state government’s funds, saying that active involvement of the expertise of stakeholders in the private sector and their capital inflow as development partners has become inevitable in order to a success of the fresh initiative.
According to him, the summit would be a complete departure from past parleys, noting that there was a deliberate move to mobilise investors to Edo State and steer the state off heavy dependence on petrol dollar as it is now evident that such can no longer sustain the economy of the country and that of Edo State in particular.
He said the Alaghodaro summit is a parley for key investment discourse on Edo’s future, wherein manufacturers, industrialists, investors, agro-allied businesses would dominate and generate immense internal revenue, would provide ample opportunities for stakeholders along the agriculture value chain to do their businesses without fear irrespective of the uncertainty that characterizes the prices of crude in the international market.
Speaking on the importance of the summit, Ighodalo said: “World over and in Nigeria governments are looking beyond oil and are tapping into viable alternative revenue sources in order to ensure sustainable development.
“We must also get creative and take action today for our future and the future of our children,” he added.
Edo’s New Agriculture Roadmap
The state government has drawn up a roadmap anchored on crops where it enjoyed a comparative advantage: production of oil palm, rubber, cocoa, pineapple, pawpaw, cassava, watermelon, yam, plantain, rice, maize and potato.
To operationalise this roadmap, Obaseki said: “A key aspect of my policies on agriculture is the contract farming scheme that has opened up farmland to investors with enough financial muscle to undertake large-scale farming. This would not only ensure that the land that hitherto lay fallow will be put to good use, but also that the locals would be gainfully employed.”
He said Edo’s agricultural roadmap is inherently fashioned to address challenges in the various legs of crop value-chain; hence attention is paid to ensure there are no hiccups in input supply, land preparation and cultivation, farm maintenance, disease and pest control, harvesting, storage, processing and marketing.
Speaking on Tolaram Group’s $50m investment in the state and its implication, he said the state government went on an investment tour to South East Asia and engages heavyweights in the agriculture to tap from its agricultural potential.
He said one of the companies that have signed up to invest in the state is Tolaram, a huge conglomerate that planned to invest in oil palm and cassava cultivation in the state, stressing that the investment is estimated at $50m and the bit on cassava is primed to produce ethanol.
“In a recent visit to Singapore, the government sealed deals covering investments in agriculture, specifically, oil palm and cassava to feed the processing plants of Tolaram Group. The investment is expected to contribute to efforts at diversifying the state’s revenue base and empowering people to go into farming with the assurance that companies in the state would buy off produce from them at competitive prices.”
Speaking further, he stated that the state government intends to build a strong nexus linking youths, agriculture and jobs, saying that government believe that tapping opportunities from its vast arable, loamy land to provide jobs for teeming youths would quell job crisis.
He added that the idea is hinged on the thinking that agriculture has a huge potential for job creation, which affords the people better life.
Fertilizer Plant, As Edo’s Food Sufficiency Game-Changer
One of the key challenges to profitable agriculture is lack of certified inputs that guarantee the best of yield.
To tackle this, the Edo State government revamped the hitherto moribund Edo fertilizer company in partnership with Wacot Limited.
Apart from this, the state also has a standing public-private partnership arrangement for the supply of high-quality seeds to farmers in Sobe and other farm settlements in the state.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo at the commissioning of the plant expressed delight at the 500 direct jobs created by the investment, noting that more youths would be engaged as a result of the ancillary economic activities that would be generated by the fertilizer plant.
“The President Buhari administration is committed to making it easy for investors to do business in the country. We want to achieve this through the promotion of transparency and efficiency. We want every state to be involved in this drive and create the enabling environment for business to thrive in their domain,” Osinbajo said.
He added that agricultural activities in the country could be enhanced significantly if there was improved access to inputs, hence the drive to make fertilizer as a major farm input, easily available and accessible to farmers in Nigeria.
Osinbajo explained that the blending plant would also complement Governor Obaseki’s agricultural development initiative which is aimed at improving investment in agriculture via public, private partnership as well as creating jobs for youths across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Obaseki said the commissioning of the plant is a major milestone, adding “The aim of revitalising the plant is to make the state self-sufficient in food production and enable farmers to get fertilizer at affordable prices. We in Edo State are determined to make food available in the country.”
He added the facility would go a long way in providing fertilizer for neighbouring states like; Kogi, Delta, Ondo and Anambra among others as it is the only blending plant in the region.
The governor commended the leadership role played by the Federal Government in the execution of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative as well as the management of WACOT for partnering with Edo State in revamping the plant.
Obaseki said the plant was a part of the strategies to get youths in the state gainfully engaged in the state, especially as it provided needed input to fast-track agricultural development.
According to him, “This achievement is an open call to other investors to bring in new technology, create more jobs and expand our economic opportunities.”
He said as much as these efforts are directed at opening up Edo for Agribusiness investment, it also speaks volume of his administration’s long-term plan to make the state the heartbeat of the agricultural revolution in Nigeria.
Rahul Savara, Group Managing Director of WACOT, said the presidential fertilizer initiative has made local production feasible and sustainable in the country, assuring that the Edo Fertilizer and Chemical Company would be made up of 95 per cent indigenous workforce.

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