The food sufficiency programme of Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been taken a notch higher. The Governor, on Thursday, rolled out massive agricultural investment that empowers 3,000 urban and rural farmers in key sectoral value chains.
Women, youths and peasant farmers were the main beneficiaries of the 2021 Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme through which the State Government is supporting agripreneurs with modern equipment and inputs that would help them make significant difference and scale up their agricultural practices.
Various groups of farmers, in their numbers, thronged the parade ground of the Police College, Ikeja to personally receive the material support from the Governor, accompanied by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and members of the State Executive Council.
The scheme is also a component of the Sanwo-Olu administration’s five-year Agricultural and Food System Development Roadmap recently launched to chart a coordinated path for the desired development of the sector and boost food security.
The beneficiaries were selected for the scheme through a merit-based system anchored by independent associations of farmers across the State. The support was majorly for agripreneurs in poultry, piggery and artisanal fishery – the three sub-sectors largely affected by the disruption occasioned by Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Sanwo-Olu noted that the intervention was necessitated by the need to raise food production, processing and marketing, while also creating jobs and sustaining the livelihood of the farmers through value creation.
Through the scheme, the Governor said the Government would be easing the burden of the beneficiary farmers and agriculture workers, describing the programme as “another milestone” in fulfilling his administration’s electoral promises to the people.
He said: “This Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme is a clear demonstration of the commitment of our administration to the development and expansion of the agricultural sector, which is driven by a farm-to-table model that aligns with our goal of making Lagos a truly 21st century economy.
“We are determined to increase food production in the State from the current 20 per cent to at least 50 per cent by 2025 and this effort has been emboldened, given the observed disruption in the supply chain of food across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the outbreak of zoonotic diseases.
“We have emerged wiser and more determined to succeed in creating and nurturing a viable agribusiness sector in Lagos. The State Government has put in place a strategy for the proper utilisation and continuous maintenance of the assets being donated to derive maximum value from them. We are also working with a financial institution regarding appropriate financing structures for the guaranteed sustainability of the programme.”
Sanwo-Olu stressed that the deficiency of agricultural land in Lagos would not deter the State Government from deploying innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities that would make the State sufficient in food production and engender economic growth through agriculture.
Lagos, the Governor said, will continue to maximize the value for resources invested in the agricultural sector, urging the beneficiaries to reciprocate the gesture by working hard to nurture their businesses to maturity.
Sanwo-Olu said the intervention would only be sustainable if the beneficiaries succeeded in activating new businesses and created positive impacts for agro-processors in the value chains.
“By putting in your best and judiciously utilising the assets entrusted to you, you are opening doors for more people to benefit tomorrow. Since your selection was based on merit, we believe you can deliver excellent results with these equipment and supplies you are receiving today,” Governor said.
He disclosed that his administration was set to establish Wholesale Agricultural Produce Hubs in strategic locations across the State to promote food safety and ensure access to direct markets for fresh-from-farm products, thereby reducing post-harvest losses for farmers.
Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, said the State Government had not only restructured the projects for greater impacts, but also changed the name to transform the mindsets of beneficiaries not to see the initiative as entitlement and largesse from the Government.
She said the programme would help committed farmers to nurture their businesses into viable agricultural enterprises, pointing out that the Government had created a monitoring mechanism to keep track of the beneficiaries’ activities.
She said:“The Enterprise Activation programme will contribute to inclusive agricultural growth in Lagos, as it will be creating access for beneficiaries to exit the poverty trap and reduce economic inequality. Aside creating new marketing opportunities in the value chains, the programme will also provide a social safety net for youth, women and the vulnerable.”
Oniru of Iru Kingdom and immediate past Commissioner for Agriculture, Oba Gbolahan Lawal, praised the Sanwo-Olu administration for raising the investment for the scheme, which the monarch described as “inclusive empowerment”, as the intervention was extended to farmers in urban areas.
The traditional ruler urged beneficiaries not to betray the Government’s trust, asking them to utilise the support for the improvement of their businesses and turn in good testimonies at the end of the scheme’s tenure.
President of Ogbonge Women, a farmers’ group, Mrs. Chinasa Asonye, praised the Governor for the opportunity and for the priority accorded to women in agricultural business. She promised, on behalf of the beneficiaries, to judiciously deploy the tools for improved food production and return on investment.
In the scheme, 300 youths trained in Aquaculture and Poultry Production at the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP) were empowered with agricultural inputs valued at N245 million, which represented 46.7 per cent of the total investment in the programme.
Other beneficiaries include 400 pig farmers that participated in Agricultural Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES), 680 fishermen, 190 fish cage culture artisans, 360 egg marketers, 500 fish processors, 200 rice farmers and 370 crop farmers.
They received variety of modern tools, such as tractors, ploughs, fishing boats and gear, harvesters, threshers, destoning machines, defeathering machines, herbicides, fish juveniles, pig growers, smoking kilns, crates of eggs, and inputs, which are to be utilised in farming communities across Lagos agricultural zones of Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu.