Why Southwest States should Embrace Mechanised Farming at this Time
The Southwest region is unarguably endowed with vast arable land and human resources that can be cultivated to produce sufficient food for the region and other parts of the country.
In terms of agro policies and blueprints, states in the region have what could be termed the best policies, compared to other regions of the country.
But the sad reality is that the laudable policies have not translated to expected food security, as they are more on paper than in practice.
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Despite its enormous agricultural production and potential, the region’s capacity in agribusiness has dwindled in recent years as successive administrations have not aggressively harnessed the resources of the sector.
For now, the region solely depends on food supply from the north to meet its high demands as the majority of the farmers now practice subsistence farming.
Last year’s temporary stoppage of foodstuffs and cattle supply to the south from the north by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria opened the eyes of stakeholders to the need of creating a better approach to agro-allied engagement in the region.
For the period the strike lasted, many trailers transporting cows, tomatoes, onions, pepper, grains and other commodities were prevented from leaving the border town in Niger State to the south.
Across the southwestern states, prices of some food items sourced from the north increased by over 100 per cent, which further worsened food shortage within the period. For instance, a basket of tomatoes was sold for N30,000 in perishable food items markets across Lagos. A bag of bell peppers rose to N20, 000, hot pepper (Rodo) was sold for between N22,000 and N25, 000, while the price of onion galloped.
Although poor infrastructure, insufficient funding, poor research and record-keeping, lack of information, dearth of mechanized farming, among others have been attributed as mitigating factors it is also argued that the various state governments have continued to pay lip service to the sector.
According to the research currently carried out in the region, many of its farmers still rely on crude farming tools and storage facilities, which are inadvertently affecting food production. For instance, lack of proper irrigation devices makes it difficult to farm during the dry season and lack of mechanical tool such as tractors to substitute manual labour reduce output due to fatigue.
State governors have been blamed for this, as industry players believe they have a huge role to play in terms of making favourable policies, research, grants to rural farmers, subsidised farm equipment and storage facilities.
A senior official of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) in Lagos, accused the Southwest governors of lacking the political will to ensure their people participate in several agricultural initiatives, adding that the governors are no longer encouraging people in the region to farm.
She revealed that states in the northern geo-political zone are maximally taking advantage of all agricultural schemes to advance their course.
In a recent interview, the Agbekoya Farmers’ Society, which is disturbed by the turn of events in the sector, appealed to the Southwest governors and stakeholders in the sector to come together and brainstorm on a grand plan for commercial, mechanised farming and agricultural policy that is farmers-oriented, instead of playing politics with agriculture.
The group’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olatunji Bandele, said: “The Southwest governors should have a rethink about how to revamp our farmlands, which the criminal herdsmen and their cattle have destroyed and find ways to resettle farmers who have been displaced from their villages and farms in the last few years.
“This is where Agbekoya Farmers Association will be much needed because we have over 20,000 hectares of farmland all over the Southwest that can be used for cluster farming for easy mechanisation, but our governors are not ready to assist us with funds, agricultural inputs and fertilizers.
“Northerners and their leaders have been assisting their farmers financially, and also making sure they have access to agricultural inputs and fertilizer, but Southwest governors are busy playing selfish politics, instead of helping farmers directly.
“The Federal Government has been playing politics with agriculture since the inception of this administration by abandoning cassava farmers in the Southwest and favoured northern rice farmers with huge investment in rice farming and rice mills. This is the time for the Southwest governors and our leaders to wake up and face the reality of food security in the Southwest.”
The Founder of Menitos Farm, Lagos, Toluwalope Daramola, said the challenge is due to farmers’ lack of access to equal agricultural incentives, which cannot make them compete favorably with their counterparts.
She said: “Most of the structures set up are not placed under good management as management is allotted based on favoritism. The handling of agric initiatives in the region is also shoddy, while states in the Southwest usually politicised the initiatives, the north is focused on the beneficiaries getting all that they needed.”
Daramola advised the state governors, through their ministry of agriculture, to provide farmers with modern tool such as tractors, ploughs and irrigation devices.
She said: “Cooling supplies for perishable goods can also be installed in trucks to keep perishable food products fresh. Incubators should also be acquired to enhance poultry farming.”
The Head of Farmers in Imeko, Ogun State, Chief Ismail Abolore, said the region has continued to experience a series of challenges, despite efforts by farmers to sustain productivity.
He noted that the governors have major roles to play in ensuring that the region is mechanised for maximal productivity to ensure food sufficiency.
“The closure of our land borders is supposed to be a blessing to the country and farmers, but the reverse is the case, as many factors have eroded the gains such as climate change, COVID-19 pandemic, government somersaulting policies, dearth of good infrastructure, lack of modern farm tool to improve food production, alleged insincerity by state governments to issue Certificate of Occupancy (CoO) to farmers and lack of adequate funds.
“There is too much deceit from our governments from the way they propagate the agriculture sector where there is no adequate support for local farmers. Some farmers are even leaving the sector for lack of funds, support and enabling environment from the government.
“All the intervention funds on the pages of newspapers do not get to the real farmers, instead it goes to the hands of political farmers. Poultry farmers are lamenting now for lack of patronage and expensive feeds while maize has become a gold or non-available item in the markets. We are far away from food sufficiency in the Southwest and it will continue this way until our governors embrace mechanised farming,” he said.