By Chinyere Ogbonna – In line with the Nigeria’s government decision to diversify its economy from a mono economy that was dependent on oil, to Agriculture as its mainstay, the Babcock University in collaboration with Mushroom Development Foundation Nigeria, MDF-N have taken steps to support government’s efforts at making Agriculture a major foreign exchange earner as well as boost food production for local consumption. To this end, the university in partnership with MDF-N have set up Agropreneurship Centre where stakeholders in the agro value chain would be trained in necessary skills required to boost food production from cultivation to marketing of their agro products, while calling on supports from stakeholders and other good spirited Nigerians to support the project. The President and Vice Chancellor of Babcock University, Prof. Ademola Tayo announced this at the inaugural symposium, awards and Exhibition in Commemoration of World Food Day at the universities auditorium in Illisan, Ogun State, Southwest, Nigeria.
“We wish to use this platform to announce and flag off the Babcock University Agropreneuship Centre as our contribution to developed and impart skills in Agriculture to as many as will be interested”.
“The Agropreneuship Centre will be a platform that will develop programmes and skills acquisition in all the activities and processes involved along the Agriculture value chain”. “Many will be empowered in various Agricultural ventures projects. This will go a long way in promoting federal government’s Agenda of diversifying the economy through Agriculture. “We are set to commence our first training and skills acquisition programme” Therefore we would appreciate your kind support and generous gifts towards this project”.
The forum is aimed at bringing together governments at all levels, as well as private individuals in the Agriculture value chain and potential farmers to brainstorm on some of the challenges facing the development of the Agriculture sector in Nigeria and chatting a new course for the sector towards attaining zero hunger and poverty.
In an address of welcome, the President and Vice Chancellor, Babcock University Illisan, Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria, Prof. Ademola Tayo said that as the world population rises, it’s creating an overwhelming apprehension in the minds of world leaders on the possibility of sustaining food demands pressure posed by population explosion. Prof. Ademola who noted that concerned world leaders had adopted deliberate strategies to strengthen every effort towards sustainable food production and distribution to meet the current world population crisis, however, decried that despite these laudable efforts, the spate of hunger and poverty remained quite significant across the country. He explained that this made it imperative for the university to realize the need to go into Agriculture for it to be self-sufficient, meet the food need of its students as well as that of the university Community.
Prof. Ademola revealed that the Institution had acquired over three hundred hectares of arable lands in various locations within and outside Ogun State, southwest Nigeria and has intensified efforts in cropping and livestock production.
“Currently we have acquired over 300 hectares of land within and outside Ogun State where we have intensified efforts in cropping and livestock production” We are trying as much as possible to become self-sufficient such that we can produce the food needs of our students and the university community” We are not yet there, however, as we remain focused, we would get there soon”.
Founder and President, Mushroom Development Foundation Nigeria, Chi Tola called on more Nigerians to key into farming using any space available to them to ensure that the dream to make Nigeria self-sufficient was realisable. Chi Tola noted that one did not necessarily have to start big, but could join in any of the agro value chain. The Chairman organising committee of the annual event and Head, Department of Agriculture and Industrial Development at Babcock University, Prof. Cyril Nwagburuka said the essence of the gathering was for stakeholders to meet, interact and exchange ideas on how best to achieve the sustainability of food production in the country.
The Commissioner for Commerce in Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria, Otumba Abimbola Ashiru, represented at the event by the Director, Planning Research and Statistics, Mr. Lere Ariyibi who told participants that Ogun State Government was supporting farmers who had genuine businesses with credit facilities at a single digit interest rate of seven per cent, urged participants to apply for the facilities. Mr. Ariyibi listed some of the areas that the government offers supports to include, poultry, fisheries, cottage industries.
He noted that so far, the state government had empowered over one thousand people. Mr. Ariyibi also said that the ministry of commerce in his state have what he called a one stop shop where potential investors are encouraged on what to invest in the state. He said the state government had removed all the bottlenecks that made it difficult for investors to do business in the state.
” If you want to use a car without petrol, it’s possible, if you want to forgo electricity for solar energy, it is also possible, but I want to tell you that on the issue of food, it’s either you get it right or you forgot about it”. “So this is telling us that as stakeholders, we just save to come together and make sure that we do something that can really sustain us. Even the developed world has invented a lot of things but on food, they only keep on trying. No alternative to bole, no alternative to agbado, no alternative to bread ati ewa agoyin”.
“I want to tell you that at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Ogun State, we are working hard to ensure that we hit the target. “The Governor of the State, Senator Ibikunle Amosu in his agenda “Mission to rebuild”. “We have a partnership with the bank of industry. The Ogun State Government donated five hundred million naira while the Bank of Industry has also donated five hundred million naira, making it one hundred million naira. So, we are giving to people at a single digit interest rate of 7 % to people in Agriculture, poultry, fisheries and cottage industry. We are though a bit reserved about supporting people in piggery business. I want to tell you that these facilities are still there for genuine investors, I repeat genuine, not that you collect our money and you run away or you start thinking that the wife you have at home is no longer beautiful”.
“We have a new department in the ministry of commerce in Ogun State where we expose you to a lot things that you can do, and all you need to do to invest in Ogun State”. All the bottlenecks investors encounter in their bid to invest in the state have been reduced. Your processing documents cannot stay up to a week as against three to four months that it used to be. “Now we have simplified the process so that you will not continue to be on queue for long”. “Ogun State is a state to reckon with in business investment now”.
Various speakers at the forum, emphasised the need to address infrastructural deficit in the rural areas to check rural-urban drift if the country must attain sustainability in food production and the need to make farming attractive for the young people to key into. They echoed that Agriculture should no longer be seen as that hubby one could use to keep busy when the need arises but to be taken as real business.
In a remark, a board member of the Mushroom Development Foundation Nigeria, (MDF-N) and a member of the organising committee for the symposium, Tony Wemton Owatemi Ph.D. who appealed to good spirited Nigerians and Agropreneurs in the country to invest in the Agropreneurship Centre, said that it required a collective effort of all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to achieve the desired goals. He urged students of the university, especially those studying agriculture to consider being self-employed after graduation to enable them to contribute their quota in ensuring that the country achieved food security.
The event featured exhibition of agro products including dry hibiscus flower drink popularly referred to as zobo, plantains, cocoa powder, dry bitter leaves, dry mushrooms, honey, poultry products soya and maize meals and among others. The theme for the inaugural edition of the programme is “Challenges in Sustainable Agriculture: Empowerment and Post-Harvest Losses”.