- Dr Adeola Odedina, Hon. Commissioner for Agriculture, Ogun State
Ogun State agro-industrial prowess is set to change the face of Nigeria’s agriculture sector. As one of the pioneering states for the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) programme in the country, Ogun has gone all the way in ensuring massive investment in its agriculture sector and the state is set for a major breakthrough in the sector. In this Exclusive Interview, AgroNigeria engages the State’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, who unfolds the strides of the state and the expectations in the near future.
Ogun State has been a forerunner of agro-industrialization in Nigeria. What should Nigerians expect from the state, particularly with the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ) programme?
What led to the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) programme was the need to industrialise Nigeria’s agriculture. The focus is to provide more job opportunities, attain food security and contribute to foreign exchange earnings. The SAPZ programme will support critical value chains and draft farmers into the industrial space by linking them with off-takers. In terms of coordination of agricultural activities, sub-Saharan Africa is often found wanting. SAPZ will help address these loopholes in such a way that primary producers will have links to processors and value addition entrepreneurs, so that there will be an open field chain for value added activities.
One of the greatest advantages of the SAPZ programme, as it relates to the development of the agriculture in the state, is that farmers and local agricultural companies will be able to off take their produce/products and respond rapidly to demands and orders. Prior to this revolution, it was difficult to respond to orders made for agricultural produce due to the hitches in supply. With this development, companies which deal in high-quality cassava flour can now order directly from Nigeria, and this will significantly benefit the whole of Africa. Being a player in the SAPZ programme, you are connected to aggregation centres that ultimately guarantee maximum delivery of orders. This way, all value chain actors including farmers will be able to deliver on food supply, job creation and foreign exchange earnings. SAPZ in Ogun State is a coordinated arrangement that will ensure that we all eat from the cake on the table.
The Nigerian Food Systems has been severely damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, how will programmes like the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) help the Nigerian food systems in particular?
The Food Systems respond to increasing demands and future needs. It is mandatory for everyone to eat healthy and nutritious food and this is why we are turning our attention fully to agriculture. We need to tackle the challenges to our food systems, people need to feed, especially with the vast nature of the pandemic. With efforts targeted at repairing the damages to our food systems, we can reap the benefits of it all. For instance, due to the pandemic, so many sectors retrenched their workers, but for the agriculture sector it was a double advantage as more resources went into the sector.
In Ogun State, we are rejuvenating age-long agricultural facilities and creating jobs for the youth – our focus with the SAPZ programme is the massive creation of jobs and income. In no time, a number of food and cash crops that are imported will be produced locally and exported also. We saw that during the pandemic, the demand for food rose in Nigeria and across the globe. We are fortunate enough in Nigeria to have all it takes to grow our own food. Nigeria and Africa as a whole has the capacity to thrive in terms of food production and the market is also readily available. All that is needed is for us to take advantage of the opportunities embedded in the sector. For example in Ogun State, we have lots of international bodies who come here to partner with us on the production of some crops in order to bridge the demand gap. This is why the concept of SAPZ is very integral to the local players and international players, which are all coordinated to deliver the benefits of modern day agriculture.
With Ogun State’s proposed agro-cargo airport, what strategy is the state adopted to drive exportation, particularly with this development?
First, we must understand that Agriculture is practised at different levels –small scale, medium scale to large scale. This means that there is enough room for everyone in the ecosystem and we all cannot delve into exportation. Exportation is a specialised business and there are companies who operate within that framework. In exportation, there are rules and expectations, especially with reference to meeting international standards. For example, you can’t grow a crop by using excess chemicals for preservation and then expect to export.
Here, we have identified exportation as an opportunity to provide young people with jobs and contribute to food security. The export business is very lucrative and we already have those who are championing the course here in our state, exporting all over the world. Ogun State is already known to be one of the largest exporters of agricultural produce. The cargo airport is being developed as one of the infrastructures that we have put in place to facilitate exportation. We are also training young people as export entrepreneurs. We are also that farmers meet up to the standard of produce in terms of quality, because that is where it all begins. Smallholder farmers and aggregators will also be linked to ensure that their produce are transported beyond the shores of Nigeria.
What is the Ogun State government doing to provide an enabling environment for increased private sector participation in the agricultural sector?
One of the goals for agriculture in the state is to ensure food security, and more importantly create jobs. Strategic partnership is also our driving force. As a policy in Ogun State, we have a responsibility to support farmers in the state. Our Governor [Prince (Dr) Dapo Abiodun] has ensured that everyone within the agricultural value chain is supported and empowered – from smallholder farmers to processors. We also want the youths to engage in agriculture, and so we have provided free training and an enabling environment. The Governor also signed into law, in May 2020, a new framework for land use with the private sector at the centre of it.
Additionally, the government has also facilitated the construction of roads, which is tailored to ensure free movement of agricultural value chain operators and their commodities. In connection to the SAPZ programme, this was also why we facilitated the cargo airport as an infrastructure for agriculture and industrialization. The state is also revamping agricultural sites to provide the needed environment for private investment. This being said, we are reviewing some agricultural policies that will enable private sector participation.
What is the state’s strategy to make agriculture attractive for the youths?
When we talk about the youths’ engagement in agriculture, there is always the misconception that we can’t attract them. Agriculture doesn’t begin and end with tractors or mechanisation, and this is where people often miss it. To ensure that the youths are actively involved in agriculture, there must be a provision for ICT [Information and Communication Technology] and also the availability of funds to push their ideas. There should be service providers willing to lend to the youth for their projects at reasonable prices. What we are doing in Ogun State is to ensure that the youths are trained and educated adequately in technology, mechanization, and climate change. We are also assisting young farmers with infrastructure and necessary equipment.
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