An entrepreneur in the agriculture sector, Mr Babs Aina, on Friday pledged an initial investment of $30million to boost the agriculture initiative of Gov. Abiola Ajimobi.
Aina, the Managing Director of Numerix Development Limited, made the pledge in Ibadan after the second consultative assembly organised by the state government at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture(IITA).
He promised that the figure would progressively increase to $100million in the next few years, adding that the investment would target maize and soya beans production in the interim.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that among other investors that pledged commitment to the initiative were Winchester Farms Limited, Ibadan.
Also on the list was Mr Ayodeji Karim and the Chief Executive Officer of Psaltry International Limited, Mrs Yetunde Iranloye.
The forum held at IITA was the second consultative assembly organised by the state government to brainstorm on the revival of the state’s agriculture potential.
Ajimobi, at the event tagged, “Agric Oyo, ’’stressed that the aim of the session was to harness the state’s agriculture potential.
“This forum is to ensure that the state becomes the food basket of the South-West, Nigeria in the short run and West Africa in the long run.
“With an expanse of land spanning 28,454 square kilometre, the state has the largest arable land in the southern part of the country and human resources which gives it comparative advantage over many other states,’’ he said.
He, however, called for attitudinal change among the people, advising that they must work hard to survive.
The governor said that the crash witnessed in the oil sector had compelled all Nigerians to maximise the usage of the available landmass for economic growth.
“Nigeria is now at the crossroads because our strategic reserve is nothing to write home about.
“ Oil is our largest source of income in Nigeria, but it has crashed due to oil glut in the international market.
“We are very lucky in Oyo State. Out of our 33 local governments, 28 are agrarian. So, what Lagos State has in water, Oyo State has in land. We need to harness these through the agriculture value chain to revive our economy,’’ he said.
Dr Nteranya Saginga, the Director-General of IITA, said that it was lamentable that young people were no longer interested in farming due to the hostile environment.
“As a researcher in one of the farms in the state, I discovered that majority of those engaging in farming nowadays were old people and children.
“This portends nothing but a great danger for the future of farming in the country.
“ I am afraid of what will happen to agriculture in the next 10 years if this trend continues.
“Young graduates come to IITA every Friday of the month to be engaged as casual labourers and you will be shocked to know that some of them are graduates of reputable institutions.
“We only pay an equivalent of $3 per day and they still besiege us,’’ he said.
He said that they had to change their mindsets and give them fresh orientation, saying that some of them had embraced agriculture.
“I am proud to present to you today a female lawyer and a male economist among the beneficiaries of this initiative who are today doing very well,’’ he added.
He pledged the commitment and support of IITA for the agriculture initiative of the state, which he said had the wherewithal to feed the country comfortably.
Also speaking, Prof. James Adediran, the Director, Institute of Agriculture Research and Training (IAR&T), lauded the initiative of the governor.
He said that it was the first time top agriculture researchers and other stakeholders would assemble to offer suggestions and expertise to the state.
“ No such forum has happened in the last 30 years where directors of research institutes would gather like this to discuss the future of agriculture in Oyo State.
“This paradigm shift is a welcome development and I want to pledge the support of IAR and T and all of us here,’’ he said.
Adediran said that the research institutes had done a lot in supporting farmers in the state by helping to improve agricultural production, techniques as well as pushing out end products to the markets.
“On behalf of all the research institutes here present, I pledge our support to the government of the state because your success is our success.
“We are ready for strategic partnership with you. We will stand by you to ensure that this project succeeds,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the event provided the opportunity for corporate investors, agro-input companies, banks and other stakeholders to offer ideas and chart a new path for development of agriculture in the state.
NAN also reports that the event was attended by top officials of the state government, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) and National Horticultural Research Institute(NHRI).
Others were from Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria(FRIN), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria.