According to a United Nations statistics, over 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat ( more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union) while the number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008 (largely due to high cost of food). In the third world countries, the statistic is worrisome as over 1 billion people are hungry.
With most of its people engaged in activities outside the agricultural sector, if nothing radical is done, Lagos is particularly in danger of being engulfed in food crisis. In the early 70s, Lagos used to boast of agricultural settlement such as Dairy farm, Agege and many others in Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry. They were established to provide healthy food and employment for people. Rapid industrialisation, characteristic of most urban centers, has, however, diminished Lagos’ capacity for food sufficiency.
To stem the tide of food insecurity in the state, the Ambode administration has evolved several programmes to facilitate steady food supply in the state. Such include marine agriculture, fisheries development, artisanal fisheries, development/replenishment of open water bodies, provision of wholesome meat, and establishment of modern abattoirs, integrated livestock expansion, acquisition of expansive arable lands in other states for the purpose of farming, agricultural input supply to farmers and fishermen and credit delivery to farmers, redevelopment of agricultural cooperatives in the state to position them to benefit from the various projects and programmes of the state and provision of agricultural land services and root and Tuber Expansion.
In a renewed bid to ensure food security, the Lagos state government has entered into partnership with Kebbi state government with the intent of boosting rice production. In light of steady increase in Lagos state population without a corresponding increase in food production, the partnership is, indeed, a welcome development. Lagos has the population, the purchasing power, processing plant as well as manpower to translate whatever amount of rice that is produced from Kebbi state to finished consumable of international standard.
The Lagos-Kebbi rice partnership is a partnership that thrives on making pragmatic use of available resources of both states for the common good of citizenry. Kebbi, for instance, is endowed with vast arable land suitable for agricultural production in rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, groundnut etc while Lagos, on the other hand, has capacity to process whatever is produced at the rice mill located at Imota, in Ikorodu for both local consumption and export.
Lagos’ huge population provides the required market for rice production. Outside the food security and economic benefits of Lagos, Kebbi agricultural partnership, other benefits may include introduction of best agriculture practice to maximize yield, infrastructural renewal of agricultural settlements, improved transportation systems such as railway networks which has the capacity to move produce en-mass without undue interference. In expectation of mass production, interest of the states will be developed in capacity to preserve thus avoid waste.
Other benefits of the Lagos- Kebbi rice partnership are its capacity to renew investors’ interest in agro-based industries, boost for agric related cooperative societies, among others. The height of insecurity in the nation calls for more concerted effort by all tires of governments in the country to urgently device new methods of tackling the twain issues of food security and unemployment in the country. Youth unemployment, if not immediately addressed could be a time bomb for the country. It is, therefore, anticipated that more states in the country will follow the laudable Lagos-Kebbi path in order to promote food sufficiency and economic development in our nation.
To further boost food security and enhance job creation in the state, 100 farmers have been settled on a 500 Hectares of land acquired in Eggua, Ogun State. Consequently, with yield improving from less than one tonne per hectare to about 3tonnes per hectare with double cropping in some areas where irrigation facilities are provided, rice cultivation is, indeed, experiencing relative improvement in the State.
300 trainees comprising of courses I, II and III have equally been empowered through this scheme while effort is being intensified to settle courses IV and V as well as process the admission of 100 trainees for course VI.
The Products from the Scheme which include over 1,500 crates of egg per day, 2,000 broilers per month, 18 tonnes of fresh fish per cycle and about 160 tonnes of cabbage, sweet melon, water melon, cucumber, pepper and assorted leafy vegetables per month are being marketed in various centers across the State.
Similarly, the Agric-Yes project in Avia, Badagry is fashioned after the Project Songhai of Benin republic. The Songhai model is a blueprint for translating the socio-demographic opportunities in the State into reality, and turning agriculture into a productive, efficient, sustainable, and remunerative enterprise. It is designed as a catalyst for a broader, multi-partnership program to support the State Government in promoting access of youths, men and women, to appropriate entrepreneurial, leadership and management skills in agribusiness.
Productive facilities in the area of Poultry, Fisheries, Piggery and Vegetable production have been completed; the project is at the last phase of completion. A network of beneficiaries would be set up to promote zero waste as the input of one will be the output of the other.
Also, the 180Km Coconut groves along the coast line of the State is over 50 years old, the Ambode administration has gone a step ahead in the promotion of strategic initiatives to develop an expanded structure for Coconut production and processing in the State through Public Private Partnership arrangement as a means of generating employment , wealth creation and food security.
The completed Coconut House at Mowo, Badagry has become a demonstration centre for the training of farmers and provision of technical information for interested investors in the production of Coconut milk, oil and water.
The state government is also supporting farmers through the activities of Lagos State Agricultural Input Supply Authority (LAISA) by making sure that required inputs are made available to farmers and fisher folks timely at affordable price. This is being done through the distribution of over 1,500 bags of fertilizer, hybrid maize and agrochemicals to crop and vegetable farmers, distribution of over 4,000 bags of fish feeds to fish farmers as well as distribution of 80 units of poultry battery cages to poultry farmers. This is aside other inputs like knapsack sprayers, water pumps and feed ingredients which were supplied to farmers.
Similarly, in order to sanitise meat distribution in the state, the state government plans to set up 2 major Abattoirs at Epe and Ojo Local Governments in addition to the one at Oko Oba. The development of mini modernized Abattoirs in five approved locations namely: Ilaje- Bariga, Ikorodu, Agbowa, Matori and Oto- Awori through Public Private Partnership arrangement has commenced. Matori Abattoir has been completed and slaughtering activities has also commenced while Ikorodu and Ilaje is about 80% completed.
Dislodgement of illegal slaughter slabs is currently being pursued by the state government across the state. For instance, Igando, Oke Afa and Ejigbo slaughter slabs were recently dislodged.
As our nation grapples with challenging economical situation, the agricultural sector remains a sure area where the twain issues of unemployment and food security could be solved. This is why the Lagos initiatives are laudable.