The bus driver huffed and puffed for the umpteenth time, frustrated by the huge craters on every section of the road. It was in the first week of October and the rains had just stopped. The Iyana Church-Olodo Road that connects passengers and residents to Lalupon, Ejioku and other communities on the outskirts of Ibadan, Oyo State, was in a state of disrepair. Passengers, motorcycle riders, and commercial bus drivers were united in their expressions of anger and frustration over the poor state of the road.
“This road has been like this for a very long while, frustrating passengers and everybody and destroying our vehicles,” the driver, Baba Ajadi, lamented, wiping off beads of sweat running across his tired face.
“We have complained for several years but we only get promises from the government yet nothing has been done to fix the road.”
When the bus eventually got to Aba Edun junction, along the road that leads to Iwo in Osun State, this reporter alighted and joined another tricycle to the Lalupon farm settlement. The road leading to the settlement was littered with mud, dirt and waste as residents and commercial tricycle riders lamented endlessly about the impact of the poor infrastructure on productivity at the farm settlement.
“How do you expect anyone to come here when the roads are this poor,” Kamoru Adesina, a commercial motorcyclist told PREMIUM TIMES when asked about the state of investment in and around the farm settlement. “The place is even not easy to locate because many people don’t know that it is a government-owned settlement due to the state of the road.”
At the Lalupon farm settlement, a long line of wooden poultry sheds separates a tiny, untarred road that connects the community with Aba Edun. Some local security officials stood at an open section that serves as the “entrance” of the settlement. There are makeshift lodges built with wooden materials in some bushy sections of the settlement. Away from the entrance, some old, dilapidated buildings stood around the sheds, unoccupied.
“That’s how the settlement has been for a long time,” Elizabeth Bakare, a resident of the Lalupon community who once bought ‘holding’ at the settlement, told PREMIUM TIMES. She explained that ‘holding’ refers to a space held by individual farmers which in turn could be managed directly or through proxy, some of them resident in Lalupon community.
“Many of the people who bought ‘holdings’ have had to sell it because of the poor state of infrastructure in the farm,” she added, noting that a “holding” – typically a shed allocated for farming or poultry – is being allocated for N5,000.
“Pensioners and other retired civil servants used to come here to manage their ‘holding’ but due to poor state of the road and electricity supply and other basic amenities, many of such holdings have been sold.”
Another resident, Saheed Ojuolape, told this reporter that the Lalupon farm settlement could have contributed immensely to food security in Oyo and its environs, given its potential, but poor infrastructure and neglect by successive governments account for its poor state.
“Lalupon settlement is, as of now, majorly for poultry, but the potential is very big if harnessed well by the government. It could help address food inflation and other issues we have in Oyo and many parts of the South-west,” he said in Yoruba.
“But look at the road from Iwo Road down to Olodo; look at the road from Olodo down to the junction at Lalupon and Aba Edun; look at the road from the junction to the farm; look at the decay on the farm. How will anyone be encouraged to farm here? How will you comfortably transport your farm produce to the city with these roads? How will you preserve farm produce with poor infrastructure?”
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES observed that the situation in Lalupon is not significantly different from what obtains at some of the remaining farm settlements established across the old western region under the leadership of the late Obafemi Awolowo.
Between 1955 and 1960, the late Obafemi Awolowo, then Premier of the defunct Western Region, established farm settlements and institutes across the region, an idea his administration replicated from Israel and Sudan. The plan was implemented under the region’s five-year development agenda, with different segments such as animal husbandry, fisheries, poultry and even piggery.
The farm settlements were designed to boost agricultural practices and boost the region’s economy, with the long-term vision of ensuring food sustainability.
Mr Awolowo and his team had visited Israel and Sudan in 1959 to study cooperative farm settlement schemes, with the vision to replicate them in Yorubaland. The visit yielded a 1959 report that recommended the adoption of Israel’s Moshavim and Sudan’s Gezira agricultural schemes by the Western Region, leading to the establishment of farm institutes in Ikorodu, Obada, Ilesha, Agbadu, and Asaba. Farm settlements were also established across the Western Region.
Some of the settlements are the Ile Oluji Farm Settlement in Ile-Oluji/Oke Igbo Local Government Area, Mariwo Farm Settlement in Ifedore Local Government Area, Onisere Farm Settlement in Idanre Local Government Area, and Orin-Ekiti settlement, all in Ondo and Ekiti states. Others are the farm settlements in Esa-Oke, Ago-Owu, Oyere and Mokore, all in Osun State. In Ogun, the settlements are the Ado-Odo, Ago Iwoye, Ajegunle, Coker, Ibiade, Ikenne and Sawonjo farm settlements.
However, across different parts of the region, many of the farm settlements are now in shambles even as the nation battles unprecedented food inflation and sustainability issues.
In its Food Security Update in December, the World Bank said that Nigeria and other countries in Africa, North America, and Latin America have been most affected by domestic food price inflation. While domestic food price inflation remained high, inflation higher than five per cent was experienced in 61.9 per cent of low-income countries, it said.
The bank said agriculture, cereal, and export price indices closed two per cent, six per cent, and one per cent higher, respectively, while maize and wheat prices increased eight per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. It added that despite a slowing global economy, demand for agricultural products was anticipated to reach record levels in the 2023/24 marketing season.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trade-related policies imposed by countries around the world surged, worsening a global food crisis that forced countries to design policies to increase domestic supply and reduce prices.
In its latest Consumer Price Index for November, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Nigeria’s food inflation rate increased to 32.84 per cent, 8.72 percentage points higher than what was recorded in November 2022 at 24.13 per cent.
The rise in food prices was caused by increases in the prices of bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruit, meat, vegetables and coffee, tea and cocoa, the NBS said.
At the sub-national level, the situation was even worse as the cost of food rose highest in Kogi, Kwara, and Rivers where food inflation in each state surged to 41.29 per cent, 40.72 per cent, and 40.22 per cent respectively.
In recent years, food prices have been on the rise across Nigeria, a situation that deteriorated earlier in the year due to the impact of government policies such as the removal of subsidies on petrol and other monetary policies.
On 29 May, during his inauguration, President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, a development that caused hardship for many Nigerians with its attendant increase in the prices of goods and services. With persistent inflation, Africa’s largest economy has had to hike interest rates to their highest levels in nearly two decades to put the pressure at bay – with the ripple effect taking a toll on the general livelihood of the people.
Sogo Owoeye, an agriculture extension enthusiast and policy analyst based in Ibadan, told PREMIUM TIMES that the farm settlement initiative would have helped boost food production at the height of global uncertainty, especially in western Nigeria.
“The neglect of most of the farm settlements across the country, especially in western Nigeria here, is a major driver of the food inflation and insecurity issues we witness today,” he said.
“Imagine what is possible if the farm settlements are all in good condition and people can invest massively in agricultural practices with good facilities to support them at the settlements. It would have been a game changer.”
In 2019, the Oyo State Government announced plans to revive all the farm settlements in the state. Taiwo Adisa, the immediate past chief press secretary to the governor, said: “We have nine of them (farm settlements) in Oyo State and they are going to be revived. We were in Eruwa three weeks ago and an assurance was given that the over 5,000 hectares located in Ibarapa would be revived with the provision of immediate access roads and necessary empowerment. The same thing will happen at all the other eight farm settlements which were established by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.”
In 2021, the state government embarked on revamping the Akufo farm settlement by facilitating a N7.6 billion loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to finance the development of the farm settlement and upgrade it to a farm estate (Agribusiness Industrial Hub) as a pilot scheme.
In addition to that, arguably one of the most important interventions has been made at the Fashola Farms Settlement at Fashola, which is being rebuilt to become the Fashola Agribusiness Industrial Hub, the first of such hubs in Oyo State. The project is said to be over 80 per cent complete and already hosts private-sector investors including the Friesland Campina calf breeding and livestock pasture development hub.
The Fashola settlement is one of three farm settlements being converted to agribusiness industrial hubs by the Oyo State Government, with the other two being Akufo and Eruwa farm settlements.
In June, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said he was impressed by the quality of work done at the Fashola farms, adding that residents would soon feel the economic impact of the project. “I want to tell the people that opportunities are being created and they should take advantage of the positive economic activities going on here and key into them because that is what we want to do,” he said.
But Mr Owoeye argued that such interventions need to be evenly spread across the settlements and different parts of the stat – and indeed the nation – to have a meaningful impact on domestic food prices and food sustainability.
In Oyo State, apart from Fashola, other farm settlements include Ipapo, Ilora, Eruwa, Iresaadu, Akufo, Ogbomoso, Lalupon and Ijaye – all built for arable crops and animal husbandry in the 1960s.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the Akufo farm settlement, first in July and later in October, many of the ageing farmers residing in old houses complained of poor institutional support and a lack of incentives to attract young people to the farm.
“The farmers staying on the farms are old because young people are not attracted to the farm,” says Baba Ibeji, one of the old farmers on the outskirts of the Eleyele area of Ibadan. “The government said it wants to turn it into a farm estate but more needs to be done to make the settlement worth the while. A number of those working for us here are even non-Yorubas and other foreigners.”
While there are government intervention projects along the farm settlement, most notably the construction of the road that connects Akufo to Apete-Awotan and other parts of the inner city in Ibadan, this newspaper also observed that many of the houses on the farm are old and dilapidated. A resident farmer who declined to have his name in print told PREMIUM TIMES that many of those who have investments in the farm are often deterred from visiting because of the dearth of infrastructure.
“The government has been trying in recent times but they need to do more, especially here in Akufo,” the farmer said. “But we have friends in Lalupon, Ipapo and other places and the state of those settlements are poor.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the Oyo State Governor, Sulaimon Olarenwaju, could not be reached for comments on why the interventions have been poor in other settlements, as his telephone number rang out.
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A former member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, who declined to have his name in print because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told PREMIUM TIMES that the government is trying to revive agricultural practice but financing is limited and has been a concern. The ex-lawmaker argued that other states across the region and beyond must also deepen agricultural intervention to complement the efforts of states that are making progress in order to ensure nationwide food sustainability.
But Mr Owoeye argued that there must be deliberate efforts to also encourage youth participation in agriculture, with credits and provision of good infrastructure, including internet services to ease logistics.
“With our human and natural resources, we have no reason to be struggling with food inflation or sustainability problems as a nation; it is self-inflicted and we can correct it with visionary leadership and good plans,” he said.
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