Olufolake Ganiyat Ishola is the state co-ordinator, Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Oyo State. In this interview with TUNDE OGUNESAN, she shares the council’s efforts at reposition cotton production in the state.
What basically is the function of your council?
Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) is a federal government parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, established by Decree, now Act No 37 of 1987, and vested with the mandate to promote the development and utilisation of Nigeria’s abundant natural raw material resources. We started operation in 1988. But in Oyo State, it is the oldest state coordinating office because we started here since 1991.
We also have the mandate to draw up policy guidelines and action programmes on raw materials acquisition, exploration and development; review from time to time, raw material resources availability and utilisation with a view to advising the federal government on the strategic implication of depletion, conservation, and or stockpiling of such resources, advise on adaptation of machinery and processes for raw material utilisation, encourage the publicity of research and other information relevant to sourcing of raw materials among others.
With over 25 years of operation so far in Oyo state, what have you been able to do here so far?
The first thing we were able to do was to collate the available raw materials here, put them in a book so that we can have a raw material display, anybody that comes around, we will be able to say that this is all that is available in the state and that of the country at large. Since then, we’ve been able to be farmers’ friends. One of the main things that we have done is to boost agricultural seedlings in the state.
We realised in the course of our findings that farmers are not having hybrid seeds, high yielding seeds and early maturity seeds and we have a lot of research institutes that have done a lot of work in helping in this aspect. In short, we’ve been able to do that for cassava, sugar cane, soya beans and now, we are talking of talking of cotton.
On that cotton farming, we have been able to make seeds available to farmers in the last 10 years nationwide, under the umbrella of the National Cotton Farmers Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN). The council has been able to give seeds to NACOTAN members for the past years. This is because we realised that cotton is cash crops, something that can give us money, it can eradicate poverty, it can employ a high number of our population. Now, we’re into popularisation of cotton and boost its production.
What effort are you making on the production of Cotton in large number?
Right now in Oke-Ogun area of Oyo state, we have 10 local government councils that have been involved in cotton plantation. And I can speak of eight local government that have cultivated a minimum of 20 hectares of land for cotton production, that aside from farmers contribution. All these, are as a result of the awareness by our council. Initially, there were farmers that were involved in cotton plantation but not as much they are now involved now.
In this regard, I want to give kudos to the Oyo state government through the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mrs Hannah Ogunesan, because the state government hasn’t appoint commissioners then. She was cooperating and by the time we explained to her what it is all about, she embraced it and was able to convince the Local government councils to embrace it.
Now, we have plantation in Saki west, Saki East, Atisbo, Kajola, Itesiwaju, Orelope and Iseyin local government councils, to mention a few that have planted at least 20 hectares. The planting period is six months and by January, we should start harvesting. In Oke-Ogun area, we plant between May and June to early July, in forest zone- Oyo, around Ibarapa area, you can still do it till July ending.
In addition, the Federal Government has a programme called Anchor Borrowers Programme.
This is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to encourage large scale production in the country and present an opportunity for our own farmers to come under this programme. The scheme is for a minimum of 1,000 farmers.
How many farmers are already involved?
We are looking at 1,000 farmers. But at the moment, the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been able to register 650 farmers. However, we are still determined to reach 1,000 mile stone by next year.