S/West: Stakeholders channel way for agro-powered regional economy

AS part of efforts to put words into action on embracing agriculture as a way of diversifying the economy, stakeholders from across the South West region on Thursday gathered in Ibadan to chat a way forward.

The effort seeks to provide platform for agricultural stakeholders both from the private and public sector to review and reflect various efforts adopted in time past, as well as preview strategies on how to achieve optimal result in the sector.

Tagged South West Agricultural Summit (SWAS) 2016, the event which had the theme “Achieving an Agro-Powered Regional Economy,” was facilitated by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission and AgroNigeria, a leading private sector agricultural organisation.

Welcoming participants, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi said the event is not only timely and auspicious, but also of critical essence that the stakeholders come together to discuss the matter of regional survival and growth.

While acknowledging that the purpose is to develop a broad regional integration agenda for the promotion and exploitation of the agricultural potentials of the Yoruba region within the context of the Nigeria federation, Governor Ajimobi who spoke through his Commissioner of Finance, stressed that now is the time to go back and reconnect with the glorious heritage.

“This is the first region-based dialogue on agricultural development in Nigeria. It is not only timely and auspicious, but of critical essence that we  come together to discuss this matter of regional survival and growth.

“Now is the time to go back and reconnect with the glorious heritage. Now is the time to let go for our seeming dependence of the unsustainable path of oil and gas, two commodities with expiry date. “

In his own remarks, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, noted that it is now obvious that the era of free petrol dollars has gone, and the summit would afford states in the region the opportunity to go back to basis.

Governor Aregbesola, represented by Dr. Charles Akinola, the Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership, described the summit as a welcome development, adding that it is now obvious that the region is ready to face reality that agriculture is the only way out of the present economic situation which the country is facing.

“The era of a $100 or $120 per barrel is gone. We need to diversify our economy, and agriculture is a natural space that we should be operating.

“Agriculture has provided us with the fillip and now we need to operate like we used to do 50 years ago. It is only natural that with the summit, it is back to basis for us. And it is obvious that we are ready to face the reality that agriculture is the only way that can get us out of the financial state that we are in now. “

Governor Aregbesola who expressed hope that the summit would afford the states opportunity to reflect and review their individual agricultural policies, maintained that the forum would allow for knowledge sharing on policies that can be adopted at the regional level to foster synergy and additional agricultural value chain for the individual state.

“As a matter of fact, what is happening here today is that the states and other practitioners and stakeholders are here to share lessons on what has worked and what has not. It is to look at how some of these success stories can lend themselves to a region-wide adoption.

“And that is why I am here, to show some of the landmark progress that we have made in Osun state through a various programmes that includes from small scale to large scale producers, programmes around infrastructure upgrades that has been judge to be largely successful.”

Director General, DAWN Commissions, Mr Dipo Famakinwa in his remarks, lamented that there has been a lot of actions and different policies done from state to state, farmer to farmer, businessman to businessman, entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs, however, many of these were not well connected nor integrated in relations to regional economy.

He said the summit is imperative to allow for exchange of ideas and creation of conducive environment for diversification of economy through agriculture.

“It is important for us to do this so that we can couple an atmosphere together that will create and inspire the abilities and actions of everybody and ensure that the business of agric begins to make sense in the south west and the agric entreprenuers begins to do what they are suppose to do in terms of the diversification of the economy of the region and for government to also take optimal advantage of the sector, not only for revenue generation, but also for employment creation, wealth creation and even social security,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer, AgroNigeria, Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram, the co-organiser of the summit, explained that the purpose of the event is to ensure that private sectors carry the public section hand-in-hand in exploring the prospects in agriculture for the benefit of the region as a whole.

“Although we are not limiting this approach to the south west, the truth is that the region has always been at the fore-front of development in many aspects from time. Unfortunately the story has changed, but the potentials are still there. So, we are partnering DAWN to revive the spirit as that is the only way forward for the region and even the country if we must get out of the present economic situation that we are in.

“We have gathered experts and stakeholders in agric business and brainstorm and discuss agric. We are hoping to start with a think tank that is being set up now to really identify key issues in terms of agricultural policies implementation and address them accordingly.

“We want to begin now to tap government across the country as to their commitment regarding agricultural development. We are starting from the SW because the cerebral power of this nation lays here and there is no doubt about that. SW has always been at the forefront in the nation in terms of economic, education, innovation etc, so we don’t see any reason why the SW cannot lead also as it relates to agriculture, but right now it is not the case.”