WITH a population in excess of 25 million, Lagos understandably has a peculiar food security challenge. It is in order to tactically address this that the Babajide Sanwo-Olu led government makes food security an integral part of its traffic management and transportation, health and environment, education and technology, making Lagos a 21st economy, entertainment and tourism and governance and security) developmental agenda of ‘Making Lagos State a 21st century economy’. With most of its people engaged in activities outside the agricultural sector, if nothing radical is done, Lagos might be in danger of being engulfed in a food crisis. Consequently, in the last two years, the government has put in place cogent strategies to stimulate food security. Part of the plan is to treat agriculture as a business venture by concentrating on value chains where the state has comparative advantage, and thus develop strategic partnerships that would stimulate investment in the sector. This is to deliberately develop an agro-economy that would serve the twin purposes of producing sufficient food for the growing population, as well as developing a smooth-running Agric sector that would truly transform the State into 21st financial hub.
Interestingly, these efforts are beginning to yield positive results in ensuring that Lagosians have reliable access to affordable and nutritious food. The most recent of the plans is the launching of the 2021 Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme. The state governor, on that occasion, deployed massive agricultural investment that empowered 3,000 urban and rural farmers in key sectoral value chains. The beneficiaries included women, youths and peasant farmers, who were selected for the scheme through a merit-based system anchored by independent associations of farmers across the state. Speaking on the occasion, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the government, through the programme, is supporting Agripreneurs with modern equipment and inputs that would help them make significant difference and scale up their agricultural practices. The support was mainly for agripreneurs in poultry, piggery and artisanal fishery, which are the three sub-sectors largely affected by the disruption of COVID-19.
In the scheme, 300 youths trained in aquaculture and poultry Production at the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP) were empowered with agricultural inputs valued at N245 million, which represented 46.7 percent of the programme’s total investment. Other beneficiaries include 400 pig farmers that participated in the Agricultural Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES), 680 fishermen, 190 fish cage culture artisans, 300 eggs marketers, 500 fish processors, 200 rice farmers and 370 crop farmers. They received a variety of modern tools, such as tractors, ploughs, fishing boats and gear, harvesters, threshers, destoning machines, defeathering machines, herbicides, fish juveniles, pig growers, smoking kilns, crates of eggs, and inputs, which are to be utilised in farming communities across Lagos agricultural zones of Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu. However, this initiative and others, are interventions that will contribute to inclusive agricultural growth in the state, which will in turn increase food production from the current 20 percent to at least 50 percent by 2025.
It is important to state that this programme is part of the achievements of the Five-Year Agricultural and Food System Development Roadmap, aimed at ensuring development of the agricultural value chain. Recall that on the 22nd April, 2021, Sanwo-Olu launched the five-year Agricultural and Food System Development Roadmap to chart a coordinated path for the desired development for the agricultural sector and boost food security. The roadmap, which is the government’s strategy for the sustainable agriculture sector, will focus on the development of the upstream sector through technology in the selected value chain. It will, however, help to grow the midstream and downstream sector, which includes processing, commercialization and packaging among others. Presently, the Sanwo-Olu administration is speedily working towards completing the Integrated Rice Mill at Imota, in Ikorodu. The 32 metric tonnes per hour rice mill, when completed, is expected to produce 2.4million bags of 50kg rice per annum, as well as provide a total of 267,580 jobs at different stages of the value chain. This will also reduce the cost of rice locally, enhance self-sufficiency and revenue generation in the state and the country at large. The government has already trained, built capacity and empowered 800 farmers across the state, as part of the preparation for the take-off the mill.
Another commendable stride of the government in boosting food security is the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS). This project, which is in conjunction with the Federal government and World Bank, is a proactive measure to tackle food insecurity in the state and it started in 2018 and will be implemented over a period of six-year. It is aimed at enhancing the productivity of small-scale farmers in the three identified value-chains of poultry, aquaculture and rice through capacity building, provision of infrastructure, and empowerment. The project is also targeted at service providers, transporters, input manufacturers and suppliers within the system, whose services are required for the successful implementation of the project. Speaking during the Ministerial Press Briefing in commemoration of the second year in office of Governor Sanwo-Olu, Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, said the government has identified, verified and trained 8,156 farmers and SMEs in relevant areas of agribusiness under the APPEALS project. She also revealed that another 462 beneficiaries, under the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP), have been trained in agribusiness management, soft skills among others, and have been empowered to start off production.
In order to boost agric-related enterprise in the state, in 2020, the maiden edition of the Eko-City Farmers’ Market was held with a total transaction of N7.9 million.
A notable objective of the initiative is to provide Lagosians access to a wide variety of fresh, local, in-season farm products direct from the producers, thereby promoting food security and economic growth. Similarly, the Agric-YES facilities at Badagry and Araga, Epe have been upgraded to Lagos State Food Production Centres. This is to further improve food production and stimulate economic growth in the state. At full capacity, the centres will produce 62,250 birds for egg production per cycle; 104,000 birds for meat production per cycle; 267.6 tonnes of fish per cycle and 25 tonnes of assorted vegetables per cycle. Other programmes of the government aimed at ensuring food security include the newly commissioned Food Market at Agbalata (FADAMA), Badagry, development of vegetables value chain in terms of production, transportation, storage, as well as deployment of Information and Community Technology (ICT) for agricultural development and food security, to mention but few. The Sanwo-Olu led government has, no doubt, improved investment in food security in the last two years. However, for the dividends of the investment to be enduring, the spirited participation of all stakeholders in the sector towards mitigating the challenges of food security in the state is still desirable.
- Adebayo writes in from Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
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