Sanwo-Olu, BATN foundation laud farmers’ role in food security

The British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) and the Lagos State government have acknowledged the contribution of farmers in ensuring food security viz-a-viz growing the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In a keynote address, the Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, who was represented by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, said the annual celebration being spearheaded by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is about raising awareness on issues related to food such as poverty and hunger, highlighting efforts being made by governments, institutions, organisations and individuals to mitigate the negative effects on people.

“The theme for this year’s celebration, ‘Our actions Our Future: Healthy Diet for a Zero Hunger World’ address the need for collective action towards not only increasing food production, but also ensuring that adequate attention is paid to the quality of food being consumed,” he stated.

Governor Sanwo-Olu noted that Lagos State is one of the participating states in the World Bank Assisted APPEALS Project which is aimed at enhancing the productivity of small and medium-scale farmers and improving value addition along priority value chains, which include the poultry, rice and aquaculture value chains.

In the same vein, the Executive Director, BATN Foundation, Abimbola Okoya, noted that through its partnership with the Lagos State government the BATN Foundation intends to use the fair to provide a platform to expose farmers to more opportunities as well as enable the public access fresh and organic farm produce.

“Since its inception in 2002, the Foundation has invested about N1.5 billion in supporting Federal and state governments as well as over 36,000 rural farmers in the production of crops like cassava, rice and maize and in aquaculture and livestock, with the hope of reaching a target of 62,000 farmers in 2022,” she added.

Speaking at the 2019 World Food Day at Lagos Farm Fair held at the Police College Ground, Ikeja, recently, an agricultural expert and member BATN Foundation Technical Committee, Mr Fatai Afolabi noted that the desire to help bridge the gap between farmers and their markets motivated the BATN Foundation to partner with the Lagos State government to organise the Fair.

“We all appreciate that no matter how fantastic a product is, if it does not get to its end users at the appropriate time, that product will rot away in storage. That is what propels us to collaborate with the Lagos State and other sponsors to organise the Lagos Farm Fair. Afolabi said that the BATN Foundation has always identified with
smallholder farmers and will continue to do all it can to promote agric enterprise by encouraging a commercial mindset in subsistence farmers and supporting them to run their farms as sustainable agribusiness.

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In an address, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, said that the World Food Day is a platform to highlight the importance of food and the role being played by all stakeholders. He noted that the efforts of the government to ensure food security have resulted in a lot of innovations aimed at preventing food shortage in the state.

“Part of good governance is to ensure food sufficiency for the populace, not just food sufficiency but wholesome, healthy food; and the Federal Government’s policy is to discourage food importation in its totality and promote the consumption of local produce,” he added.

The commissioner also identified steps taken by the government to contend with the challenges posed to agriculture by climate change, which include the encouragement of crops cultivation through irrigation farming, the use of greenhouses, and the cage and pen culture for fish farming.

He listed other efforts by the government to boost food production such as reforms in abattoirs across the state, acquisition of agricultural land outside the state and establishment of fish farm estate in Ketu-Ereyun.

The project will collaborate with AfricaRice for the development of Pure Ofada Rice strain as well as capacity building for seed outgrowers and rice-based products.

The highpoints of the occasion were the parade by various farmers associations and agricultural organisations and the presentation of awards to the best performers in different categories. In the Agric Science Quiz Competition for Secondary Schools in Lagos State, the star prize went to Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere Ketu, Lagos.

Other dignitaries present at the occasion were the secretary to the state government, Mrs Folasade Jaji; Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwola Onasanya, other top Lagos State government functionaries and representatives of co-sponsors of the Fair, Stanbic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.