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Food shortage: Southern  states of Nigeria, wake up

By   Ayodele Enikanselu

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The southern states of Nigeria are the states within the three geo- political zones of the country. These are south- west, south- east and south-south. These three zones are within the rainforest zones of the country. The area is blessed with large expanse of arable land . The agricultural potential and opportunities in these zones are enormous.

I am very disillusioned and distressed over our inability to exploit these agricultural potential and opportunities that are within these zones that are begging for exploitation

I am sure many southerners are equally unhappy over this unfortunate situation.

There are many agricultural opportunities smiling on us in the south that we pretend not to see because of our inaction to exploit them.

In this article, l will attempt to clearly expose us in the south to one of such opportunities begging for exploitation at this very period and time.

In the last four(4) months, the southern part of Nigeria has been confronted with hyper inflation in the pepper and tomato market sector. The price of these crops is dragging the south to a breaking point. Unfortunately, we all pretend as if we don’t know what to do to arrest this ugly trend. Our Governors and governments in the south are behaving less concerned to this precarious situation.

Our farmers are acting as if they have been cursed to loose their mental faculty to identifying opportunities and the necessary skills and talents of farming in pepper and tomato. We in the south are behaving as if we are cursed breed of Nigerians.

If the Governors and governments are docile, slumbering and passive on the need to addressing the pepper and tomato crisis, the populace in the south should not be condemned to the waste basket on this issue , my thought.

We should all please wake up to confront this challenge unabatedly. We can turn the situation around within a space of six months with intentional focus, drive and commitment to change the narrative.

If well articulated , focused and committed on, every farmer and interested stakeholders in our villages, towns and cities can invest some of their resources in the cultivation of pepper and tomato. I can assure us all, that we will reap the fruits of our Labour and investments within a short period luxuriantly. This is achievable with committed focus and efforts to the pepper and tomato gardening in our towns and cities and their cultivation by our farmers in the villages and farms.

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In this article, l will use the western states as an example while the states in the south – east and south-south can replicate the approach to be suggested bellow.

The local government are in a privileged position to drive this initiative but with humongous intentional support from the states..

Each local government should rejig their agric . department or unit. The agric department should embark on town to town and village to village campaign emphasizing the need to cultivate pepper and tomato . This should be drummed to the consciousness of everybody in the communities.

To complement the efforts of the local governments in this regard, our Kabiyesis and Baalesin the various communities in western Nigeria should undertake aggressive campaigns to all and sundry in the communities to cultivate pepper and tomato in their farms and yards.

The churches and mosques should unrelentingly be propelling and encouraging their congregations to invest their efforts and resources to the growing of pepper and tomato in their farms and compounds.

The radio and television houses should accept the campaign to cultivate pepper and tomato as their social responsibility to the communities they cover. They should ensure that most of their programmes inject the pepper and tomato campaign therein.

All these bodies and institutions should not be weary or tired of weeping the interests of the farmers and the generality of the populace to this project of growing pepper and tomato.

After the campaign has been sufficiently delt with, and the interest of the people has been energized towards the programme, the next is to educate the populace on how to cultivate the crops successfully and profitably.

This is where the agric.  departments of the local governments have a very good role to play. They should  educate and advise the populace on the best approach to be adopted to enjoy good yield or harvest. This information should flow down to the rural communities . Multi dimensional communication approach should be adopted for this education. Radio and television programmes should be created for this purpose. Short video clips can be developed showing step by step activities to be undertaken all through the process from planting to harvesting.

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In those days, our parents were adopting mixed croping where all kinds of food crops  are planted together. In this way, the same farmland used  to plant cassava, yam , potato can be conveniently used to plant pepper and tomato simultaneously. This will enhance optimal use of Labour. As the farmer is clearing the farmland for yam, he is equally clearing the farmland for all the crops on the farmland. The farmer would have harvested pepper and tomato twice before his yam matures. If the farmers adopt this, we would have more than enough pepper and tomato to buy at Convenant prices without foolishly relying on the northern farmers for our  needs.

Almost all the schools ( primary , secondary and tertiary ) in the south west of Nigeria are blessed with arable land particularly those situated in the rural areas. Agriculture is a living course in our secondary schools. The Principals  of these schools should take a bold step and engage the students in the planting and growing of pepper and tomato on such lands. The little the school farms can produce will fill some gap in the supply gap. This can be replicated in our tertiary institutions where agriculture as a department exists.

If all the schools in the south west with arable land can develop pepper and tomato gardens, keenly managed and supervised by agriculture teachers and lecturers, within six months maximum, the schools would have contributed tons of  pepper and tomato to the supply of the food crops.

In all villages and towns in the south -west, almost all compounds are blessed with good land where pepper and tomato can be planted. Even where the ones grown  would not be on commercial scale, the little we can harvest from such ventures will reduce our demand in the market place. The cumulative effect of all these efforts will have substantial implications on the market pressures on the crops.

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Many of the churches and mosques acquired large acreage of arable land for one purpose or the other. Many of the land are idle, yet to be developed for the purpose intended but can be used for cultivation of pepper and tomato in the interim. It takes maximum of 4 months for these crops to mature from the period of planting and harvesting.

Most of the churches and mosques have sound management structures. These religious institutions can effectively and efficiently organize a thriving pepper and tomato gardens in large acreage . The produce coming these gardens can be sold to members of their congregations or the general public.

The churches and mosques are strategically and financially positioned to actualize this programme successfully.

The government intervention in this programme both at local and state levels should be :

 Campaign to encourage the farmers and the populace to invest their time and efforts in the cultivation of pepper and tomato.

 Educate the farmers on the best and modern processes of engaging in the programme to yield good harvests

 Help farmers to arrange and secure hybrid seeds and seedlings without much bureaucratic bottlenecks at a discount.

 Assist the farmers with insecticides to fumigate the crops when the crops are invaded by insects.

 Assist the farmers from the invasion of their farms by the Fulani herdsmen. More purposeful and intentional drastic measures should be formulated in the south- west against herdsmen destroying the farms of our farmers. The Governors in the south – west should come up with a holistic common position on how to secure the farms and the farmers.

To the best of my knowledge and thoughts , the above should not be challenging to any right thinking government in the south – west to effectively actalise.

The south- west can do it, the entire southern regions of Nigeria can do it with the right leadership , purposeful governance and committed citizens without much ado.

This piece was sent in from Lagos by Prof. Sunday  Ayodele Enikanselu, a  renowned author and a native of Iju-Odo.

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