Youth will massively move to farm if govt declares agric for salary – Oyebade
Dr Jibayo Oyebade was a lawmaker, former Commissioner for Agric in Ondo State. He had served as Chairman, Ondo State Cocoa Revolution Project, Chief Instructor at the Teaching and Research farm of the Federal University of Technology, FUTA, and now with the Adekunle Ajasin University, AAUA to pioneer its Institute for Research. He spoke with Line Editors of The Hope newspaper.
Since you left as the Chairman of Ondo State Cocoa Revolution, what have you been doing?
I have been invited to pioneer the Institute for Research of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko. Right now, I am the Assistant Director with the mandate to make that place a citadel of training in the southwest. I have been in this agriculture for so long. I was born into it as I was lured into liking agric by my grandfather and my father who was an ex- service man in the British Army. I was in the House of Assembly as chairman, House Committee on Agric and I single handedly sponsored the only private member bill on Produce and Allied Matters. Thereafter, I was made the Commissioner for Agric in Ondo state by late Dr Olusegun Agagu. Then, I combined the two ministries; it was Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Later I decided to quit politics. I landed myself in FUTA at the teaching and research farm as the Chief Instructor. It was from there that Dr Olusegun Mimiko appointed me as the chairman of Ondo State Cocoa Revolution Project. I usually run back to my farm. Later, two professors came from Adekunle Ajasin University to visit my farm. Though, it is not a big farm but it has a lot of innovations for development to bring agric to a simple level and they invited me to the school. There I am now.
I have made Adekunle Ajasin University to sign an MoU with Nigeria Export Promotion Council to make the place the best cocoa curriculum university in Nigeria which is on now. We have planted five hectares cocoa which have started fruiting. That is to call the northern senatorial area back to cocoa production. Many people abandoned it because of the defunct Western Nigeria Marketing Board where a lot of people lost money. Cocoa now is the number one product for international market.
Several governments have tried to encourage our youths to embrace agriculture, for example I know about the Leventis School, though I don’t know what exactly is the content. The youth we have these days do not have the tutelage we had when our fathers took us to farm. If you ask them to go into farming now, they will ask you about your children, how can we change this orientation?
Talking about youths, there is no strategic planning to attract them to embrace agriculture. Do you know that the Leventis school was my baby during late Agagu. Leventis children came to ask for carbon credit, meaning no more felling of trees, plant more so that the ozone layer will not be depleted.I asked if they could replicate the school in Ondo state, they said no problem if we were ready to pay our counterpart fund. I spoke to Agagu and he gave me the money. I did that project under two and a half months. It is the same lack of continuity that stopped the project.
The 2,000 hectares was my baby too. An agriculturist came from South Africa and said he wanted to plant cassava. We started with Ipenmen but youths there said they didn’t want the project, the late Agagu said that was the end of the project but I said no and that he should give me land in the southern senatorial area. That was how I got the 2,000 hectares. I had cleared 1,000 hectares before Mimiko came in . Programmes lined up included an air convection incubator, 300 setters that late Agagu said before he could take my idea that I should do one for the Adviser on Agriculture, Prof Adeyeye. I gave him one with hatchery eggs. After 21 days, 220 birds came out of 300. So Agagu became interested. This same incubator was demonstrated at the national programme on domestic incubator and former president Olusegun Obasanjo visited. So as he was inspecting, about 70 of them, he got to mine and asked how many eggs it could take. The person that I sold it to said 300 and he asked him to explain and the owner told him that I sold it to him. And I explained how it works. There and then, he took the decision that Obasanjo Farm would partner with us and Agagu set me on the move but when Mimiko came, he was not interested.
So when you say youths getting interested in agriculture, have we done anything to encourage them. For example, if I gave 300 eggs, that was the programme with Obasanjo, it will sit in incubator for 21 days, you will hatch them and Obasanjo farm will supply the feed and other inputs. By the end of six weeks, they will come and pack the birds, if àt the end you calculate your gain, you cannot have less than N65,000. Will youths not embrace that? But it did not materialise. So youths are not to blame.
Many people believe that Ondo state have no business being poor and that we could rely on agric. In your own assessment, have we found our rythm?
No, because each government comes in with it’s own idea. No continuity. If there was continuity, there would have been an improvement. A government will come up with an idea, another will come and stop it and start his own.
I sat down and ruminated seriously and I said our agriculture can not move forward except there is legislative backing just as I did on Produce and Allied Matters law. Except the House wakes up and put a law in place, we may not get anywhere. For instance, if we put up a law that any government that comes to Ondo state must provide 50 hectares farm per senatorial district compulsorily, if he says no, we will move to the assembly and remove him. You can say okay any government that comes must make sure it establishes 2,000 hectares yam farm in at least five local governments. You will see that very soon we will be bouyant. Very many of these crops can be treated like that.
I personally don’t believe in large scale farming. They have large hectares of land with all equipment, they may not have more than 15 people working for them. The tractor will harrow, plough, plant and harvester will harvest and shell the field. We have thousands of youths who should be employed. If we are talking about agric, it has existed before all of us were born. Maize has been maize, rice has been rice and cassava has been cassava. Even cocoa that is alien has existed for over 80 years in Ondo state.
If governments have failed at various stages, why has it been difficult to see private individuals to take up the challenge?
Private investors want large scale. They want to buy tractors , acquire one million hectares which is not available. What government wanted to do in Ipenmen, they cancelled it. So the first thing the investor will ask for is land. Another thing is that, he will not plan for youths employment. He wants to bring in equipment and make it commercial. For example, Mimiko brought in people from Ireland to establish poultry and he said I should join the committee with WECA chairman. I asked the white man that the one million birds he wanted to stock, how many workers will he need, he said eleven and I said no. What we are calling for is youths employment. So if government is planting cocoa, it must be one hectare per youth.
So, there must be a round table discussion if we must engage our youths. If I am to advise, the first thing I will talk about is poultry because of its faeces. The Senate in Israel legislated that nobody should use inorganic fertilizer on their soil and we got our best fertilizer machinery from them, that is the one in Kaduna. Why did they ban it. They now come here to buy poultry faeces. They put it round whatever they want to use it for and with heavy rain or irrigation, water leaches into the soil and poultry droppings will be dissolving gradually for the next three years.
They will never allow me to enter Israel because I was not going for pilgrimage but to steal their agricultural ideas. I found out that it is the best in agriculture. No way, youths can’t be interested. You asked them to plant, where is the land, where is irrigation that will make them plant year round? If all these are available, youths will be interested. I am praying to God that one governor will come up in Ondo state who will declare agric for salary.
What does that mean?
Let me say civil farmers in specific fields . For instance, plantain is the largest output production in Ondo state. Go to Idanre, Ore, Ago Dada, everywhere there is plantain. Plantain will be moved to Abuja, Lagos state, Calabar, half of it will get spoilt. But I have worked with a local engineer, we have invented machine which can turn plantain to amala with high aroma, 100 percent organic with NAFDAC permit, easy export.
What has happened to that machine now?
It is existing.
It is in Akure. It is with the fellow that I worked with when I was in FUTA institute of research.
But why is it that people are not aware of such machine?
How can they be aware?
We are expecting that at that level, it will go to commercial level.
When you say commercial, who buys it. If the plantain farm has started, this one too can start.
Which one has not started, are you saying the plantain farms around can not be enough?
It can, but the workers sitting in the ministry of agric and the Adviser on Agric do not have the idea. They are talking about water melon.
What we are saying is this, Dr, is the machine available?
For anybody who is interested now, what does it cost?
The smallest cost about N3.5million because it has to be driven with machine to peel the plantain back which can be dried and sold. The slicer is a separate machine, a drier, a miller and a storage tank.
But the bottom line is that is the machine functioning?
Super, the first one is exporting plantain flour to US now.
Let us look at cocoa, before now, Ondo state was the leading state in cocoa production but now it is in the seventh position, what are the reasons responsible for the drop?
The number one reason is the fall of the Marketing Board which affected most of us, my mother lost money in that board which caused many farmers to quit. Now, the original owners are either dead or can’t go to the farm. Their offsprings are in London, Britain or America. It is either they handed over to renters or the place has become bushy. To have this back was what Mimiko tried to do. Also, I will say land is another issue. But they need to remove all the people in the ministry of agriculture, they are the brain behind the suppression of agriculture because as chairman, House Committee on Agriculture and Chairman Cocoa Revolution Project, I had dealt with them and just found out that they were difficult.
What are those things they were doing that would not help the development of agriculture?
They are the best in giving proposals but as soon as the money is released, they change and will never perform. They will give you adverse report and you will almost pity them.
So what is the way out?
The way out is to define what we want to do in Ondo. Agagu showed six lines. Agriculture has over 50 products. We have to define which of the crop trees; cocoa and palm oil and manage to lobby it into NNPC programme. Then we should do poultry because of the faeces. I saw the poultry that the government is trying to do and l have not seen any progress. I don’t support that type of poultry. I want youths to be rearing if it is 200 broilers for a central processing unit like WECA and must be processing the fertilizer for sale. I have a friend who have just sold poultry droppings recently. It was sold for N1,500 per bag. The next is arable crops. We are eating maize now, it will soon disappear because there is no irrigation. I have said it in open places that large dams are wrong for agricultural development.
What they do in China, Thailand and a lot of other good places are that they stepped down their rivers like the one Governor Ajasin did that has cocoa and forest reserve, that one cannot be touched. Step down Ogbese, embank the lower and desilting part and open it for irrigation. The limiting factor is water. Open up irrigated fields, spread compost fertilizer on it. You will harvest fifty times without changing location. The limiting factor is water. The sunshine in our state is high, the land is available. These are the tripod in agriculture (water, sunshine and land) and we have them. To tap them, call professionals and ask how to go about it. Irrigation is very important; we have different methods of doing irrigation. I have been practising it in my farm for the past twenty years. If you do not irrigate, do not even talk about arable crops. Cassava can be done two, three times, maize can be done four to five times, beans can be done two to three times on the same land. As soon as you have that, youths will be interested. Give them salaries, you sell their products, give them fraction as rebate, they will move to the farm massively. So don’t ever think that anybody can develop agriculture without coming to the round table to ask what is the way to go about it .Ordinarily ,tomato is a miracle, some do not know that you can prune. There are two varieties, determinate and indeterminate. The Hausa man does not know that but if you get to their land, they have thought them the best way to plant maize. If you have been to the North before, their maize is planted line by line because they know that they neither have cocoa nor palm oil. I am emphasising that irrigation is compulsory in arable crops, we need to come out and say it. Government have the lands, if communities say they are not giving out lands, we should make use of the reserves, there is no much trees there anymore. So what are we waiting for? Food first and we can be sufficient in food production, that is food security and then we export.
There is this challenge, cassava, maize, poultry products experience glut and Nigerian farmer desired that we should have developed the value chain, and established agro-based factories that could process all these to agro-based products to end wastages, how can we get there?
We must establish factories. There must be a law like l said earlier, if there is no law, we cannot achieve anything even at the national level. Agriculture is concurrent in the constitution, we have the right, so any governor can take decisions and reject any federal government agricultural move that is not favourable. Look at the silos here, how many maize are there now? We need production facilities that will process it continuously. We do not need to go giant because when you go giant, it is going to crash. Like the proposed egg powder factory that they said will need one million eggs, where will you get one million eggs per day to an industry? We need small, small ones.
You said earlier that civil servants constitute major hindrance to agriculture, in what way?
Yes, especially in the ministry of agriculture where they cannot go to the bush .For example, if I say let us go to my reserve where I am planting ticks ,they cannot go, but if they are constructing houses or roads they can go and inspect it.
But we have been told that “igbe lowo wa”?
Those are the people stealing it.
How do we encourage the money bags , particularly in a place like Ondo state, where the signals tell us that we can make a lot of money from agro-allied business?
Government must be ready to give lands out. The first major thing is land.
As an incentive?
Free of charge?
It can be for rent or lease
Thereafter what follows?
Then you make it compulsory that one third of these projects must be mechanised, you can go to heaven with maize or anything that you want to do but that one third of this thing I am giving you, you must do it to employ youths in that area.
But the private man is interested in profit, under this condition, will he still make profit?
Yes, he will. Sure, the maize they are selling for fifty naira, they bought them for ten naira from the farms. The idea is that, plough this place, harrow and plant, then give our youths one hectare each, they maintain it and then give them percentage of the harvest, or you pay them monthly. It will seriously reduce unemployment. And you will make it. It should not necessarily be on a large scale. In a community where there is youth unemployment ,you don’t need to do large scale.
There is a Faculty of Agriculture in Adekunle Ajasin University, there is no Faculty of Engineering. There is supposed to be a synergy, how do we fill the gap?
The gap will be filled if government is ready and say go and include Faculty of Engineering in your curriculum.
You cannot work with OSUSTECH?
No, because transfer of technology or operations must be at the same point, since we have Faculty of Agriculture, they have B. Agric, Soil Science, Animal Science, let there be Agricultural Science, there will be competition if they collaborate. But the university can include engineering in our curriculum.
President Buhari has put a ban on forex for agricultural products but the belief in the society is that it might lead to inflation. What is your take?
It will definitely lead to inflation. What are we producing that you are placing a ban on importation? Are you eating tuwo rice? That is the issue, government cannot just say that they ban importation. Importation of what? But you can regularise importation, where are the production stations? We must come up with workable ideas on how to go about it. Abaruma during Yar’adua administration wanted to do 20 hectares per state, at the end of the day, they took the money away, it did not see the light of the day . If they are existing now, we would have suggested that we go back to that. Government must release lands, even ordinarily if government says Adekunle Ajasin in the northern senatorial district, we are giving you one thousand hectares in reserve, we will bring in investors that will want to clear the land for us and give us target repayment, we are going to use minimum large scale there now, we are producing maize on a small scale, we are producing farm products. I have promised to bring samples from my farm to tell the University that this is a pointer. We are going to dam. The place can act as a demonstration centre. Before you employ youths in a country, you must engage in irrigation farming. OSUSTECH by name is already engaged in intensive fishery, because of their natural endowment. AAUA is in the Savannah zone, it should be allowed to produce grains, tomatoes, and vegetables. University can’t operate together, there will be supremacy.
We have the Owena dam lying fallow for decades and you spoke about the importance of irrigation and how it can be useful and yet we have something there?
I am a complete party to that dam. I was in the River Basin when it started. That dam location I was the fellow who pushed it to that side because it was to clear 2,500 hectares of cocoa and I told the committee that it is a reserve ,push it to the place because if you want to put it in this cocoa farm, very soon flood will carry the cocoa farms away because they won’t leave their cocoa. Number two, the whole environment is stony. I was to plant maize there, but because of the topography, we tried tomatoes but excess gravel, that is only going to be mainly for fishery. I recommended fish stands (fish cages in the river) so, except to produce portable water, any attempt to reticulate it is not workable. They had even embezzled reticulation money, that is where we are. It supposed to even be in Ita-Ogbolu but they just brought ten pipes, that was all. I just hope there is no revolution that will say how do you get your money. That dam is also within cocoa zone in Igbara Oke, Ilara, Ondo East, so, forget about that dam, go and step down rivers. Ose, Ogbese, Ruwa among other rivers are there, there are many that can be used. Step them down and retain the rivers, fence it even if it is one kilometer and protect it. Go to the banks of the rivers now, they are full beyond level, they are enough if protected, so we don’t need large dams.
What is your dream for Faculty of Agriculture in AAUA?
It is going to be the citadel of cocoa management training in Nigeria. We are going to come up with innovative poultry farming it is going to be a center to train many farmers even the national traders association had come to apply, by the time you see what is happening, you will have interest. If you see my tomatoes now, you will be surprised about these special tomatoes? Ordinarily to plant maize has precision, specific method, therefore, we are going to establish training facility. We are going to encourage farmers organisations. Cocoa farmers association is already tying knot with us in modern techniques. But there is no money, if it was in the time that there was money, within eighteen months people will be dazed. We are just managing.
You talked about tomato business, is it not possible for the University to make money from it?
Yes, it is possible.
What then is the problem?
It is because we have to use money to produce money.
Is it that bad?
Yes, I am using my connections and my money to start, we wanted to produce cocoa seedlings, no money, I applied in March, money came the following March. I had started in October of that year and we are selling it now.
Many people said they don’t have access to land and therefore cannot go into farming, what is your advice?
The forest reserves are lying fallow, people are encroaching illegally, but they are all on tree crops. For arable crops which is the immediate filling of the stomach, government should release specifically not less than 2,000 hectares per reserve in the three senatorial districts. All the districts have reserves, government should get investors clear, irrigate, and make percentage of it manual. The others, may be one third manual, that is employment for youths in that zones. The other one, allow the entrepreneurs to operate on commercial large scale with this, allow any investors to take the 2,000 hectares but the agreement must specify that, you are producing these crops specifically, you cannot come and dictate, it must be in the pre condition before giving out the lands. We can now use the land in each districts that had been allocated to agriculture to create the natural endowment position of the districts.
What advantage does this holds for the people?
There is hope that people are going to work there, which translates to creation of jobs, then food production. Most of the items are locally consumed which is very important. It will introduce processing of such crops for export to other states and overseas and the people’s idea about unemployment will gradually disappear because the best area to create employment is agriculture.