The Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola on Thursday launched a research and training farm institute in his quest to transform agriculture sector in the state.
The Research Institute which is located at Ago Owu, Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun was accomplished in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in a bid to boost agricultural production.
Launching the institute at Ago-Owu Farm Settlement, Aregbesola attributed the success of the scheme to unflinching support which the state received from the officials of the IITA.
Aregbesola said the step was as a result of his passion to get the state rid of hanger and poverty also said that the state had released 205.5 hectares of land for the take-off of the programme as part of efforts to advance agriculture in the state.
He described the institute as a “citadel of knowledge in agriculture” with establishment and challenges confronting farming and farmers would be a thing of the past.
He said the institution has the capacity to train, retrain and conduct various researches that would not only increase farmers’ yields but also expose them to modern agriculture practices.
Aregbesola said the idea was nurtured in a bid to support the existing farmers and encourage young ones into farming, saying with the scheme, a new era has begun in the agriculture sector in the state.
According to Aregbesola “the scheme was part of my administration’s six-point integral action plan to increase on the agricultural produce, improve the welfare of farmers and turn Osun to food basket of the southwest Nigeria.
According to him, the idea behind the establishment of the institute is to advance research in agriculture sector in line with the state’s commitment to agribusiness and commercialisation.
“We must thank the IITA for the partnership we have because with the establishment of this training institute, our partnership is not just a memorandum on paper but rather a memorandum actualised.
“IITA has been an open partner with Osun government and the partnership was formalised in 2015 after a Memorandum of Understanding was mutually signed to support agriculture sector in the state.
“This MoU has been actualised with the research and training institute set up to advance research in agriculture, encourage participation in farming and as well improve on the agricultural productivity in the state.
“This initiative aimed at improving on the agricultural agenda of the state, getting youths attracted to farming, exposing farmers to modern and mechanised farming techniques and as well increase agricultural productivity”, he added.
On why the state decided to partner IITA, Aregbesola said the decision was taken having realised the agricultural poor yielding culture in the state.
According to him, Osun is the highest producer of cassava in Nigeria but even as that, the state produces just 16 metric tons per hectare which is far from expectation.
He added, “We partner this international institute to deepen our commitment to massive food production in the state and ensure that the farmers’ yields are improved geometrically.
“For instance, Osun is known to be the highest producer of cassava, but with this feat, our production is poor while the yield per hectare is between 15/16 metric ton per hectare.
“This is widely far from reality while compare with what those who have advanced on the production of cassava have per hectare, and it is for this reason that reached a compromise with IITA to support our farmers for greater productivity.
“As I am speaking now, what we produce as far as cassava production is concerned has increased tremendously as it has increased from 16 metric tons per hectare to 40 metric tons per hectare.
“It is our belief that with this partnership, Osun farmers most especially the existing ones would begin to experience a new life in the agriculture sector while youth would also be encouraged to farming.
“With this partnership, no farmer would suffer anything as far as farming is concerned because this initiative would go a long way to support all there needs and bring a difference into the system.
Earlier, the Deputy Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Professor Michael Abberton, said IITA partnered Osun government having realised the keen interest of the state to revamp agriculture sector.
He described the state’s commitment to agriculture revolution as remarkable, a step he said would be advanced by the IITA to ensure the actualisation of the state dreams in the agriculture sector.
Prof. Abberton who spoke on behalf of IITA, said the partnership was important as it reflects the role the farm will play not only in terms of research addressing the needs of smallholder farmers but also in terms of training and capacity building.
He said the MoU signed between the state of Osun and IITA in 2015 was the consolidation of long tradition of formal partnerships with various stakeholders around the state which according to him represents IITAs commitment to build on this tradition and to further enhance the transfer and adoption of IITA research to the benefit of the farmers in the state.
“The IITA Youth Agripreneurs will be making good use of this farm in the development of their activities.
“IITA has had a long tradition of training, transferring technology to farmers in the State of Osun, through various projects. The MoU signed between the state of Osun and IITA in 2014 was the consolidation of long tradition of formal partnerships with various stakeholders around the state.
“This farm represents IITAs commitment to build on this tradition and to further enhance the transfer and adoption of IITA research to the benefit of the farmers of Osun state.
In his welcome address, the Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships and Coordinator, Osun Rural Entreprise and Agriculture Programme, Dr. Charles Akinola, said the initiative was to bring technology closer to the farmers in all aspects of agricultural production.
Expounding further, Dr. Akiola revealed that part of the expectation, the state desires that a solution to the challenge of youth partnership in agricultural production should be sought so that young farmers would have lands and the impact should be seen within the next planting season.
The DG also maintained that the programme was to fulfil the promise that the State Government made to the IITA in March 2011 on the commencement of this administration.
According to him, “we are doing this to have huge production yields. It is hoped that with this, Osun farmers will begin to count gains as agriculture would be commercialised while our state would become training centre for her peers in agriculture sector.
“Youths would also be attracted to farming since this partnership would provide the necessary seeds with early maturity.
“We want to make agriculture a way of life and a real business for all and sundry”, he stressed.
While presenting the agriculture inputs to state government, the Project Leader, Cassava Weed Management and Director, development and Delivery Office, IITA, Dr. Alfred Dixon, assured the state of the organisation’s readiness to ensure that the state have highest tons and yields in all areas of agriculture.
“We are here to work with Osun government to ensure that its agricultural policies are achieved.
“Our objective is to ensure additional values in all areas of agriculture. We have come with lots of seeds. We have many farm materials and we ensure that youths in the state are encouraged to farm.
“With what we have on ground in terms of agriculture materials coupled with our expectation on yield, Osun can export farm produce to 17 states”, he said.