By Ibrahim Abdulazeez
Located in the Guinea Savannah of the northern part of Oyo State, Oke-Ogun is fondly referred to as the “food basket’’ of the South-West.
The area, with annual rainfall of between 700-1,100 millimetres, shares borders with Ogun, Osun, Kwara, Niger and the Republic of Benin.
Because of sustainable annual rainfall, the major economic activities are farming, hunting, fishing, and food processing, among others.
The area produces virtually all farm produce such as yam, cassava, cocoyam, plantain, palm fruits, among others.
Interestingly, the Federal Government has acknowledged the importance of the area in food production by citing a multi-million naira one-stop-shop agro-input centre in the area.
Mr. Olanrewaju Adeyinka, a worker in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the centre located at Otiri on Iseyin-Ipako road, would boost economic activities in the area.
“Having realised the potential of farmers in this part of the country, the Federal Government took the initiatives to establish this centre to serve many purposes.
“Not just tractors; modern farm tools are also rented out to ease the problem of farming; and we give them various seeds and grains at affordable prices.
“There is no crop that we don’t have here because we know what farmers here need, and we have the mandate of the Federal Government to do just that.
“We are solving problems relating to farm tools and equipment, and we make the farmers happy by making available the necessary crops for them at a give-away amount,’’ he said.
Beside the centre, the Federal Government has also established farm settlements of about 36, 000 hectares located in Iseyin, Itesiwaju and Iwajowa local government areas.
One of the farmers at the settlement, Mr Johnson Adeoluwa, a retiree, said about five acres was allocated to each beneficiary after the payment of N5, 000.
Adeoluwa described the N5, 000 yearly payment as cheap,“considering its fertility and accessibility of the settlement to the farmers.’’
He said that the incentive encouraged many retirees to engage in active farming.
Adeoluwa appealed to state governments to take a cue from this initiative by providing necessary tools and enabling environment for farmers in their respective states.
Similarly, Mr Jonhson Adeoti, Chairman, Fadama Users Group in Iseyin, said farmers in the area, had started making use of the multi-purpose storage centre built in the area by the Federal Government.
According to 70-year-old Adeoti, who retired from Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the centre stores more than 30, 000 tonnes of cassava and other related agricultural produce.
“Most of the problems we are facing here are being looked into already; am not sure that I have seen any government that is this committed to improving the nation’s agriculture sector as this present administration.
“I spent 35 years in that ministry and I know what I am talking about, I have been a farmer all my live, and I am still one.
“Now, one of the major impediments to farmers maximising their profits is lack of storage facilitates, and as you can see, that has been tackled with the construction of this centre.
“You may be forced to sell at a much reduced rate if you have no storage, but this facility has corrected all of that,’’ he said.
Mr Abiodun Ige, Director of Agriculture, Iseyin Local Government Area, said no fewer than 3, 000 farmers had benefitted from the various agricultural interventions of the government, including Fadama programmes.
He said items such as generators, grinding machines, wheel barrows, fridges, maize chillers, cassava graters and storage tanks, among others, were made available to farmers, under various programmes.
Stakeholders in agriculture, say that the development in Oke-Ogun is a clear indication that the Federal Government is committed in its agro-business programme.
They however want the government to repair the collapsed Diekola Bridge, which connects Oke-Ogun, Abeokuta to Lagos.
Some farmers in Iseyin said the bridge collapsed in October 2013, making it difficult for them to transport goods and agricultural produce to destinations outside the area.
Nonetheless, farmers in the area want the government to sustain financeing agricultural projects and programmes in rural areas, in order to boost transformation of rural areas and check rural-urban drift.