By John Mayaki
Sobe, a small community in Owan-West Local Government Area of Edo state, came alive on Wednesday 9th of August as Governor Godwin Obaseki, alongside other senior government officials, paid it a visit.
The Governor’s visit was not inspired by issues pertaining to politics or even pleasantries; he simply went to farm.
He had made a promise to the people in his inaugural address to make Agriculture a major focus in his administration’s socio-economic progamme given its strategic importance in areas like rural and economic development, job creation, revenue generation and in fulfillment of that promise; Edo Agripreneur, a novel Agriculture plan aimed at engaging youths and boosting food self-sufficiency, was birthed.
The process was clear: aspiring Agripreneurs apply for the scheme and are allocated already cleared fertile lands, funding, well-prepared seedlings, and adequate training on best farming practices and techniques in order to record a bountiful harvest.
And on Friday, 7th of April this year, the state government, in partnership with Saro Agro-sciences limited, launched the pilot scheme of the Agripreneurship Programme in Sobe.
As scheduled, the Governor went back months after on Wednesday, to see, first hand, the progress made and possible challenges faced.
“We flagged off our Accelerated Agriculture initiative three months ago and this maize farm is a product of the initiative. There were few challenges encountered by the farmers and we will go back to the drawing board to ensure that there is significant improvement in the next phase,” he said to reporters at the end of the tour.
Continuation of the programme with a significant improvement in the following phase was not the only good news he had for everyone engaged in the value chain of the initiative; he also disclosed that the fertilizer blending part in Auchi, a crucial part of the Agric initiative, would soon be commissioned by the Acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Furthermore, building on the success recorded in Sobe, the initiative would commence in other parts of the state at the start of the next planting season.
In the journey to diversify the state’s economy and wean off reliance on oil and federal allocation, Agriculture was always going to be a major landmark for Edo state given the abundance of vast arable land and natural resources.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an independent and notable organization, had attested to this in its study of state-level business environment where it posited that “With over 2 million hectares of arable land, [Edo] state is well positioned to enjoy strong expansion in crop production including oil palm, rubber and cassava.”
Thus, it is commendable that Governor Godwin Obaseki identified and took full advantage of the opportunity to use available resources to transform the state economically and considerably reduce unemployment.
Youths of the state have been advised not to squander the opportunity provided by the Agriprenuer programme, and others like it, to secure rewarding jobs and contribute to the growth and development of the state.
Governor Godwin Obaseki has made it clear he won’t be taking the well-traveled route of supposedly creating jobs by bloating the civil service and increasing the financial burden on the government. Instead, with initiatives like Agripreneur, he would engage hands, equip young people with adequate skills to set the pace across various fields, and create wealth.
The government, according to him, is only privileged to manage tax-payers’ money hence, it must be prudent and judicious.
There are ongoing strategic moves to open up other sectors in the state in order to raise government revenue, but for Agriculture and everyone involved; the good times are here with Obaseki in the farm.