Gov. Seyi Makinde

…as he launches IITA-backed STEP programme

…pledges to replicate scheme in all zones of Oyo

Ojo Peter, ibadan

The Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that his administration has set up the state for a massive turnaround in agribusiness, adding that the state was ready to absorb anyone who is ready to invest in large scale agriculture practices and agribusiness.

The governor, who stated this while inaugurating the Start Them Early Programme (STEP), an initiative of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) aimed at promoting interest in Agriculture among secondary school students in Oyo State, added that the programme will be replicated by the state government in all zones of the state.

He said: “We remain steadfast in our resolve to grow our economy through agribusiness. So, let me use this opportunity to once more, call on all who are interested in doing agriculture as a business. We want to hear from you. We want to work with you. Our administration remains open to ideas that will change the perception of our young ones towards agriculture.”

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that the governor, who launched the programme at the Fasola Grammar School, Oyo, expressed pleasure with the initiative, saying “This project is a product of the type of innovative thinking that ensures that young people learn agribusiness in theory and practice right from secondary school.”

He said: “I am pleased to be at this launch of the Start Them Early Programme (STEP).

“In the 80s to early 90s, we had the Young Farmer’s Club in schools. There was also the School to Land Programme in Rivers State.

“These programmes helped to steer the interest of some youths towards agriculture, and I must say that some people who have grown to become farmers today developed their interest in agriculture because of those initiatives.

“So, it is time to borrow a leaf out of the 80s book and bring back this initiative. This pilot programme will expose young minds to careers in agriculture that they never knew existed, and they will be given the needed direction to pursue these careers.

“I am particularly thrilled because they will not only be learning agriculture in the classroom. Positive peer pressure, in the form of social clubs, will be used to reinforce their classroom training, and then, they will get practical entrepreneurial training in the business of agriculture.”

According to Governor Makinde, the introduction of an initiative like STEP, which intends to catch the next generation young in terms of agriculture, is a step in the right direction, adding that it sits well with the focus of his administration to explore agriculture and agriculture value chain to expand the state’s economy.

“One of the challenges that agribusiness is facing is that in most parts of Africa, when we talk about agriculture, the picture that comes to the mind is not a young man sitting in his office looking at a computer. It is an older man or woman, back bent, tilling the soil with a hoe or attacking weeds with a cutlass. And this is why initiatives such as STEP are important.

“So, I am delighted that we are kicking off this programme in Nigeria here at the Fasola Grammar School in Oyo State.

“The truth is, what we set before young people as a goal is what they will pursue. When our parents told us to be doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects, we followed that path. The school system also emphasised those professions. It is now time to diversify. It is time to start teaching our children, the business of agriculture.

“And this ties up nicely with our plans here in Oyo State to leverage on agriculture to grow our economy. We have created the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency. Through this agency, we have recently launched the Youth in Agribusiness Tomatoes Project targeted at youths in Awe in Oyo, Igboora in Ibarapa and Tede in Oke-Ogun zones.

“We are also kick-starting the Farm Estates in Akufo and Eruwa. All of these will open up Oyo State to direct investment, both foreign and local, into agriculture.”

The governor also used the occasion to thank the IITA for its support for the government as well as the laudable STEP project.

“I’m glad that this project which is starting in Fasola Grammar School will be extended to other areas of Oyo State. And that soon, through this project, we will have a new generation of agropreneurs in Oyo State.

“Because even though experts are not agreed on whether or not agriculture is the best catalyst for the growth of the economy, they are agreed that any nation or people that do not have food security will fail on other metrics of nationhood.”

The governor added that his administration would review the state’s 2020 budget to facilitate the possible take-off of the STEP programme in parts of the state within the remaining months of the year.

In his address, the Director-General of IITA, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, told the gathering that the facility in Fasola will be used to engage a selected number of students and teachers who will be trained on modern agricultural technologies and production.

Dr. Sanginga, in an address delivered on his behalf by Dr. Chrysantus Akem, the Coordinator, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation Program (TAAT) of the IITA, enjoined the Oyo State government to judiciously utilise the multi-million Naira project for the resuscitation of the state’s agribusiness.