With a well-planned initiative targeted at equipping and engaging the unemployed youth, the John Kayode Fayemi administration has used the Youth in Commercial Agriculture Development Programme, YCAD, to transform the state of the agriculture sector and ensure food security in Ekiti State
It is a known fact that any government that neglects its unemployed youths is sitting on a time bomb because it has grave implication for the security and well-being of the state. With the introduction of Youth in Commercial Agriculture Development, YCAD, project in 2012, it is obvious that Governor Kayode Fayemi recognises this fact. Prior to his administration, mainly the elders were farming and it was basically subsistence farming cultivating only 350 hectares, while the youth, the most productive arm of the Nigerian population, were eyeing politics. He designed the YCAD initiative to inject fresh blood into farming and also to create employment for the teeming unemployed youth. YCAD has not only generated employment for the youth but also transformed the agricultural sector of the state from subsistence to mechanised farming.
From 150 participants in 2012, about 9,500 youths are benefiting from the scheme either directly or indirectly. While the federal government struggles to open up a 10,000 hectares of land for agricultural purposes across the country, Ekiti State government under the leadership of Governor Fayemi has increased land offered to YCAD operators from 1,200 hectares to 3,200 hectares for cassava plantation alone and still counting. Ajibade Adeleke is one of the beneficiaries. Adeleke, farm manager, Osin Farm Settlement, started his cassava plantation with only five hectares in 2012 but now his story has changed. Today, he manages a cassava farm that sits on 250 hectares of land. That is not all. He also has about 25 graduates on his payroll.
“The government provides the land, does the ploughing, planting and gives fertilisers while we supervise,” he explained. Aside from that, he also smiles to the bank. According to the elated farmer, for every N300,000 invested on a five hectares cassava farm, the produce generates about N1.5 million income per season for the operator. Adeleke is excited about the high returns he generates from the farm and believes he makes more return than his counterparts in the banking sector.
Adeleke is not the only excited farmer that benefitted from the YCAD initiative. Equally excited is Adeola Adeyemi, cocoa, oil palm and banana nursery farmer. The graduate of business administration from Ekiti State University, EKSU, Ado Ekiti, who has 105,000 units of cocoa, 20,000 oil palm trees and about 10,000 banana trees on his 10 hectares of land confirmed that the Fayemi-led administration has created a new goldmine with the agricultural sector of the state. “Though I can’t harvest cocoa as fast as cassava but I’m excited about the way my farm is turning out and that is because the government has been giving me enough support. If not for this initiative, I can’t imagine where I would be,” she revealed.
Solomon Adetunji is another YCAD operator who believes Governor Fayemi is godsend. Adetunji, a graduate of Computer Science from EKSU, and Head of Marketing, Crystal Rice, confirmed that the local processed rice is better than the imported brands which are shipped to the country five years after they are produced. With N2.8 million loan facility granted by the state government, Adetunji and his team have built a rice processing plant that can process about 130 bags day. With six other plants spread across the state, the entrepreneur disclosed Crystal Rice has met the demand for its product in the state and that is the reason the firm now targets markets outside the shores of the country. “We supply rice to some companies in Lagos, United Kingdom and the United States of America,” he boasted.
Apart from being employers of labour and contributing their quota to the economy of the state, these entrepreneurs also smile to the bank, doing better than their counterparts doing white-collar jobs. Adeleke has this to say: “If you have five hectares, you make nothing less than one million in a year and I have 20 hectares,” Adeleke said with a tinge of excitement about what the future yield would look like. Also looking into the future with a lot of optimism is Temitope Aroge, a medical doctor-turned-farmer. The young medical graduate of 2011 is now thanking his stars for jettisoning the stethoscope and going into farming in Ekiti State. Recently, his farm was able to access a $3 million, about N480 million, facility made possible with support from the Ekiti State government to expand his capacity. “With such funding we can go into high value farming,” Aroge said.
Meanwhile, the existing farmers in Ekiti are not left out of the total turnaround in the agriculture sector as they are being supported with expandable credit facilities too. In all, 130,000 farmers are currently being supported. A loan facility of N600 million, partly contributed by the Bank of Agriculture and the Fayemi administration, has also being made available to the Farmers’ Cooperative. Phillip Oyediran, Olosin of Osin Ekiti, a traditional leader, is one of the farmers the state government has empowered. Aside from presiding over the administration of his community, the monarch is also a cocoa farmer. “This year, I have planted more than 10,000 cocoa seedlings so far with the help of the state government and I will soon expand my farmland to plant more,” the traditional ruler said.
Just as the arable crops, the aquaculture and poultry sectors are not left behind in the transformation agenda of the state government. Ekiti State hitherto did not have comparative advantage in poultry production, hence the need to aggressively force such to happen. The state government had to acquire moribund poultry facilities for this purpose. Initially, live birds were being trucked out of the state as far as Akure, Ondo, Ibadan, Oyo State and Lagos State among others, but in 2013 the Fayemi administration initiated a processing facility at Erinfun, along Federal Polytechnic Road in Ado-Ekiti, and since then the government has not stopped the expansion and huge investments in the poultry business. “With four centres in Ikere, Odo Ado, Erifin and Ikole, we have generated about 50 direct and indirect employment. We sell as much as 27,000 processed birds depending on the demand,” said Ola Folorunso, farm manager, YCAD Poultry. Besides the achievement of selling processed birds for the first time since Ekiti was created in 1996, “the state government has captured the local market and is making inroad into neighbouring states such as Ondo State. The target is to hit between 100,000 and 150,000 processed birds every two weeks and we intend capturing the Abuja market too.”
No doubt, the Fayemi-led administration has transformed the agricultural sector and showcasing its produce to the world. For instance, the large-scale cassava cultivation makes Ekiti the state with the highest cultivation of cassava in the country. Before the present administration, farmers were selling their cassava tubers in trickles, but the situation has since changed with the increase in cultivation. This monumental turnaround has attracted institutional buyers such as Thai Farms, the largest processor of cassava in Nigeria, and Nigeria Starch Mills in Ihiala, amongst others to Ekiti State. One of the ripple effects of this, apart from the fortunes made by the YCAD participants, is an increase in the contribution of the sector to the internally generated revenue, IGR, of the local governments where these cassava farms are located as they regularly collect taxes from the buyers whenever they come to buy the cassava. “The sector has increased its contribution to the state’s IGR from 2 per cent to over 30 per cent and we are not stopping at that. Our target is that by the end of 2014, we will contribute 50 per cent of IGR,” said Babajide Arowosafe, Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Before now, Ekiti which used to be known as a state of tree crops had gone from bad to worse so much so that it didn’t have seedlings to give to farmers. To tackle the situation, the Fayemi administration established 18 nursery points across the state in towns such as Ado, Emure, Ikole, Ise, Igbara-Odo, among others and tasked the YCAD youths to nurse tree crops on a commercial basis. In 2013 alone, 300,000 cocoa seedlings were nursed and 210,000 oil palm seedlings which will be distributed to farmers during this year’s rainy season are being raised. “The target this year is to nurse one million cocoa seedlings and 500,000 oil palm. Already, 500,000 out of the one million cocoa seedlings targeted in 2014 have been nursed. Under the cocoa cultivation expansion programme of the Fayemi-led administration, close to 100,000 hectares of cocoa were cultivated last year,” Arowosafe added.
As far as Miles Gaisford, an agriculture consultant and technical support manager, YCAD, is concerned, the initiative has transformed major farm settlements in the state to centre of excellence in agriculture as they now play host to youths who have keyed in to the agriculture agenda of the administration. “It would help the state to exploit its rich agricultural resources and depend less on the accruals from the federation account,” he explained. Gaisford added that other states should emulate Ekiti in using agriculture to reduce unemployment and ensure food security across the country.
According to Arowosafe, “The success stories of the YCAD operators are not mere coincidence. They are a product of deliberate efforts aimed at restoring agriculture to its place of pride in Ekiti State. There has been a silent revolution in the sector in Ekiti State.” Fayemi agrees: “For us in Ekiti State, food security is the first line of defence and attack to make poverty history. Therefore, all stakeholders must take the development of the agricultural sector seriously. This is the only way to guarantee the future of our great nation Nigeria beyond oil.”
From all indication, Fayemi has proved that his promise to modernise agriculture in the state is not the usual fruitless proclamations of politicians about agriculture in Nigeria, “the Kayode Fayemi administration has worked its talk and has earned the people’s trust that it is not only capable of making promises, but also ably capable of fulfilling all its promises.”