Saturday, July 7, 2012
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DAYS OF FARM SETTLEMENTS IN NIGERIA?
A few days ago, I went on a trip to visit a new farm land with some relatives in Igbogila, Ogun State Nigeria. In the mist of our activities for the day we had to visit the Igbogila Village itself in search of the Agric Officer. It was during the search that I was able to visit the SAWONJO FARM SETTLEMENT. The settlement was set up back in the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I was amazed at the infrastructures put in place there but unfortunately not been used. First let me tell you about the farm settlement before I go into the problems I observed.
The farm settlement is said to cover over 25 hectares. It is divided into sections for interested farmers. Each farmer gets a total of 5 acres on which he has a 2 bedroom farm house attached to it. In a nut shell, you have a beautiful (though very dilapidated due to lack of use) to live in while you do your farming at afee of one thousand naira($6.70) per year. That not all, for the use of the settlement is an Agric Farm Service Corporation where the farmers could purchase seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides . Machines such as tractors, plough, slashes etc were also available to be used on the farm at a subsidized fee. Aside these, a primary and secondary school was available there to serve both the villagers and families in the farm settlement if any.
Sadly, the farm settlement is now hardly in use. The former occupants are either gone or old and just live there without doing any serious faming leaving the farmland to turn into bushes. The Farm Service Corporation runs at very low capacity with outdated and tired agriculture extension workers whom are employees of the Ministry of Agric and whom couldn’t even answer question relating to agriculture convincingly. On the other hand, the machines and equipments are parked because there is no one to use them.
While I was thrilled by the idea behind the farm settlement, I felt weighed down for our generation. During the course of the visit, an elderly man lamented about the youths in the village not making use of the farm settlement. He said all they wanted to do was go into the transport business using motorcycle(okada) instead of engaging in agriculture despite the attractive incentive and opportunity they have in terms of the farm settlement.
I couldn’t but ask myself, why is the farm settlement not in use as it should? What can the government do to revive it? Does it exist in other states or Local Government Areas? Why are the youth not seeing the wonderful and rewarding advantage before them?
In the meantime, I await a future when young people would embrace agriculture and make life better for themselves and the nation as a whole.