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Afe Babalola preaches gospel of mechanized farming

Legal Icon, promient farmer, and private lagest employer of labour in Ekiti State, Aare Afe Babalola has continued to exhibit his love for farming through his bold efforts to attract others from different field to embrace agriculture while urging various governments to encourage people to join the train by financing mechanized farming.

Through one of the efforts, a 73-year old farmer, Alhaji Sulaiman
Balogun, emerged the Overall Best Farmer of the year in Ekiti
state, winning N1 million prize at a weeklong program, titled: Afe Babalola Agricultural Exhibition, “ABA-EX 2017”, the program which was the third of its kind to be organised by him.

Afe Babalola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and founder, Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti, (ABUAD) presented the
prize to the winner at the closing of the exhibition at the university campus main field where various farm produce were displayed, ranging from; yam,banana plantain, oranges, cocoa, snails, chicken, rice, maze, among other farm produce that were showcased as samples by the farmers who participated in the program which was flagged off on Monday October 2, and brought to close on Friday October 6, 2017.

The lucky Septuagenarian was among about 300 other farmers shortlisted for
the Government exhibition from among leading farmers in all the 16
local government areas of the state.

Two farmers each from the 16 council areas got N150, 000 and N100, 000
for wining first and second positions at the local level.

Babalola who offered to start buying farm produce from farmers in the
state as part of his efforts to encourage farming, and farmers, said he would save farmers in the state the agony of produce wastage and loss of profit on their produce due to lack of storage facilities and ready market.

The legal luminary, who himself is a big-time farmer, disclosed that he decided on buying the farm produce to improve the well-being of farmers and make farming attractive again like it used to be before the discovery of oil.

He noted that most Nigerian farmers were usually compelled to sell their
produce at ridiculous prices because of lack of facilities to preserve them, pointing out that he identified lack of working capital, storage facilities and modern farm implements as reasons why many had abandoned farming for odd jobs in the city.

According to him, : “As from now, I wish to announce to all farmers in Ekiti
State that they are free to bring their farm produce in bulk to us
here. We are ready to by them and pay you appropriate prices.

“We have all the facilities in ABUAD farms to accommodate as well as
process whatever volume of both cash and food crops that we have with
us. We do not only prepare them for local consumption, we also prepare
them for export.

“I am always moved to pity when I see hard-working farmers not making
commensurable profits on their farms despite toiling day and night to
ensure they have good harvest. I do not want this ugly situation to continue,”

Earlier at the opening of ABA-EX, 2017 on Monday, Aare Babalola called on
governments to introduce and compulsory mechanized farming in all
primary schools, secondary schools and higher institutions across the
country.

ABA-EX, which was introduced by Babalola three years ago is an annual
event in which the farmers are encouraged to enlist for participation
and display their farm products for all to see.

Aare Babalola said he specifically introduced the programme to support
the “Go -back-to-farm” crusade of governments and as a way to uplift
poor farmers into reckoning.

He attributed the high rate at which old men and women are leaving the
farms in preference for urban life to lack of modern farm tools,
saying any nation that wished to make headway in agriculture nowadays
must not rely only on the old conventional use of the cutlass and hoe, but mechanized agriculture.

Aare Babalola however noted, a situation where no student wants to
study or adopt agriculture as a career or vocation again because no
graduate wants to leave the university only to return to the farm,
using only the cutlass and the hoe, hence the need to encourage
mechanized farming and introduce it to the students right from primary
school level.

“If indeed we want to make farming attractive again, governments are
advised to introduce mechanized farming in schools so as to attract
the young children. Nobody even wants his children to adopt or take up
agriculture as a career after they might have been trained in various
disciplines, up to the university level because of the way and manner
agriculture is still being practiced in our part of the world.

“Adopting mechanized methods will therefore change the tide and make
them feel a sense of dignity and they will be happy to be a proud
farmer”, he said.

In his key note lecture titled, “Food sufficiency, a Myth or Really”,
the Chief Executive Officer of Chocharis Motor and prominent farmer, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, said that every Nigerian must take another look at farming.

He said that farming is the only way out of the economic crisis facing
the nation saying, “If you eat today, you better thank the farmer”.

Maduka urged the Federal Government to provide the enabling
environment for agricultural endeavours, while urging the people to go back to farming.

According to Maduka, “I dream of Nigeria that poverty shall be no
more, prosperity would be in abundance, of sound security, where my sons and daughters proudly displaying their international passports
and where great technological development is in abundance.

“We are blessed with great opportunities in agriculture. There is
opportunity for everybody to become anything he wants in this
country”.

Maduka, who disclosed that Afe Babalola encouraged him to go into
large scale farming, however, urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
to reduce interest rates to two percent and elongate payment of agric.
loans to 10 years.

Governor Fayose, who was represented by his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola thanked Babalola for his intervention in agriculture and
education sectors in the state and described him as the best, most
critical partner and a stakeholder in the running of government
Attachments area

By Gbenga Sodeinde, Ado Ekiti

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