“Lagos the smallest, the richest, the oldest, untouched or divided since creation, most populous, most cosmopolitan; a state with vibrant energy; and its unique soul, highly receptive to both hard-working. Land of opportunities, in Lagos, fortune favours the brave. There are many cities across the World with Lagos as their names; but our own Lagos is the most promising Centre of Excellence. Welcome to the capital of prosperity,” — Governor Akinwunmi Ambode
Fix Lagos and you fix Nigeria. Lagos is the microcosm of Nigeria, where all communities across Nigeria have brought their respective prospects and problems to converge in massive number of over 22 million on 3,577sq km.
As there is a truism in an adage that “if hunger is removed from a man’s needs, his poverty is abated”, so true is the saying that, If Nigeria can overcome her food scarcity and agricultural insecurity, sustainable-comprehensive development in Nigeria will be accelerated. But, for this to occur, Lagos must continue on the path of sustainable food and agricultural revival.
Prior to the recent bold collaboration with Kebbi State that brought delights to many homes during the Yuletide and New Year in Lagos through the sale of “Lake Rice”, the state was producing only 15% of what its people consumed, spending N350 billion on rice importation – half of the bill on the commodity by Nigeria. Daily, 6, 000 cows were slaughtered at over N3million, translating to N1, 080,000,000.00 yearly. Even with its huge population and the high purchasing power of residents, Lagos, until recently, (with only 350 hectares of cultivable lands) had 53 hectares under cultivation.
Because of the strategic position of Lagos, one would think, Lagos would receive the biggest impact of Nigeria’s socio-economic dislocation. But God has been blessing us with succession of visionary, energetic and competent leaders, who always achieved the unprecedented in their respective term. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode swims against the tide of potential crisis to produce outstanding accomplishments, which has kept Lagos in the forefront of socio-economic and political development.
Yet, Lagos must produce spectacular results in all sectors, especially in food safety and adequacy and agricultural security. At this period of recession, the first in 20 years in Nigeria, we need leaders who are willing, able and eager to rescue the country, bring us out of recession and restore our past glory. Ambode is a shining example of such leaders.
Through uncommon policies, Ambode has been charting a new path towards achieving self-sufficiency in the food and agricultural sector, especially in rice, cassava, corn, sorghum, yams, beans, poultry, fishery and life-stock, complemented by businesses and industrial strategies. He created the Office of the Special Adviser on Food Security to, among others, tackle food insufficiency, ensure nutrient adequacy, guaranty food safety, provide massive employment, stimulate relevant business and industrial value chains and fuel accelerated socio-economic growth and development. Ambode’s all-encompassing food security solution also seeks to inspire healthy competition and expand mutually rewarding agro-economy collaborations, not only in the Western Region states, but in all other states in the country. Ambode believes that when food is adequate, harmonious relationship and peaceful coexistence – to further fuel socio-economic development – will continue to reign.
Ambodeism in agriculture can be seen in the proverb that says “don’t give me fish but teach me how to fish”. The empowerment of our people, particularly the youths, women and unemployed through partnership and networking with relevant stakeholders within the state, in the country and across the globe are germane in Ambode’s creative policies. In the next two years, Lagos is poised to scale up food sufficiency from the present 12% to 25%!
Our Governor sees no reason why a nation blessed with lush rain forest and savannah should be spending billions on rice importation. For rice sufficiency in Lagos and for prosperity to her and other collaborating states, Ambode targets all arable lands in Nigeria. “Lake Rice” initiative is a fine example of strategic collaboration, where comparative advantages of partners are combined to produce impressive yield. During the Yuletide period alone, Lagos sold 32,467 bags of 50kg, 32,539 bags of 25kg and 30,780 bags of 10kg “Lake Rice”, produced and bagged by both states.
Comparative advantage to maximize production is important in the agrarian policy. In alliance with Lagos, Kebbi State brings to the table 600 hectares of arable land, as Ogun State, in Egwa provides 500 hectares. In the same vein, Lagos has stepped up massive rice promotion drive, acquiring lands in other states for cultivation, especially in the Western Region. In this network of mutually rewarding initiatives, Lagos is providing its massive market of 22million people, its technical ability and its 32 metric tons per hour, state-of-the-art rice mill, recently procured from Buhler, in Switzerland.
The Governor is determined to reach the maximum limit possible for rice cultivation in Lagos as well. He has expanded the Imota Rice Mill to have the capacity of 16 metric tons from 2.5 metric tons; a total of 100 farmers, mostly youths, are engaged in rice production in Epe under FADAMA III project; and in Avia Badagry, under Agric-YES, every year over 100 youths were trained for 6 months and practiced for 6 months. At the end of tutelage, they received loan (at 5%), resources and technical support. Still under Agric-YES in Badagry area, he is fusing socio-cultural realities of the region with agricultural opportunities to maximize gains, by strengthening people’s bond with their lands, building alliances with the people of Soghai-in the Republic of Benin – promoting entrepreneurship and other economic value chains and encouraging friendship and fraternity of the people in Badagry with their kinds in Benin Republic.
Coconut has more than 300 derivatives, and in the past, coconut was a major export earner of the state. Hence, the Coconut Initiative is an area where Lagos still has massive comparative advantage. The Governor is poised to revive and scale up the coconut projects across all the value chains, as 180km stretch of coconut groves are available for planting of 30,000 seedlings, as three community-based micro-processing centres have been installed. This move will not only stimulate coconut industry (like in Philippines where coconut earning and coconut products can be compared to our receipts from petroleum) but will also improve coastal environment of the region.
Ambode’s agrarian revolution is far reaching, involving the entire food and agric-business spectrum. Under the Agric Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES), over 500 youths have been trained in poultry and fish farming, as from the first quarter of the year, over 1,500 crates of eggs are being harvested everyday, 2, 000 broilers hatched per month and 18 tons of fresh fish harvested per cycle; the Entrepreneurship Centre Initiative provides continuous advisory services to farmers through seasoned representatives in all technical areas of agriculture; there is Estate initiative; there is Commercial Agricultural Development Project (CAPD) initiative – 315 women were trained, 51 of whom were empowered in poultry, rice and aquatic value chain; Agric-Input Supply
Initiative and Rural Finance Institution Project (Rufin) – aimed at strengthening the capacity of farmers capacity, while increasing access of poor rural farmers to financial Services – Agric Programme (SAP) and Cage Culture System and there is Oyo Cattle Fattening partnership in Ejio to address the beef needs of Lagosians.
God has a reason for giving us Ambode at this crucial time. Through the spirit of Ambodeism – a mix of social, moral, competence, commitment and vibrancy, clothed in spiritual principle – has been implementing agrarian policies that are novel and bold, to achieve the extra ordinary results we need to set us on the path of sustainable socio-economic development and make our glory more refulgent.
For, it is not a fairy tale, but true, that Nigeria was once one of the few nations under the sun, considered as giants in agriculture, in the pre-independence era and two decades after. Then farmers were ‘kings’ and farming and harvests were revered and celebrated. Nigerians were agrarian, with strong spiritual bond to land, firmly rooted in cultures. The linkage sustained by traditions – in folklore, songs, drums and dances. Premium was on the land, as harvests were celebrated with pomp and pageantry.
A nation blessed with clement weather, fantastic river systems and an extensive coast line, our nation was one of the best for habitation on the planet. In those periods, foods, vegetables and fruits – fresh from the farms – were plentiful, nutritious, safe and affordable. In our sufficiency, everyone was fed to contentment, while merriment was rife in the ambiance of surpluse, safety and security. In our abundance, concord and harmonious co-existence reigned – a proud, warm, welcoming agrarian nation was in peace amidst reassuring prosperity. And, all was well — indeed. In order to fully benefit from this ‘paradise’, one had to be in Lagos; hence millions relentlessly flocked here to enjoy better quality of life and fulfill their dreams.
Dr. AbdulLateef is Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Home Affairs.