The time is now for the South-West states to embark on a set of common institutional and organisational strategies for transforming agriculture through policies and investments. We need a plan to prioritise the value chains in food and export commodities focusing on meat, dairy, poultry, apiculture and fisheries. It was done before, it can be done again.


The governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi received great plaudits across the aisles for the robust EkitiKete food bank for vulnerable households, to ameliorate the punishing effects of the COVID-19 lockdown crisis. According to the governor in his speech, “The relief materials, which are in the form of food packs, are to be distributed to only identified vulnerable households, most of whom are mined from the social register of our vulnerable people’s Support Programme, domiciled with the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning that covers the sixteen (16) Local Government Areas of Ekiti State.” It is desirable that a social protection intervention programme like this, targeted at those whose data is with the government, is used as a template across the nation.

In this period of heightened anxiety, we can draw lessons from the Chinese ideogram for crisis, which is a mixture of danger and opportunity. For the South-West in particular, this must not be just about interventions and palliatives. We must look into the future and prepare. Such preparations must include a serious examination of our sustenance post-COVID-19. This means that we must take a look at the issue of food security and agro-industrial development in the region. The success of the Amotekun initiative has altered the territory of the discourse irreversibly in favour of regional cooperation and integration. Looking at the intervention in Ekiti State it is clear that much could have been done in Ekiti and the South-West, if the region had continued with the agriculture development thrust of the 1950s. This is unfortunate. For right now, it is a herculean task to ask people to obey the very indispensable stay-at-home order without food security. This why agricultural policies must be on the front burner after the successful acceptance of Amotekun. We need, as a matter of urgency, a Food Security Network.

We need a regional revival of what we had in the 1950s and 60s. Commodities exchanges must be set up in the region through public, private partnerships to modernise the defunct commodities board, which the structural adjustment programme ill-advisedly abolished with catastrophic effects.


What the South-West lost after the abrogation of the 1963 Constitution in 1966, was the gradual transformation of agriculture into a modern framework by transiting the peasantry into commercial farming. At the time, the key transformational instruments were the commodities board and the Cooperative Bank, founded in 1953. In tandem with creative ministers such as Gabriel Akin Deko, a tremendous forward thrust was achieved. The region also had under its operating framework an Agent General in London, who was a sub-ambassador but in reality was the region’s chief export coordinator.

We need a regional revival of what we had in the 1950s and 60s. Commodities exchanges must be set up in the region through public, private partnerships to modernise the defunct commodities board, which the structural adjustment programme ill-advisedly abolished with catastrophic effects. The States must be involved as strategic partners with the private sector, since they control the land and will have an input in licensing, as well as opening up the rural production areas with the construction of rural roads. The South-West will, in this way, be able to improve its rural economy by introducing science into agriculture, providing storage facilities, ensuring guaranteed minimum farm gate prices and triggering off the synergy that will lead to the establishment of cottage industries. All of this, of course, will be done through the commodity exchanges. As the region transits into an export-oriented agro-industrial powerhouse, export offices will be opened abroad.

It is doable to have millions of farmers in the South-West in 2030. We must look at agriculture as a pathway into the future; creating new jobs in that sector with artificial intelligence, science in agriculture, new forms of markets and an orientation towards developing organic farming under fair trade rules…


As Chief Obafemi Awolowo pointed out, if agriculture underperforms, it becomes a drag on the entire economy. We must decide now the sort of future we desire to create and live in. It is beyond belief that there are less than a hundred thousand farmers organised in cooperatives exporting $100 billion worth of agro-industrials a year from The Netherlands. The Netherlands is the size of Ekiti State. It is doable to have millions of farmers in the South-West in 2030. We must look at agriculture as a pathway into the future; creating new jobs in that sector with artificial intelligence, science in agriculture, new forms of markets and an orientation towards developing organic farming under fair trade rules, which is the fastest growing segment of the export market. The South-West can partner with Cargill and Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) and many other companies who are leaders in commercial agriculture. The Ogun-Osun River Basin, as well as the Benin-Owena River Basin can be reworked from their less than effective statuses to help with water management for agriculture and general use in the region.

It is worth noting that only a handful of countries have achieved industrialisation without modernising their agriculture sector. Neither Nigeria nor its constituent parts can industrialise without transforming agriculture. The South-West can reduce poverty at a fast pace through agricultural transformation by becoming the engine of rural economic growth. With increased farm productivity, jobs will be created, there will be better nutrition, incomes will rise with greater demand in local markets and a clear path to middle-income growth. The time is now for the South-West states to embark on a set of common institutional and organisational strategies for transforming agriculture through policies and investments. We need a plan to prioritise the value chains in food and export commodities focusing on meat, dairy, poultry, apiculture and fisheries. It was done before, it can be done again.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo