The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi,has called on Nigerians to aggressively engage in agriculture to end poverty and reduce unemployment in the country.
Adeyeye made the call at the 2017 Mike Omotosho Annual Lecture with theme, `Increased Agricultural Productivity for Sustainable Economic Growth’, in Abuja on Saturday.
He said that engaging in agriculture was a sure way to ensure nation building, especially in the current recession facing the country.
The Onni expressed concern that deforestation which he said had reached an alarming rate in the country had resulted in low productivity of farmers in food production.
The Oba said: ‘’ We abandoned the bedrock of this country and that is why we are where we are today.
“We need proper mind re-orientation and change our focus to agriculture.
“It is for us to come together and redefine how we do things. We should be exporting agricultural produce because we have huge land mass.
“Agriculture is the largest employment platform and we all must practice it in entirety.
“Our flag has two colours which stand for peace and agriculture. We must go back to our roots to be able to survive.’’
Dr Mike Omotosho, the Convener of the lecture, said the aim of the lecture was to reawaken the spirit of agriculture in people.
Omotosho, also a founder of the Mike Omotosho Foundation, said the foundation had taken the responsibility of eradicating poverty through agriculture.
He stressed the need to improve agricultural production to meet both local and export needs of the country.
Omotosho said that the foundation had acquired over 15,000 hectares of farm land in various states and had cultivated 300 hectares of the figure to encourage youths in agriculture.
“We have an agriculture academy. A lot of people have known that beyond being a farmer, you can also engage in other areas of agriculture.
“We intend to come up with a farm known as Niger Palms, that will be the largest palm plantation in Africa that will employ over 15,000 people, within the next three to five years,’’ he said.
Alhaji Sani Dangote, the President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, said that inadequate storage facilities were a major threat to the growth of agriculture in the country.
Dangote, represented by Chief Emmanuel Ijewere, the Vice-President of the group, expressed regret that 45 million registered farmers in the country, produced only 135 per cent of the food people consume.
According to him, no fewer than 50 per cent of those foods perish during harvest.
“Nigeria is the highest producer of tomato, but we are the highest importers of tomato paste.
“We need to build packaging centres because there are so many opportunities in agribusiness and value chain,’’ Dangote said.
Mr Kabiru Ibrahim, the National Chairman of the All Farmer Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that only `brief case’ farmers were being recognised in the country.
He appealed to the Federal Government to involve small scale farmers in its diversification effort.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that Omotosho Foundation, is an initiative designed to foster a network of youth leaders with global mindset for socio-economic impact.
Dr Omotosho is the Governor of Rotary International District 9125 Nigeria.