Will this state help Nigeria turn the corner

In May this year, I travelled with Pelu Awofeso, an award-winning travel journalist to Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State, Nigeria, on a three-day guided tour of the Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti Farms. This is the report of that visit.

After our assignment, we decided to spend a night with my brother in Akure, a distance of about 48 kilometres from Ado-Ekiti. We needed to exhale.

Returning to Lagos, our base, the next day, we sighted an exhibition of farm products in the vicinity of the Federal College of Agriculture in Akure. We would spend the next 30 minutes or so there, buying this and that, including packets of seeds of okro, cassava, water melon and tomatoes.

Back in Lagos, I decided to plant those seeds, except the water melon’s, at my backyard.

This afternoon, my driver/assistant, who did the planting and had been tending the farm, came and showed me two okro pods he harvested from the farm. By the way: I love okro. I learnt to eat rice with okro from my late dad. You probably would be an okro fan after reading this piece by my favourite food writer, Yemisi Ogbe.

Fresh from my backyard farm

The seeds that produced those pods came from a company in Kaduna State, Nigeria, called Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited. The company has a 35-hectare research farm “used partly for the multiplication of (its) foundation seeds and for some trials(and) for conducting nationally-coordinated trials” involving the national and international research institutes including the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.

In April, this same Pelu and I, on an assignment in Kaduna, discovered a yogurt drink named Farm Pride. He went for the sweetened while I settled for the sugar-free. It was a refreshing discovery. It was when we both returned to Kaduna to facilitate a workshop for some journalists in the state, that I discovered that, indeed, Farm Pride is made in Kaduna by the Niyya-Farm Group.

That April, we would have been in Kaduna a week earlier. But for a major event held that weekend at Chikpiri Gabas Village in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and which most of our workshop participants were involved with: the groundbreaking of what has been termed “Nigeria’s largest largest integrated animal feed mill, poultry breeding farms and hatchery” owned by Olam International, a leading agribusiness operating across the value chain in 70 countries.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai (with mic), amid dignitaries at the unveiling. Credit: topcelebritiesng.com

Pelu and I should be back in Kaduna State. Perhaps, another Eureka moment awaits us. But, most importantly, as the Nigerian Government is looking up to agriculture to boost its foreign exchange earnings as well as reduce food importation, perhaps Kaduna State would be one of its saviours.