• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Boost for fish production in Lagos

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The agriculture sector remains one area where Nigeria could address the twin issues of food security and unemployment. But for recent efforts to maximize the potentials of the sector, our score card in terms of local food production has been dismal. In 2010 alone, Nigeria spent a staggering N635 billion on wheat importations while another N35 trillion was spent on rice importation as well as N217 billion on sugar importation and another N97 billion on fish importation!

Subsequent governments in the country have for long been paying lip service to the development of the non-oil sector, but have all failed when it comes to actualisation. Various administrations in the country have come out with different policies and programmes aimed at transforming the agriculture sector but the results have not always been anything worthwhile.

It is in an attempt to redress the situation that the Lagos state government, more than ever before, is placing maximum emphasis on agriculture. Indeed, agriculture remains a cardinal aspect of PATH (Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing), the state government new development focus.  However, as much as the state would love to enter into large scale food production scheme, it is being constrained by geographical factors.

It is a well known fact that Lagos state has the smallest land mass in Nigeria, put at 356,861 hectares, about 75,755 hectares of which are wetlands. Being a coastal state, emphasis is, therefore, naturally placed on development of aquaculture.  Consequently, the state government has optimised the use of the state’s natural endowments to develop industrial fisheries, artisanal fisheries and aquaculture facilities across the state. This is meant to address the shortfall of about 200,000 tonnes of fish which led Nigeria as a whole to import $700 million (about N105 billion) worth of fish and fish products in 2009 alone.

The success of the Ikorodu Fish Farm Estate sited on a 34-hectare parcel of land in Odogunyan, Ikorodu, which produces 10,000 tonnes of fish every year and is fully subscribed, is most notable.  The Ketu-Ereyun Fish Farm Estate is located on a 60-hectare land on the Itoikin-Epe Road. This was conceptualized in response to the success of the Ikorodu Fish Farm Estate and in the same manner, has been subdivided into 482 plots for allocation to interested and qualified members of the public. Like the Ikorodu Fish Farm, the Ketu-Ereyun Fish Farm also has capacity for 10,000 tonnes but with additional supporting facilities like hatcheries, processing and marketing centres.

Presently, the state produces about 130,000 tons of fish per annum. Plans are in top gear to ensure that the capacity of the state to improve of fish production is enhanced. This is to be achieved through constant empowerment of fishermen, agriculture related cooperative societies as well as the yearly Artisanal Fishing Inputs Service Delivery Programme, AFISDP. The idea of the AFISDP, in particular, is part of a comprehensive strategy to improve fish production in the state.

As part of on-going efforts to boost fish production in the state, 15 participating fishermen cooperative societies were provided with comprehensive fishing tools, including outboard engines, fishing boats, nets among others. The equipment was given to the beneficiaries on deposit of 25 per cent of the inputs, cost, while the balance of 75 per cent would be spread over a two-year period. The government is also to provide support in terms of storage space, smoking and marketing. The expected boost in fish production would improve fishermen’s income and ultimately strengthen fishing in the state.

In order to consolidate current gains in the sector, the state government is presently partnering with other stakeholders which include the World Bank. This has further enhanced the capacity of the state to sustain fishing with subsidised inputs and infrastructure. Through the arrangement with the World Bank, about 120 fishing units in the state will benefit from all manners of assistance while overall the programme is expected to impart positively on the income and livelihood of over 800 people directly and nearly 5,000 Lagosians indirectly.

It will be recalled that the AFISDP initiative started three years ago at Orimedu where fishermen cooperative societies benefitted from various incentives from the government including cash sum N36.4m. in 2013, 12 cooperative fishing societies benefitted in Badagry alone to a tune of N66m. This year, benefiting societies had increased to 15 while plans are at advanced stage to double the figure next year.

Agriculture remains the only way to effectively fight poverty in the country. Data from various world organisations reflect the declining fortune of the agricultural sector in the country. Available statistics shows that Nigeria has over 53 million starving people, about 30 per cent of its estimated 167 million people.  The issues involved in the sorry state of agriculture in Nigeria today are multifaceted. For one, the budgetary allocation for the sector over the years has seriously nose-dived. As against the United Nations specified 10% of annual budgetary allocation, what we budget for agriculture in recent time is just around 3 %.

Second, there seems to be a communication gap between the farmers and policy implementers. In most cases, the policy implementers don’t really carry the farmers along in the process of policy implementation. This trend is, however, changing gradually now. Third, the mass departure of the young ones from the rural areas to the cities in search of the proverbial golden fleece has created a vacuum thus leaving agriculture to the old and weak ones. Consequently, the best form of farming we have now, where it exists at all, is subsistence farming. Equally, lack of necessary infrastructure to encourage mechanized farming is another bane of agriculture in the country.

To reverse the trend, governments across the country need to intensify efforts in harnessing the potentials of the sector as a catalyst for economic and industrial transformation. 

It is the belief of the Lagos state government that the only way to effectively fight poverty and insecurity in the country is to engage in agriculture and transform the nation into efficient producers of social, environmental and economic wealth. This, indeed, is the only way to tackle the nation’s over dependence on oil as the mainstay of our national economy.

Tayo Ogunbiyi