Nigeria’s Oyo State wants relations with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) stepped up as the state plans to diversify its economy with a greater focus on agriculture to boost incomes, generate wealth, and create job opportunities for young men and women.
The request for closer collaborations with IITA is coming at a time when oil revenues to the country are plummeting and trading at below $50 dollar per barrel.
Like every other state in Nigeria, the shortfall in oil revenues coupled with increasing youth unemployment has raised the clamour for agriculture as an option to solve the socioeconomic puzzle.
Senator Abiola Ajimobi , Oyo State Governor, said on Tuesday that the prevailing economic reality has put to test the widely held narrative that agriculture is a poverty fighter and a generator of wealth and employment.
Consequently, he called on agricultural experts from IITA to provide answers to the puzzle by proffering solutions that will unlock the agricultural potential of Oyo State.
” What we want from IITA is a game changer. What we can do and can impact the lives of our people?… We need IITA to assist us,” he said during a meeting in Ibadan with a delegation from IITA led by the Deputy Director General of Partnerships and Capacity Development, Dr Kenton Dashiell.
Located in the South Western Nigeria, about two hours from Nigeria’s commercial capital— Lagos; Oyo state is endowed with rich arable land and a diversity of agroecological climate comprising Rainforest and Savannah. This climate variation supports both tree crops and cash crops such as cassava, maize, soybean, rice etc. The agricultural land also supports livestock and fisheries.
Despite the endowment, Ajimobi said he had not seen much of this translated to wealth for the people of Oyo State and requested IITA to develop a blueprint that would take the state out of the doldrums.
Dr Dashiell in response renewed the commitment of IITA to support the state government. He underscored the need for Oyo state to invest in research to address the low productivity question, and to massively engage young men and women in agriculture.
Dr Dashiell said that the government could adapt the IITA Youth Agripreneur model to engage young men and women, and reminded the Governor of his earlier promise to support the construction of an Agribusiness training center in IITA that could serve as a training ground for not only the youth of Oyo state but also Nigeria as a whole.