Engr. Olumide Ayinla is the Oyo State Chairman of All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN). In this interview with Rotimi Agboluaje, the farmers’ leader urges the incoming Buhari administration and Oyo State government to do more for farmers. Excerpt:
What AFAN is all about?
Oyo State All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN) is the umbrella body that takes care of rural, grassroots and peasant farmers in the 33 local government areas of the state.
Since you assumed the leadership of AFAN in Oyo State, what are some of achievements you’ve recorded?
Since I took over the mantle of leadership about a-year-anda- half ago we’ve tried to put many things in place. Some of the achievements include the setting up of a woman farmers’ association, youth farmers’ association, and others. All these were not there before my inauguration.
And then AFAN as a body had no its own farms but now, in about 26 local councils in the state AFAN has farms.
We’ve introduced farming to the youths because of transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. We’re proud that we’ve removed the youths from the labour market.
We’ve women now who are actively involved in farming not on paper but first-class women-farmers.
These achievements you just highlighted wouldn’t have come by easily. What are the challenges you encountered since you took over the leadership of the farmers’ association?
The challenges are enormous but I give kudos to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, and the Minister of State for the Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide. They’re always there for us. Whenever we need anything we contact them and they’re always there for us. They gave us helping hands to overcome the teething challenges.
I also thank my deputies across the 33 local government areas because AFAN is not a one-man-affair organisation but a team association.
As a stakeholder in the Nigerian economy, what are the expectations of AFAN from the incoming government?
The present administration has done very well in agriculture and did a lot for farmers we also expect the incoming administration to endeavour to do more for farmers. Our incoming President, General Muhammad Buhari, knows the importance and the vital roles played by farmers in the economy. Anywhere in the world, farmers are the rulers and the nation’s feeders. Without food, there is nothing anybody can do. As a President, a pastor, a teacher and other professionals, you need food to perform optimally. So, I think that Gen. Buhari would do well in agriculture.
Which area do you want him to focus on?
The main area we want him to focus on is in direct loans to farmers, farmers’ loans. Farmers need soft loans because we find it very, very difficult to access soft loans.
Besides, we expect that farmers in this part should be treated like their Northern counterparts the treatment should devoid of marginalisation. I’m saying this because you can’t compare farmers here with those of the Northern states. There is a difference.
We urge the incoming to balance up and also sensitize our governors that farmers should be properly taken care of as they take care of the workforce in other sectors and ministries.
The Ministry of Agriculture should be a functional one. At the state level, it shouldn’t be a ministry that can’t send farmers to seminars, workshops and trainings. We should be treated like others who contribute to the economy.
State governments should come to the aid of farmers in form of enlightenment programmes and other packages to improve their lives. Although the state government is trying, it’s not up to our expectations.
Your request centres on granting soft loans to farmers. Has the Bank of Agriculture not done anything in this regards?
It’s not that easy. There is a policy on the BOA loan facilities now; before you can access loans you’re required to be guaranteed by a level 14 officer. How easy can one get that? This simply means the facilities are not meant for farmers but career officers. Obviously, the facilities wouldn’t get to farmers direct.
As the AFAN helmsman, what efforts have you made in this direction to ensure that the bottleneck is removed?
Currently, Federal Government’s N500 million loan facility to farmers in Oyo State, we’ve written to the government that by requesting a level 14 officer before granting loans to farmers means that the facility is not meant for farmers. If you want to give loans to farmers go to their farms, identify the farms and see how many hectares of land the farmer has. Not that you ask them to bring Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) because a farmer wants to collect N259,000 facility. So, we’ve written a series of letters to the authorities.
Has the state government anything for AFAN?
It’s trying but not up to 20 per cent.
But as the government is about to start its second term in office, we expect and urge them to involve we, the stakeholders, in policy formulation. They should let’s be on the table anytime there are policies on agriculture. Even if they want to import a pin we should be involved to know the right implements that are suitable. We’re the one to tell the whole world that what the government is doing.
How would describe the relationship between AFAN and the state government?
It’s cordial. When it comes workforce but when it comes to the time of giving us rewards that is when we would be at a loggerheads.
Has the government sent any of your men to training?
There is nothing of such. We have our trainings from International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Cocoa Research Institute and other international organisations.