Oyo state governor Seyi Makinde on Wednesday launched the Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) programme targeted at 20,000 of the most vulnerable crop and poultry farmers in the 33 LGAs and 35 LCDAs in the state affected by COVID-19.

The smallholder farmers most of whom rely on on-farm activities for sustenance and were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis received an agricultural stimulus and resilience package composed of fertilizers, herbicides and climate-resilient seeds; these are high yielding, and high nutritional value varieties that will help farmers achieve good production and secure their incomes.

With government revenue severely impacted by the steep drop in oil prices due to the pandemic, the $750 million World Bank-funded CARES project allows state governments in Nigeria access funds for budgeted programmes of expenditure targeted at responding to the economic impact of COVID-19.

The NCARES project aims to protect the livelihoods and food security of poor and vulnerable families and facilitate the recovery of local economic activities in all participating states in Nigeria.

In Oyo state, the intervention for farmers was coordinated by the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency which accessed priority needs of the smallholders, including agricultural inputs and assets for production.

“Smallholder farmers are important to us because they are the custodian of our food,” Governor Makinde remarked at the launch which took place at the Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology, Igbo Ora, in the Oke-Ogun area of the state.

The Governor disclosed his administration is making vigorous efforts to ensure smallholder farmers can access flexible and cost-effective leasing options for mechanised farming to improve their productivity and livelihoods.

“The government is encouraging private investors to provide heavy-duty equipment for smallholder farmers at a cheaper rate to make farming activities less tedious for smallholder farmers and encourage them to expand their farmlands because supporting the smallholder farmers contributes to the economic prosperity of the state”, Governor Makinde said. 

On his part, OYSADA Director-General Dr Debo Akande said the CARES programme builds on the State’s Covid-19 Response which supported over 9,000 vulnerable farmers affected by COVID-19 with improved varieties of cassava stems, maize seedlings, fertilizers and herbicides last year to restore their livelihoods, improve their resilience to the crisis and secure the domestic food supply in Oyo State.

“The programme aims at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic affected a lot of smallholder farmers across the state in which they could not sell their produce to the urban settlement, which made a lot of their products the previous year perish,” Dr Akande said.

In his remarks Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Hon. Muyiwa Ojekunle said the Makinde administration recognises smallholders as the backbone of the state’s food system and as such, will continue to institute measures aimed at expanding the agriculture sector to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

“Smallholder farmers hold a reasonable percentage in the contribution of agribusiness in Oyo state and they constitute 70% of the food being consumed in the state.”

Beneficiaries of the programme lauded the initiative, describing it as essential for improving and accelerating livelihood recovery of their households.

“About 40% of my cassava perished due to the lockdown that prevented my customers from coming to the farm,” a beneficiary programme Apostle Ogunsola Ogundiran a maize and cassava farmer from Ibarapa said. 

“This initiative by the Governor will help us farmers recover most of our losses we had the previous year.”

Another beneficiary Mrs Nafisat Abodurin from Tapa who cultivates maize, watermelon and cassava remarked, “Thanks to the intervention of the government, I had thought that I won’t cultivate as much as I did due to the number of my produce that perished last year.”

Mr Ibrahim Ayandiran who cultivates cassava and maize stated “The stimulus given to us will encourage most of us to continue farming” this he stated because most of the farmers have been discouraged to farm in large portion due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event had in attendance the deputy governor Engr. Rauf Olaniyan, Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Debo Ogundoyin, Chief of staff to the governor Chief Bisi Ilaka, Secretary to the State Government Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun and acting Rector of the Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology, Igbo Ora, Mr Olaniyi Adekunle.

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