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Governor Seyi Makinde’s Opening Remarks at the Agribusiness for Food Security Initiative

Governor Seyi Makinde's Delivering his Opening Remarks at the Agribusiness for Food Security Initiative on 29 April 2024

Being the Opening Remarks by His Excellency Seyi Makinde, FNSE, Executive Governor of Oyo State, at the Agribusiness for Food Security Initiative held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture on Monday, 29 April 2024.

I want to start by thanking the organisers of this event for giving me another opportunity to speak on a topic very dear to my heart. Anyone who has followed the story of Oyo State would know that our activities in this State can be defined in one phrase – economic turnaround for prosperity. This is not just a catchphrase. We saw the big picture, and we took deliberate steps to achieve our vision through policy and strategy.

We are here today to talk about food security, so permit me to adopt the definition of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security – Food security is about having physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. In Oyo State, we call this prosperity.

From the get-go, it was clear that we could not attain prosperity or food security without economic recalibration. We inherited a State that was doing poorly on most economic indices. Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was low for a State that had a rich history of economic development and was close to the country’s commercial capital. So, we had to find a way to stimulate the economy quickly.

Our comparative advantage was that we had arable land. So, if we were to achieve accelerated development, we had to build our economy around this advantage. It was a no-brainer that we had to leverage on agriculture. But we were not content with practising agriculture like it was done in the past. We did not say, “Oh, let us get smallholder farmers together, give them seeds and fertiliser so they can feed our people.” That would be a political solution to food security. We needed an economic solution driven by data and research. We knew that achieving food security required a new way of thinking about agriculture.

So, one of the new agencies we set up to drive this new way of thinking about agriculture was the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) headed by Dr Debo Akande. I will always say that Dr Akande has been instrumental in pushing a new way of practising agriculture in Oyo State, which is yielding dividends today.  

To achieve this change, we focused on partnerships that drive agribusiness. Working with the private sector and development organisations, Oyo State started on a path to creating a competitive advantage through agribusiness. It was a learning curve for us. For example, we set up the Fasola Agribusiness Industrial Hub. We planned to do three hubs in our first four years but ended up with just one. But it taught us what we must do to turn Oyo State into a modern agribusiness hub in sub-Saharan Africa.

One key lesson is that we can only achieve agricultural development by attracting large investments in agriculture. To get these investors interested in our State, we needed to provide supporting infrastructure. Fasola is the success story it is today because we provided the primary infrastructure required. We built first-stage factories within the hub, provided security and are working on meeting the energy needs of the industries there. We also fixed the 34.85 km Oyo-Iseyin Road.

Of course, we will apply the lessons we learned from Fasola as we proceed with the other two hubs in Eruwa and Ijaiye.

Over the last five years, Oyo State’s economy has received a big boost. We achieved unprecedented growth in our IGR and GDP. However, to achieve the level of food security we envisaged, more was required. 

Food security, like business, has a demand and supply side. To achieve an equilibrium, the supply of research, innovation, partnership, and policy should match food availability, affordability, and accessibility.

I believe that during the conversations we will have today under this Agribusiness for Food Security Initiative, we will discover even better ways of matching policy with action to give our people more access to nutritious and safe food.

But before I conclude these opening remarks, let me state that we still struggle with increased productivity in Oyo State, which underscores the need for further research and innovation.  The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is doing much in this regard. We have an ongoing collaboration at Fasola, where they are field-testing improved seeds – a key driver of food security.

Our vision is to move from the point where our farmers are struggling with yields per hectare to creating an environment where more people work across the agribusiness value chain, especially in research and innovation, for greater productivity.

So, let me again thank you for the opportunity to set the tone for the conversations we will be having today by sharing what we have been doing in Oyo State. We are providing a template that can be easily scaled to support food security not just in Nigeria but also in the West African sub-region.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Seyi Makinde

29 April 2024