Afe Babalola blames hunger, poverty on neglect of agriculture

Aare Afe Babalola, SAN

Legal luminary, Aare Afe Babalola, has blamed hunger and poverty in Nigeria on government’s failure to support modern agriculture, even as he lamented that little has been done to help youths see farming as a business.

He disclosed this at the grand finale of the 6th edition of the yearly Afe Babalola Agricultural Expo (ABAEX), held at Sports Pavilion, Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), on Saturday, where he donated N13.2m to the best farmers in the state.

He noted that insecurity in the country has forced many farmers to abandon their farms, warning that hunger could lead to surge in social vices.

He said: “I can say without any iota of doubt that farming has become more and more discouraged. No thanks to the spate of insecurity ranging from kidnapping, robbery and invasion by herdsmen ravaging the country. Life is no longer safe at home, on the farm, on the road or even in classrooms. The combination of these ills has led to many farms being destroyed with many farmers having to abandon their farms.

“Thank God that despite all these, Ekiti farmers have been able to forge ahead. I believe in farming because I grew up on the farm and I am still a farmer. This is the major reason why I included the study of agriculture in the curriculum of my university with a 50 per cent slash in tuition fee, with provision of seed money for graduates of agriculture to start their own businesses. Farming has been abandoned in Nigeria today and Nigeria is the worse for it.”

The legal luminary who has won many awards on farming said there was a time that “Ekiti alone was producing 52 per cent of the Internally Generated Revenue of Western Region”. He said, however: “Today, Ekiti State is the poorest state in Nigeria. In fact, there was no beggar in Ekiti at that time, as everyone was gainfully employed. But today, beggars are found everywhere. Regretfully, Ekiti has become the poverty capital of Nigeria.”

He noted that because of government’s inability to encourage modern farming, “no father wants to send his child to school only to graduate and return to the farm to use cutlasses and hoes. It was for this reason that in the past, when local governments were indeed local governments, they assembled farm equipment such as ploughs, harrows, ridgers, etc. in each local government for farmers to hire.” Today, no local government, not even the state government, has any of these equipment.”

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