The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) has taken proactive steps to mitigate the negative impacts COVID-19 might have on global food security after its ravaging effects on the country and the world at large.
Speaking during an interview with FUNAAB Bulletin, Director, Directorate of University Farms (DUFRAMS), Mr. Joseph Olobasola disclosed that in line with a directive from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Kolawole Salako, DUFARMS embarked on massive production of food commodities consisting of both livestock and crop production with a view to alleviating the growing threat to food insecurity in the country.
The Director noted that the University farms had set machineries in motion to commence farming operation for early crops before the beginning of lock down and was able to operate fully and flawlessly without compromising any of the laid down protocols during the lockdown due to the cooperation received from the Federal Government, State Government, University management and the crop of highly dedicated and responsible staff of DURARMS.
According to him, “We were not anticipating it when the lockdown started and knowing that operations in agriculture are very seasonal, we had fully prepared to kick start our first phase of farming operation which is our early crops, that is, early maize. We planted maize on March 27, 2020 and we were able to establish five hectares. We were also able to undertake weed control and fertilize.
Coincidentally, what we planted then we have started selling today, June 8, 2020 and that is an indication that we came out with very good crops that we were able to manage during the Covid-19 period”.
Mr. Olobasola further commended the Federal and State Government for the priority given to agricultural productivity and production during the lockdown, stating that the single act enabled DUFRAMS to not only produce, but to also market some of the University’s products. He also noted that the alternate days provided by the Ogun State Government gave people the opportunity to buy harvested commodities and livestock birds produced for the Easter season.
Mr. Olobasola appreciated the Vice Chancellor and the management for the proactive efforts put in place to ensure the smooth running of the farm during the lockdown, noting that at the commencement of the lockdown, the Vice-Chancellor approached the Ogun State Commissioner of Police to ask for permit to allow essential service workers to come to work which was granted.
He added that the University management further provided a means of transportation for all staff at their convenient pick-up points in town to help convey them to work, adding that this enabled them to work effectively by attending to the animals, and grazing the cattle among others.
He also lauded the Vice Chancellor for investing in mechanization, stating that DUFARMS is now able to mechanize the production of maize, cassava and soybeans. He noted that the Vice-Chancellor has also given a directive that over time, they will abolish the use of hoe and cutlass on the farm.
Mr. Olobasola further commended the management for ensuring that every protocol in terms of observing safety measures were put in place, stating that hand wash facilities alongside sanitizers and face masks were provided.
Speaking on plans in the pipeline for the farm, the Director revealed that the University is hoping to expand into full-scale commercial agriculture in subsequent years, stressing that DUFARMS has a target of cultivating 50 hectares of maize, 30 hectares of cassava and 10 hectares of soybeans this year conveniently with the necessary mechanized equipment and facilities already in place.
Mr. Olobasola disclosed that very soon, FUNAAB will be known as a market hub where people can come to get their essential commodities. “At the rate we are going definitely FUNAAB will soon be known as a market hub but even while commercializing, we shall also fulfil part of our mandate to be a backbone for farmers by not really going into competitive farming or food production”.
Explaining further, he said, “I see us going into maize seed production. The University already has an oil and feed mill coming up with enough facilities to absorb all the maize being produced and to also produce quality livestock feeds for poultry farmers from it”.
The Director who emphasized the importance of value addition in agriculture said, “Sometimes when you produce these grains in large quantity, if you do not add value addition, you might not really make much money, and the value addition will also help to provide the community with quality feeds they run around to get, and even when they get it, the quality may not be up there and their livestock may not grow optimally”.
Mr. Olobasola also disclosed that FUNAAB intends to become a training hub for people who are interested in large scale farming to learn more about mechanization, planting of maize mechanically, weed control, herbicidal weed control and harvesting. Meanwhile, reacting to the sales of maize at the farm, Mrs. Bisi Oyedele, the President of the Fruits Sellers Association and a trader commended FUNAAB for the production of maize, stating that she has always benefited greatly from FUNAAB food production. She prayed for more wisdom for the Vice Chancellor and the management and wished the University more bountiful harvest in the coming years.