WITH the current agricultural economical drive by all stakeholders to make it viable and accessible by rural communities, the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) recently in Ajara, Badagry donated Irrigation facilities to Ajara Vegetable Enterprise Development Project to empowered vegetable farmers to boost productivity.
The irrigation facilities donated includes two giant water tanks and several units of water sprinklers coursing through the 2.5 hectare farmland serving 22 smallholder vegetable farmers as the beneficiaries from the Ewebe FADAMA Users Cooperative Group. These dedicated farmers cultivate various types of vegetables, from leafy vegetables to fruity vegetables.
The facilities which was handed over to the farmers at a colourful ceremony held April 14, 2016 at the farm settlement by the Executive Director of BATNF, Seyi Ashade, who represented Chief Kola Jamodu, Chairman of the foundation, is one of the numerous agricultural activities of BATN Foundation initiative, since inception in 2002, which has also established over 150 projects, including the Ajara Vegetable Enterprise Value-chain Development Project.
Ashade expressed confidence that the irrigation facility will stimulate good production practices that will translate into higher yield, increased income of the farmers and socio-economic development of the beneficiaries and the community, and noted that vegetable, which is the primary produce of the farmers, plays a very important role in human nutrition. She added that Vegetable farming, despite its key role in the nutrition mix, requires more support in meeting the food needs of Nigerians.
Ashade who reiterated BATNF’s commitment to supporting smallholder farmers in rural communities, helping them to identify and implement projects in order to reduce poverty and make sustainable positive impact in communities across the country, complemented the various government’s efforts.
The Director of Research, National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr Henry Akinwunmi, who gives technical backup to the vegetable farming initiative, acknowledged the huge contribution made by BATNF to the vegetable segment of the Ajara Farm Estate.
Akinwumi commending BATNF’s support, urged the beneficiaries to put the irrigation facility into good use, adding that it is time for the farmers to demonstrate in kind by continuously improving their current capacity not to let the Foundation down as BATNF has supported the vegetable farmers and have contributed immensely project.
The NIHORT Research Director, speaking further, said that the project is one of the many projects undertaken by BATNF to assist the farmers to improve their productivity and increase their capacity in order to grow their farming business from homestead agriculture to large scale commercial enterprises.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Agriculture, Hon. Oluwatoyin Suarau, in his address, said that the vegetable estate initiative was mainly conceived to mitigate the periodic shortage of vegetable products and to optimise the use of available land for agriculture, boost food production and generate employment.
Suarau who remarked that the supply of fresh vegetables to Lagos State comes majorly from outside the State, that is why this programme is highly laudable, implored the BATN Foundation to extend the social investment to other farm estates in the State. The Commissioner was represented by Mrs. Abiola Ayoade one of the ministry top official.
The Ewebe FADAMA Users Cooperative Group, Chairman, Alhaji Mufutau Oyelekan, speaking during the ceremony expressed appreciation on behalf of the vegetable farmers and thanked BATNF for choosing the Ajara Farm Estate among the numerous farm settlements in the state and for its massive infrastructural and technical support to the farmers. He, however, noted that the project now serves as a model for other vegetable farm settlements in the Lagos state.
The Area head, Legal and External Affairs, West and Central Africa, the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), Freddy Messanvi and a representative of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Lagos State, Mrs Abiola Ayoade presented the certificate of handover during the flag-off and commissioning of irrigation facilities to the Baale of Ajara Topa, Chief Samuel Owolabani. Other dignitaries present at the occasion are Mrs Jacinta Uramah from the Canada IDRC-DFATD Project and the Chairman, Ewebe FADAMA Users Cooperative Group, Mr Mufutau Oyelekan amongst others.