* Targets 1m stands as it kicks off with distribution of 1,500 tree seedlings
* Arrangement for cocoa, oil palm plantations in pipeline – Oba Olatunde
By John Odunjo
The traditional ruler and well-meaning members of the Imesi Ekiti community in Ayekire Local Government area of Ekiti State are reinventing plantation agriculture with the aim of, among others, boosting the economic earnings of the people.
The initiative is also hoped to spur youths of the community to embrace plantation agriculture to improve their incomes and bail them from joblessness and as well set the unutilised forests free from the Indian hemp cultivators taking advantage of present situation.
As part of the communal efforts to boost plantation agriculture in Ekiti State, the Imesi Ekiti community, through the Imesi Community Reafforestation Programme, has distributed 1500 improved hybrid and indigenous tree seedlings to farmers in the town, saying it is targeting one million tree seedlings.
The community stated that the plantation agriculture being funded by Imesi Community Revenue Mobilisation Department would consequently improve the farmers’ economic prosperity and as well correct the widespread practice of deforestation in the town.
The traditional ruler, the Onimesi of Imesi Ekiti, HRM Oba Olatunji Olatunde (Olaibiyemi II), who spoke while distributing the seedlings to the beneficiaries in Imesi Ekiti, on Tuesday, described the programme as a deft community action to improve the local economy by making the people productive.
Oba Olatunde, a former Special Adviser on Forestry in Ekiti State, said that the programme would be prosecuted relying on professional expertise and guidance of the personnel of the Ekiti State Forestry Department based on his long-standing relationship with the agenct.
The monarch, also a former Commissioner for Agriculture, while espousing the vision of the programme, said that “the innovation is part of my programme of action to ensure that farmers become prosperous and engage in long term farming to improve their economic wellbeing”.
Oba Olatunde, who applauded the well-meaning Imesi indigenes for donating to spearhead the programme, said, “The target is to raise and distribute one million improved hybrid and indigenous tree seedlings like teak, Obeche, Iroko, Aphra and Gmelina to all the interested farmers in the town.
The monarch, who revealed that the afforestation programme is coordinated by youths of the community – Mr Kunle Otitoju, Mr Wole Oladipo and Mr Kehinde Dahunsi – called on more farming youths “to embrace the initiative to improve their incomes and bail them from the pangs of joblessness that had economically crippled over 32 million productive population in Nigeria.
Oba Olatunde said, “Our mission and vision for midwifing this programme is to improve our people’s economy and correct the drift towards desertification. I am happy today that this programme has seen the light of the day.
“We are distributing 1,500 seedlings to kickstart the programme, which was financed by our indigenes to boost the economic earnings of our people. Our target is one million stands, so it is going to be a continuous annual process. We will continue until all interested farmers have benefited and our mission accomplished,” the monarch said.
The traditional ruler said that youths would be prioritised as beneficiaries, saying “time has come for them to change their erroneous perspective and disorientation that farmers belong to poor stratum of the Nigerian society”.
Oba Olatunde further explained that the Imesi model of plantation ownership was patterned to combat the snag being associated with acquisition of lands for large contiguous plantation agriculture, saying it vests ownership and management of the seedlings in the farmers through their quarter leaders.
He said, “Those seeking to purchase the matured trees will therefore meet the owners directly rather than seek to buy land for large acreage plantation. If this plantation model is successful, Imesi will also adopt same for cocoa and oil palm plantations using the same ownership model.
“In fact, this is a new innovation in plantation development. Our people are genuinely reluctant to cede their lands to external agriculture investors, however juicy the offer. That is why we have vast unutilised lands in Ekiti, with cannabis farmers taking advantage of the abandoned lands to perpetrate criminalities”.
The monarch commended High Chief Rotimi Alonge, the Kolaye of Imesi; High Chief Adegite Solomon, the Emila of Imesi; High Chief Dahunsi Nathaniel Oludare, the Osigun of Imesi Ekiti; High Chief Falana Abiodun Bamidele, the Ofoji of Imesi; and Chief Oladipo Atere Gabriel, the Oloka of Imesi, for joining him to mobilise resources to start off the programme.
In his lecture at the ceremony, a Chief Forest Officer with the Ekiti State Forestry Commission, Mr Gbenga Filani, described plantation agriculture as capable of increasing farmers’ incomes, protect their environment from rainstorm and reduce environmental degradation as well as pollution.
Filani urged the beneficiaries that the seedlings distributed to them were improved hybrids with short gestation period to attain maturity and earn them income.
Also speaking about the programme, one of the high chiefs, Solomon Adegite, said the programme would be handled through the quarter heads for the purpose of wider inclusivity of all interested farmers across the town.
Chief Adegite stated that all the chiefs had been mandated to mobilise the youths and farmers in their quarters to create awareness about the programme geared towards returning Imesi Ekiti to the path of prosperity.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Pastor Samuel Oladimeji, appreciated Oba Olatunde for thinking outside the box to institutionalise the programme that would bolster plantation agriculture and increase economic viability of farmers in the nearest future.
The beneficiary, Oladimeji, appealed to the monarch and other drivers of the initiative to sustain the programme, saying “it will help the plantation agriculture prowess of the town in the nearest future”.