Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on Tuesday reiterated the commitment of his administration to agriculture and forestry development for the attainment of self-sufficiency in the production of staple commodities.
The governor stated this at the opening session of a public hearing by the Inter-ministerial Committee on report of illegal entry and farming on Shasha Forest in Ile-Ife at the Local Government Service Commission hall in Abeere, Osogbo.
Aregbesola noted that the Committee was set up in order to foster the peaceful atmosphere that is needed for the development of the state in accordance with the six-point integral action plan of our administration.
He held that the importance of agriculture and forestry to national economy cannot be over-emphasised, adding that the two sectors are veritable sources of food, shelter, life sustaining drugs and raw materials for the industries.
The governor stated that responsible government in developing an economy like Osun State’s must give agriculture and forestry prominence in its development plan.
According to him: “Considering the global standard prescribed by Food and Agricultural Organisation, 35 per cent of any nation’s land mass must be forested. In order to achieve this objective, our administration has among other things raised 2.5 million seedlings of Teak and Gmelina Arborea (Igi-Iye) for free distribution in the state in 2014.
“We have planted 120 hectares in the six geo-political zones of the state and set up special task force with serviceable patrol vans to patrol and protect our forest against illegal logging.
“We have also engendered a healthy environment through systematic application of community mobilisation, volunteerism, technology and other best practices in waste, flood and vegetal management to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) standard in sanitation, beautification and forest resources management.”
Aregbesola reminded the sitting of the setting up of Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme by his administration to empower farmers through guaranteed inputs, rural infrastructural development and youth training in farming and agro-entrepreneurship.
The governor also hinted on government interventions in the development of storage facilities and market linkages, development of farm produce processing, especially rehabilitation of the Cocoa Processing Industry at Ede, among others.
Aregbesola said: “In spite of all these efforts by the government to promote agriculture and give those willing to farm access to agriculture land and other farming inputs, some people have been encroaching on government forest reserves.
“It is regrettable that Shasha Forest Reserve in Ile-Ife, which is one of the oldest forest reserves in the country, is at the receiving end of this unsavoury development.”
Aregbesola stated that the state is not just conserving forests to keep people away from land, but for the reason that forests are necessary to protect the biodiversity of the environment.
He pointed out that forest encroachers are carrying out illegal activities, some of which are clearly criminal in nature, adding that it is more rampant in illegal logging activities.
Speaking earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of environment, Sanitation and physical planning, Wale Ojo, stated that the forest reserve is a farmland of economic trees, especially timber.
Ojo added that the forest was conserved significantly to ameliorate climate change, provision of shelter for wildlife and the provision of raw materials for industries.
Ojo also added that provision of material for drug industries, provision of watershed for stream and rivers and research as the reasons for the conservation of the forest.
He said: “The report that came to the government is that illegal entries, demarcation and re-allocation as well as farming have been taking place in the forest reserve. All these are antithetical to the purpose of keeping the forest and are therefore not in the public interest.
“Mr. Governor who believes in peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue, has therefore allowed the public hearing by an inter-ministerial committee.”
The Permanent Secretary noted that the committee is determined to carry out the assignment with objective perception and mindset and come up with a report that shall be in the public interest.
In his paper, a professor of Forest Economics and Sustainable Development at the University of Ibadan, Prof. Labode Popoola, decried indiscriminate deforestation in the country.
Popoola noted that time has come for government at all levels to rise against deforestation in order to save the country from adverse effects of global warming and climatic change.
Prof. Popoola condemned the clearing of forest majorly for farming, confirming that 400,000 hectares of forest is lost annually through what he described as shifting cultivation.
According to him: “Forest is life and there abound enough evidence that those who grow it, care for it and conserve it.
“As diversely perceived, forest in our society are viewed as just ‘bush’, a dangerous place for demons and evil spirits, wild animals that can harm but it remains an ecosystem where human existence lies on.
“Though we need to go back to land to farm, but it has to be systematically and intensively planned because sustainable agriculture does not imply creating environmental crisis.”
Courtesy: Eagle Online