By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
OER Farms Ltd has signed a 21-year Land Lease Agreement with University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) to develop a 10,000-hectare mechanised agricultural project, which will be managed in line with best industry practice to increase productivity within the sector.
The Agreement follows a memorandum of understanding signed by both parties on 4th September 2019 and underscores the Federal Government’s progress towards food security nationwide. Improved crop varieties with high yielding cash crops such as maize, soya beans and cashew are proposed for this project.
Speaking at the Agreement signing ceremony in Maiduguri on Thursday, Founder of Oriental Group, the parent company of the agribusiness firm, Dr Muhammadu Indimi, OFR, remarked that the initiative – a vision of close to half a decade – speaks to his commitment to support macroeconomic growth through sustainable development opportunities for all.
The project is also designed to develop the capacity of the University of Ilorin in agricultural research, improve farm practice, develop young agripreneurs who will give farming a different perspective, promote local Inclusion and enhance economic viability in catchment areas.
Dr Indimi said, “The average yield for a crop like maize by Nigerian farmers is about four tonnes per hectare, while yields are up to eight tonnes per hectare in the world’s most agriculturally advanced nations. We are curious about that gap and our aim is to close it by exposing local farmers and students to best industry practices as well as providing much-needed support over the next 21 years. Nigeria can achieve better results and own a robust, thriving agriculture sector with vast export value. We are happy to play our modest role in joining President Muhammadu Buhari on the national food security journey.”
Managing Director, OER Farms, Ibrahim Indimi, added that the collaboration will add value to Unilorin’s Faculty of Agriculture by supporting research and exposing students of the institution to best industry practice in agriculture. Furthermore, the hands-on farm management experience will encourage graduates to develop entrepreneurial skills, which will further reduce youth unemployment. The project is also expected to positively impact local farmers.
Oriental Group has a track record of contributing to sustainable development in Nigeria by promoting equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities. Another subsidiary, Oriental Energy Resources Limited (OERL), had earlier supported the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State by upgrading facilities to enable the university to renew its accreditation of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Departments. OERL provided funding for a 5-year supply of contemporary academic books and laboratory consumables among others. Similar enhancement of education facilities and learning environment is ongoing at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, where a Centre for Distance Learning is being constructed by the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation.
Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, Vice-Chancellor of Unilorin, stressed that developing the agricultural sector is critical for food security, diversification and job creation.
He also said, “This is a public-private sector partnership that greatly benefits our students, local farmers, government and nation’s revival of agriculture. It would also attract resources to the University. Tenacity and generosity describe Dr Indimi. One feels proud as a Nigerian to have someone like him who champions social, economic and humanitarian causes. We believe this joint venture will achieve phenomenal successes in the sector.”
The next phase of the project development will commence in the first quarter of 2020, with site detailing, soil and hydrology tests as well as obtaining a ten-year historical meteorological data. The information will determine crop options and farming techniques. It is the goal of both parties that the project will be of value to all beneficiaries, contribute to significant transformation of Nigeria’s agricultural sector, improve crop yield, reduce crop vulnerability as well as increase local and export market potentials.