Afe Babalola emerges 2024 African man in food security
Founder of Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, has emerged as the 2024 African Man of the Year in Food Security by the Global Food Security Committee of the Initiative for Green Sustainability.
Speaking with newsmen in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti state capital, on Wednesday, the renowned lawyer said he received the letter from the organisation, defeating other nominees across Sub-Saharan Africa.
He revealed that the Award Committee Lead, Tim Grunguis, and Country Director, Caleb Osasona, said that he (Babalola) defeated nine other leading African farmer nominees from Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Cameroon, Rwanda, Zambia, and Liberia.
Babalola, reputed to be one of the leading farmers in Nigeria and the largest single farmer in his home state, Ekiti, where he also doubles as the highest taxpayer and second largest employer of labour after the state government, said he was elated by the nomination.
He said the award would spur him to do more in his singular efforts, aimed at returning agriculture to its rightful place and lifting it to the expected destination of a competitive revenue earner.
On the yardsticks used in the award rating, Babalola said the letter explained that he was able to beat others through his many radical revolutions on agriculture, namely: ABUAD Bio-Diversified Farms, granting millions of Naira under the Afe Babalola Annual Agricultural Grants to hundreds of farmers; ABUAD Talent Discovery Centre; ABUAD Planetarium; ABUAD Industrial Pack, which houses over 132 farm industries; and ABUAD FM Radio, among several others.
Babalola said, ” As part of my resolve to encourage agriculture among Nigerians, especially youths, I reduced the school fees of students in my university studying agriculture by 50 per cent. In addition, I give seed money of N250,000 to every graduate in agriculture.
“At the same time, in the last ten years, I have been organising the Annual Agric Festival in Ado-Ekiti, with the best farmer in the state going home with N2 million, while others that came behind them got their lump in millions as well.”
He appealed to President Bola Tinubu to tow his line of agriculture revolution by commencing the process of reviving all moribund farm settlements across the country as created by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The legal luminary said revamping the moribund farm settlements in different regions of the country would boost food security and agricultural production for local consumption, as well as boost exports and provide raw materials for industries.
According to him, this would also create job opportunities for the unemployed youths in the country, and the level of insecurity would be reduced to the barest minimum as they would be gainfully engaged.
He said, “It may not be a crime to abandon agriculture, but it is certainly a sin. Don’t forget the Garden of Eden, placed under Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. This is a divine instruction that a man must work and provide for whatever he needs.
“Special tribute goes to the First Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who appreciated the importance of agriculture. Between 1960 and 1966, he promoted agriculture more than any of his peers in other regions.
“Part of the activities of Chief Awolowo in promoting agriculture are the establishment of 20 farm settlements, the Western Nigeria Marketing Board, and providing healthy and improved seedlings to the farmers.
“Others include encouraging the production of food and cash crops, making the local government provide implements for farmers, and making agriculture a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.
“Consequently, people became interested in agricultural practices, as a result of which the western region became the leader in the production of cocoa and palm oil.
“Regrettably, most of the leaders, after the existence of Chief Awolowo, abandoned agriculture since the discovery of crude oil and rely solely on its proceeds as a major source of revenues. Its neglect has contributed in no small measure to spiralling inflation, unemployment, and food insecurity.
He, however, called for increased annual budgetary allocations to the agriculture sector because it has the potential to lead millions of Nigerians out of poverty and provide food security.”