Osun State government has reiterated its commitment to agriculture and forestry development with a view to attaining self-sufficiency in food production.
The State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola stated this at the opening session of a public hearing by Inter-Ministerial Committee on report of illegal entry and farming on Shasha forest in Ile-Ife.
”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, one of the oldest forest reserves in the country, is at the receiving end of this unsavoury development,” he said.
Aregbesola stressed the importance of agriculture and forestry to national economy; as veritable sources of food, shelter, life sustaining drugs and raw materials for the industries.
“A responsible government like ours, in a developing economy must give agriculture and forestry prominence in its development plan.
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,” he said.
The Governor further stated that, “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.”
The Governor said, “the State has also set up Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (OREAP) to empower farmers through guaranteed inputs, rural infrastructural development and youth training in farming and agro-entrepreneurship.”
Aregbesola explained 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.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Sanitation and Physical Planning, Mr Wale Ojo stressed that the forest reserve is a farmland of economic trees, especially timber.
He explained that forest conservation is meant to improve climate change, provision of shelter for wildlife and raw materials for industries.
Others include guaranteeing materials for drug industries, watershed for streams and rivers and platforms for research.
In a presentation, Professor of Forest Economics and Sustainable Development, Labode Popoola decried indiscriminate deforestation in the country.
He 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.
Professor Popoola condemned the clearing of forest for farming, confirming that 400,000 hectares of forest is lost annually through what he described as shifting cultivation.
“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,” he added.