NGO seeks protection for indigenous farmers in Ogun State

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An ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), has called for protection of indigenous farmers and farmlands in Ogun state.

The group, in a statement issued by its Director, Dr Nnimmo Bassey called for caution over the proposed investment by the Egyptian government in Ogun state Agro Processing Zone.

The director said that the plan could pose danger to accessing farmlands and the livelihoods of the citizens of the state. It may simply turn out to be a massive land grab and will subvert the achievements of food security in Nigeria. It is unacceptable that our agricultural land should be taken up in this manner to plant crops, process the produce and export the proceeds back to Egypt. It is colonial in conception and will definitely undermine local economy of the people.

“This investment is about turning our farmers into farmhands and making them become cheap disposable labour to produce food for Egypt while we continue to depend largely on food imports,’’ she said.

Bassey also quoted the Programmes Director of HOMEF and Lead on Hunger Politics, Joyce Brown, as warning against the practice of mono-cropping.

She said that the practice had serious implication for the biodiversity, nutritional diversity, soil fertility and economic wellbeing of the peoples.

“It is clear that the proposed investment by the government of Egypt prioritises monoculture and export-oriented production at the expense of local food needs. This negates the efforts at improving Nigeria’s food security. This can fuel economic dependency and volatility,” Brown said.

The group also frowned at the forceful uptake, transfer and redistribution of lands to foreign speculators by state governments, under the guise of addressing food insecurity.

It said that land was central to indigenous the culture, economy, wellbeing and was key to a rich tapestry of human experience.

This, according to the group, is in addition to the provision of sense of identity, belonging and meaning to individuals and communities alike.

“It is important to recognise and respect these interconnections, not only for food security but for fostering cultural diversity, preserving ecosystems and promoting sustainable practices that honour both the land and the cultural practices associated with it.

“The best investments in agriculture at this time will be such that prioritises local food needs and should be hinged on collaboration with farmers.

“It should also promote biodiversity, build our ecosystems, cool the planet and assure food sovereignty/food security,” it said.

NAN / Foluke Ibitomi