How Unilorin utilizes its vast land resources

Date: 2014-07-10

Nigeria is fortunate to be blessed with vast arable land that if well utilized for agricultural purposes could spur the nation to greatness and reduce its over-dependence on oil resource. However, over the years, agriculture which used to be the mainstay of the country's economy was relegated to the background, with little or no effort deployed to transform the sector and build an enduring agro-economy.

While delivering a lecture last year at the Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), former President Olusegun Obasanjo said: "In Nigeria, the development of agriculture and its ability to become the lifeline of the economy are threatened by the low capacity of agribusiness owners to manage their enterprises. For decades since 1960 when most African states gained independence from colonial rule, the continent has witnessed stagnating or declining per capital incomes and low agricultural output although it holds about 60 per cent of global uncultivated land."

His assertion apparently attests to the state of agriculture in Nigeria with several thousands of uncultivated lands lying fallow in many states of the federation. This extensive uncultivated land area if well harnessed and put to agricultural use, experts say, would not only be a source of capital but would tackle the challenge of food security and youth unemployment in the country.

That is why the efforts of University of Ilorin in Kwara State, North Central Nigeria at harnessing its vast land area have been appreciated by stakeholders.

The university is one of the second generation universities in Nigeria with a land mass of about 15,000 hectares with 95 per cent of the land yet to be developed.

The former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Salihu Moddibo Alfa Belgore, testified to this recently when he declared that "University of Ilorin has the largest land area in Africa."

However, the little land area developed has positioned the university to be an agricultural hub of Nigeria with the potential of generating ample revenue in few years to come through investment in plantations that are of great economic benefit.

Daily Trust gathered that between 2008 and now, the University of Ilorin has planted 530 hectares of teak trees comprising 87 hectares in 2008, 100 hectares in 2009, 150 hectares in 2010 and 193 hectares in 2011. Also, 28 hectares of date palm and two hectares of citrus and mangoes were planted.

Date palms are extensively grown in hot dry regions and they are unarguably the economic mainstay of many countries in North Africa, Iran and in Arabia. It would be recalled that the university had in 2008, as part of its landscaping project, planted some varieties of palms including 659 royal palms, 600 golden palms and 600 queen palms.

Over 80 hectares of jatropha caucas have also been cultivated while moringa, regarded as the magic tree, has also sprouted in the university. These are sources of income for the institution in the future, according to the immediate past vice chancellor, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, under whose administration most of these plantations sprang up.

In furtherance of this agricultural drive, the oil palm plantation was launched in the university recently by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The 1000 hectares oil palm plantation, according to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali, would provide training and laboratory facilities for students in the Faculties of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences as well as the Departments of Forestry, Plant Biology and other-related disciplines, in addition to generating income for the university.

Speaking on the plantation, Professor Job Atteh who chairs the oil palm plantation committee disclosed that the plantation started with 10 hectares. He said, "we have the tenera variety, which has high oil content in the fruit and it is expected to start fruiting in two to three years.

On the revenue prospect from the venture, Atteh said that at maturation, the university would reap 10 tonnes of fresh fruits from each planted hectare, adding, that "we expect to get 4,000 kilogrammes of palm oil, 500 kilogrammes of palm kernel oil and 600 kilogrammes of palm kernel cake.

"At an estimated price of N240 per kilogramme, we will be making N960, 000 per hectare from palm oil; N175,000 per hectare from palm kernel oil, at N350 per kilogramme and N4,800 from palm kernel cake at N8.00 per kilogramme."

He added that "at the peak of production, the revenue will be about N1.2 billion per annum from the 1000 hectares."

Also speaking on the moringa plantation, Chairman of the University Moringa Plantation Committee, Dr. Ayo Afolabi-Toye, disclosed that the university currently has a pilot 200 hectares moringa plantation, saying the university is increasingly focusing on generating markets for the products and setting up plantations for other organisations and institutions.

All these plantations at gestation period, according to experts, are great sources of revenue for the university.This is besides using them for practical purposes especially in the Faculty of Agriculture and other related disciplines.

Daily Trust gathered that the university also has a cattle rearing farm with about 15 cattle used for practicals in the Department of Animal Production. Speaking on the various agriculture ventures of the university, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Professor Amos Adeloye, said all these are veritable drivers of revenue apart from using them for practical purposes.

He said: "The university has an MoU with some private entrepreneurs for the production of tomato. That one too is on line. All these ventures may not yield fruits until the next couple of years but what you can see presently is the teak plantation, the jatropha and the oil palm as well as the date palm. We have a vast area of land and we are trying to utilise that as much as we can but you know the planning has to be organised. We can't just rush into everything altogether."

The vice chancellor while delivering his address at the conference of Deans of Agriculture hosted by the university recently, said Unilorin gives attention to agriculture because the future of the nation and the survival of its people depend on it.

"In recent years, the university has invested massively in the growth of economic trees with over 600 hectares of plantations, including those of teak, mango, jatropha and moringa," Ambali said.

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