For prolonged years, Ikun Dairy Farm in Ikun-Ekiti, Moba Council Area of Ekiti State was a tale of utter neglect due to negligence by successive governments. But now, the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration has resuscitated the facility to boost the state’s economy via a public-private partnership, writes Correspondent RASAQ IBRAHIM

Ikun Dairy in Ikun-Ekiti was the pride of the Southwest region. It was also the envy of other parts of the country because of its uniqueness and productivity. The dairy farm covers 500 hectares of land in Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

The agricultural facility was established in the early 1980s with fattened cows by former President Shehu Shagari as an integrated agro-allied farm. It was not only intended to serve the sole purpose of job creation, but also boost the state’s economy, which was then considered not buoyant.

Besides the provision of employment, the Federal Government also wanted the dairy farm to provide the state, which was then under the Adekunle Ajasin administration, with evaporated milk, to increase their protein intake.

The state raked in huge revenues from the sales of the products for many years. But unfortunately, the narrative paradigm shift and the facility suddenly went into comatose due to sheer abandonment.

When Ekiti people thought Ikun dairy farm would bounce back to its glorious days after the creation of Ekiti State in 1996, successive governments in the state turned blind eyes to the facility because of the ‘juicy allocation’ from the federation account.

Former Governor Segun Oni, during his aborted tenure between 2007 and 2010, made frantic efforts to revamp the dairy farm. He invested N700 million for the purchase of dairy machines and importation of 700 cows from South Africa.

But all efforts to revamp the facility were cut short due to sabotage on the part of those managing the place, who allegedly did not allow the cows to develop and this invariably crippled activity in the dairy farm, thereby leading to collapse of the multi-billion naira investment.

Instead of successive governments to muster the political will and revamp the 40 years moribund Dairy Farm, the facility was a tale of neglect and many troubles. It became a haven for reptiles, livestock and rodents. Dairy machines and every section of the facility were overgrown by weeds.

However, the story is gradually changing for better with Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration’s unwavering resolve to revolutionise agriculture sector to industrialise the state, boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and employ jobless youths.

The current administration has been investing in agriculture and attracting investors to the sector, especially in areas where Ekiti State has a comparative advantage to restore the lost glory of the state’s agricultural potentials.

In his resolve to make Ekiti food basket of Southwest and the country at large, Governor Fayemi has been ‘globetrotting’ to attract investors to invest in the state. And the efforts are already yielding good results, as the state government recently attracted a bumpy investment worth $50 million to increase food production and create employment in the sector.

However, the once-neglected farm has bounced back to life from its hitherto ailing condition to serve its rudimentary purposes. Thanks to the governor who took the gauntlets to put the facility on track. The need to make Ekiti less-dependent on monthly federal allocation triggered the government to redirect his administration’s focus on the prospects of abundance agriculture potentials in the state.

The Fayemi-led administration entered a partnership with Promasidor Nigeria Limited, the producer of Cowbell to drive its backward integration initiative aimed at creating local sources of raw materials for dairy products through the state-owned Ikun Dairy Farm. The pact was sealed on behalf of the partners by Fayemi and the Managing Director of Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Anders Einarsson in July 2019 in Abuja for the utilisation of the farm for milk production.

The partnership deal attracted a new investment of $5 million into Ikun Dairy Farm, which would be used to purchase equipment, provide the appropriate herd of cattle, and develop an out-grower scheme for providing feed for the cattle.

The partnership deal prompted a series of visits to Ekiti and Ikun Dairy Farm. The management of Promasidor Nigeria embarked on an inspection of facilities at the farm for revitalisation as part of the partnership agreement. This was done in furtherance of the pact signed.

The four-day visit to the Ikun Dairy Farm took the company’s team led by its MD Einarsson to the Governor’s office where they met with the Secretary to Ekiti State Government, Biodun Oyebanji, a host of Commissioners and top government officials.

The then Commissioner for agriculture, Folorunso Olabode, met with the team and expressed delight on the resolve of the company in the sourcing of materials for milk production, which he said was in line with Federal Government directives on backward integration.

Olabode assured that Ekiti State would support Promasidor in its resuscitation drive of the dairy farm, as it is positioned to enhance the supply of raw of materials, adding that the host community and the people of the state want to see the milk processing plant become operational soon because of its economic benefits.

The then Special Adviser to the Governor Fayemi on Investment, Mr Akintunde Oyebode, said the partnership with Promasidor would greatly help in the integration of the people and their living standards with the emergence of other small enterprises. He pointed out that what is on the front burner is the regeneration of the farm for commercial agriculture.

Einarsson described the partnership with the government as an exciting prospect for Promasidor, saying that the company is fully prepared to regenerate the dairy farm and make it functional soon.

He said Ikun Dairy Farm will provide a litany of opportunities to stimulate the production of local milk, which would further create an opportunity for the company to utilise.

He affirmed that as the makers of quality products such as Cowbell Milk, Loya Milk, Cowbell Chocolate, Miksi Milk, Top Tea, Onga food seasoning, Sunvita Cereals, and others, local sourcing of milk is paramount to ease dependence on foreign raw materials. He noted that Promasidor’s backward integration initiative would give the company an edge over others in the dairy market with the potential of the farm.

To further consolidate on the agreement earlier reached, the CEO of Promasidor, Olivier Thiry, from South Africa led delegations on-the-spot assessment of the Dairy Farm. He was accompanied with a top official of Promasidor Nigeria including the MD, Einarsson; Director of External Relations, Andrew Enahoro; and Senior Manager, Finance, Yomi Adenson.

Also among the officials was the Special Adviser to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Development and Finance, Anthony Ifechikwu, who was overwhelmed with the level of progress at the dairy farm, with up-to-date facilities.

During a tour to the facility, Fayemi was impressed with the modern equipment, the cows and blueprint already put in place. He hailed the Promasidor’s effort and affirmed that the people of the state want to see the milk processing plant function soon because of its economic benefit.

He affirmed that the pact would enhance the backward integration initiative of Promasidor in compliance with the Federal Government’s directives that firms should source raw materials locally for their products.

Olivier, who expressed delight at the partnership, said it has been seamless and restated his strong commitment in ensuring an enduring relationship with Ekiti State while hoping for maximum exploitation of the farm’s potentials with the competent personnel who have been working earnestly to make the project a success.

He revealed an initial investment of $5m in the project which would be used for the purchase of cows, modern equipment required to establish a feed farm and also for renovation.

Olivier said no fewer than 1,000 Ekiti citizens would be employed when the dairy farm is fully operational and also has a spill-over effect on small, medium and large scale enterprises.

Olivier avowed “with the installation of state-of-the-art equipment and zeal in attaining our backward integration goal, we hope to have an edge over competitors in the dairy industry.”

Eulogising the momentous progress made by Promasidor, Ifechikwu pointed out that it is the most practical step ever made by milk-producing companies in the country. He expressed satisfaction at the level of work, saying the project will enable Promasidor to harness the inherent potentials of the dairy farm with the 1,000 cows already being nurtured for milk supply.

Our correspondent, who visited the Ikun Diary Farm, observed the facility is now operational for milk production with 173 cows and 11 newborns in a place. The milk bay, farmhouses, and shed repairs have been upgraded to ensure completed a balance between livestock well-being and diary production environmental preservation and long-term farm sustainability.

Arable land cultivation has also begun with the completion of land clearing. The feed has been procured to keep dairy cows in good condition, maximise their milk production potential, and fulfil the nutrient needed of dairy cattle cost-effectively.

Now, the Farm Diary has two Ha of grass plantation for feeding, two 2,500 litres of the milk storage tank, three new boreholes, two new tractors, two new cultivators, and planned irrigation from Ero dam. Also, there is an ongoing 2000m3 hay storage facility under construction, grass plantation target is 400 Ha: 60Ha for maize plantation, 40Ha for cassava, 100Ha for Sorghum, and 100Ha for Nadia grass for feeding the cows.

It was learnt that procurement of state-of-the-art farm equipment has commenced replacing the ailing ones. Farm manager and the first set of community workers have been recruited. When the facility begins full production, it will create jobs for over 1,000 Ekiti citizens, produce over 10,000 litres of milk per day as well as enhance the agro-allied nature of the state.

The Onikun of Ikun Ekiti, Oba Olusola Olatunde, expressed happiness that “ the farm diary, which has been abandoned for many years has been revived for dairy production.

Oba Olatunde said the facility would stimulate and improve the economic and investment profile of the state when it commenced full operation, adding that since Promasidor took over, the facility has begun to impact significantly on the Ikun residents.

He commended Fayemi for the sustained efforts in reviving the ailing facility that was critically neglected by the successive government, saying “Ikun-Ekiti people are very grateful”.

The monarch expressed the unalloyed support of his people for the Fayemi-led administration and affirmed that the remaining two years will bring more developments to the state.

The Nation