By Kingsley Omoyeni
Nigeria, being a major oil producing nation, had hitherto depended on oil for a large chunk of its foreign exchange, thereby neglecting the agric sector for many years. During those years of neglect, a lot of rural roads that led to farmlands which were supposed to be the major source of income for the country, were neglected, thereby leaving them in a state of disrepair, making a lot of the rural areas where we have large farmlands inaccessible.
It has become obvious that the only way out of the current economic quagmire in the country is for all and sundry to go back and embrace farming on a massive scale. For a nation or state to promote agriculture, rural farmers need to be encouraged in a lot of ways and one of such ways is by making their roads good and accessible, so that they can go to their farms and transport their farm produce to the various markets around them.
Osun governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and the Osun Rural Access and Mobility Project (Osun RAMP) have been trying a lot to get the state out of the current economic downturn through the construction and rehabilitation of rural roads. This has had a huge impact on the lives of the people.
The State of Osun, being an agrarian state, is made up of many rural areas with vast farmlands which need good access roads to allow the farming communities to transport their farm produce to nearby markets for sale.
It was, therefore, a huge respite for people of Osun, when through the efforts of Governor Aregbesola, the state was chosen as one of the lucky ones to benefit from the RAMP intervention through the World Bank and the French Development Agency in the construction and rehabilitation of rural roads across the state, thereby boosting the economy of the state through farming.
The project in Osun is being implemented and supervised by the State Project Implementation Unit (SPIU), a body made up of the heads of government agencies and parastatals, chief among them, the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Through its activities, the project has had a huge impact on the affected communities. It has provided accessibility which has brought a means of livelihood to the poor.
The Aregbesola administration and Osun RAMP met a lot of the rural roads in a state of disrepair, but the story has changed significantly today as a lot of the roads are now wearing a new look as farmers and traders alike are now experiencing a boom in their activities as they now find it much easier to get to their farms.
Commercial activities in many of the said communities have now doubled because their markets are now flooded with varieties of farm produce on every market day. A lot of communities which had formerly been cut off by rivers from major markets now have access to the markets because Osun RAMP I also constructed bridges that can stand the test of time.
Some of the communities in Osun where river crossings or bridges have been constructed include: Elewonta in Iwo, Olomu stream in Irewole local government, Iree Polytechnic road in Boripe, Olukesi farm – Oju Eri in Boluwaduro Local Government, Ipon Stream in Odo-Otin, Odo Owere in Ede North Local Government, Gbalefe road, Modakeke in Ife East, as well as Oke-Aho stream located at Sekona in Ife North Local Government.
Others are: Faweri River in Ife South Local Government, Ogbaagba Ogudu, Odo Oroki in Obokun Local Government, Opa Bridge in Odunrin via Ipetumodu, Oyile River in Ilasetown, Oyi Adunni in Oke-Ila, among others. The impact of RAMP intervention on rural roads in Osun cannot be overemphasised as most of the rural dwellers are now happier because they are now able to do what they know how to do best with much ease.
Gone are the days when they had to trek long distances of unmotorable roads before they get to their farms. Transporting their produce to the market is now much easier and the various rural markets are now busier than they used to be, simply because a lot of farmers can now bring their goods to the market.
Some traders spoken to on some rural market days across the state testified to the fact that they now make good business as a result of the roads, that are now in good condition, adding that they now get a lot of patronage from people living in urban centres.
Food and beverage vendors in the communities now make more money as more people visit the rural areas as a result of good roads; urban dwellers are now able to frequent the rural communities without the fear of bad roads damaging their vehicles.
Lumbering in most of the rural communities has also increased tremendously because trucks no longer get stuck in the mud during rainy season.
New private schools as well as filling stations are now springing up in many of the rural communities. This is because the roads are now motorable. There are now more cars plying the roads. The volume of cars plying the roads is now more than it used to be. Good roads, as they say, truly aid the rapid development of an area. Some of the roads rehabilitated and constructed by Osun RAMP include: 13.7km Agbowu-Aba Onile roads, 13.73km Ogbaagba-Eleru-Bode Osi roads, 3.1km Asa-Dagbolu-Ajagunlase road, the 12.73km Ikonifin-Sade-Ajagunlase road, 11.1km Agoro-Ikonifin road, the 4.38km Pataara-Ileko Oba farm settlement road and the 4.38km Akinyele-Aba Ayo-Isero road.
Others are: 3.91km Eeleke-Kanko road, 10.5km Jagun Osi/Onikoko-Osi-Sooko Road, 9.3km Ara Joshua-Yinmi Oja road, 10.9km Gbengbeleku junction-Owode Amu road, 39.164km Shasha road, the 3km Ilesa-Ilo Olomo boundary, 8.8km Ilesa-Odogbo-Igbowiwi road, 6.58km Odogbo-Iwara road.
Also touched by the intervention are roads such as the 1km Isale general township road in Ilesa, the 10.5km Isale General Hospital-Muroko-Okebode road, 10.7km Ira-Ikeji ile-Oligeri-Iragbiji road, Ira-Ibete road, Ikeji Arakeji-Aikulola road, the 10.8km Idiroko/Akinyele farm settlement, the 18.7km Mokore farm settlement road, 30km Orile Owu-Ago Owu-Ogedengbe road, 20km Alaguntan forest reserve road, among others. And just recently, precisely in November, the government of Osun continued its bid to open Osun to the world through road infrastructure as it flagged off the construction of another 1kilometer access road to Olumirin Water Falls in Erin Ijesa.
The solution to the current economic downturn the nation is facing is the opening up of rural roads that lead to farm settlements and Osun RAMP is doing just that in the State of Osun.
Omoyeni writes from Osogbo