GBUBEMI GOD?S COVENANT SNR files in report of the 10th anniversary of BATN?s productivity interventions awards ceremony for smallholder farmers which took place in Iseyin, Oyo State last week.

The people of Iseyin in Oyo State  last week witnessed another agro-boosting/empowerment programme as the British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy (BATIA) held its 10th year anniversary of the BATN Foundation?s Farmers Productivity Award ceremony.

The award was organised to honour excellence and best practices among smallholder farmers. Many of the farmers drawn from over 30 farmers? groups won attractive prizes which include motorcycles, generators, sprayers and water pumps with accessories, including over-head water tanks for their efforts in the 2014 farming season.

Senator Anthony Adeniyi, Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, said BATN?s effort in supporting smallholder farmers is most commendable and worthy of emulation. ?It is very encouraging to see an organisation, such as BATN supporting smallholder farmers through agricultural interventions that have transformed the lives of many smallholder farmers, thereby reinforcing government?s effort in alleviating poverty and creating employment,? he said.

He added, ?This effort is very laudable and I want to urge other organisations that engage in production in Nigeria to emulate this example. The more an organisation gets closer to producers of its raw materials the better for them. By adopting this practice, such organisations will be able to advise appropriately on how to advance the cause of the industry.?

The over 300 farmers of the beneficiary associations who were in attendance at the award presentation ceremony include the Arigidan?s Farmers? Group, Asaju Farmers? Group and Sakedu Farmers? Groups among many others. Three beneficiaries of motorcycles, Saka Semiu Ojo, Oyedokun Mosunmola and Ayantokun Mathew commended BATN for its tradition of rewarding smallholder farmers regularly.

Mathew, who spoke on behalf of the awardees said: ?We express our gratitude to BATN for coming to our aid. Today marks 10 years of consistent support from the organisation. We are grateful for the support they give us without relenting in their efforts.?

Freddy Messanvi, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Director, British American Tobacco Nigeria said that it is imperative for BATN to support smallholder farmers as agriculture remains a very significant element of human life.

?Agriculture is an important aspect of human life that contributes immensely to the economy through export, thus generating foreign exchange. Not only has agriculture guaranteed us food security, it has also served as a source of foreign exchange. It also supports reduction in the rate of unemployment,? he said, adding:

Messanvi further said BATN recognises the impact of agriculture on the Nigerian economy, and as a global company committed to local development, they are proud to invest more in grassroots agriculture by empowering farmers with the company?s leaf growing scheme.

On the challenges confronting the organisation in its agricultural interventions, Messanvi said: ?Responsible farming practices are usually faced with challenges, one of which is child labour, a practice that is inconsistent with BATN?s operational standards. As an organisation, we are not against parents passing the baton to their children, but it is not acceptable if it is to the detriment of the children?s education.?

Messanvi said that BATN has organised seminars to sensitise the farmers on ways to integrate their children into their business. In partnership with federal and state ministries of agriculture and labour as well as NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations), BATN, he added, has also advocated against paid underage labour and the farmers have been very receptive of its efforts.

?The seminars have been a success as results in our last survey showed that more farmers are against child labour and they attest that our communication was effective. However, we will not rest on our oars in reinforcing the evils of child labour.?

The BATN Farmers Productivity Award is an annual event that has been rewarding farmers? efficiency for 10 years, thereby contributing to sustainable agricultural practices across communities in Nigeria.

It would be recalled that British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy Limited (BATIA) was incorporated in June 2003.  It is a wholly owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco Nigeria with core responsibility for all domestic tobacco growing operations and rural agricultural development activities.

The volume of tobacco produced has increased from 2,088 tons in 2004 to over 2,500 tons in 2013.   About 10,000 people are currently directly involved in our tobacco growing operation.

The company recruits and trains a team of extension workers who work directly with the farmers to provide them with the technical support required for profitable tobacco growing.  In addition, every farmer is encouraged to grow food crops of their choice.

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