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Abia Moves To Revolutionise Agriculture

By From Boniface Okoro, Umuahia on 05/07/2012

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A revolution is in the works in the agricultural sector in Abia State. That revolution, which is expected to place food on the table of every Abian, nay Nigerians, began on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, with the formal launch of the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme as enunciated by the federal government and flagging-off of the distribution of the N1 billion agricultural loans to Abia farmers.

The event which promises to return Abia to its glorious agricultural past took place at the Aguiyi Ironsi Cenotaph.

The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and some top management staff of his ministry witnessed the ceremonies which saw registered farmers smile home with their cheques to draw down their shares of the N1 billion agricultural loan as well as bags of fertilizer and other farm inputs,

Addressing the farmers who mobilised from all nooks and crannies of the state, Abia State governor, Dr. Theodore Orji, noted that the essence of all struggles by man was to cater for the stomach.
“Everything translates into belly and that is why Igbo people say the stomach is top priority,” the Abia Chief Executive said.

Orji maintained that the launch of the programmes was an indication that his administration was committed to the wellbeing and welfare of the people and epitomises his government’s determination to build an economically viable state through a sustainable agricultural development.

To achieve this, he said the state has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will guarantee federal government’s collaboration with Abia to ensure that the cassava value chain development and transformation was fully implemented in the state.

“The distribution of the N1 billion agricultural loans is to support farmers and ensure a steady push for food sufficiency by 2015,” he disclosed, pointing out that “self-sufficiency in food production is a panacea for sustainable democracy and economic growth.”

Assuring that his administration was religiously committed to alleviating poverty and hunger through increased food production, Orji stressed that government was not just interested in primary food production but in all efforts, technics, research findings and everything that will improve agricultural output.

This is why the state has embraced federal government’s programmes aimed at boosting agriculture as he noted that there was an urgent need for collaboration between the three tiers of government to achieve sustainable agricultural transformation.

Governor Orji had on December 15 last year promised that his administration would cause a revolution in the agricultural sector beginning from this year.

Presenting the budget estimate to the lawmakers, Orji said: “We have proposed projects in 2012 budget that will employ improved farm input, farming systems, and post-harvest processing technologies to increase food production, create jobs and ensure food security.” 

He enumerated targets of government with respect to the agricultural sector to include increasing hectarages of cultivated land by 30 per cent; reducing waste by adding value to farm produce through post-harvest processing: and attracting private investors to the agricultural sector in the state. 

According to the governor, the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with Local Government Areas and Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC) would be encouraged to establish crop and livestock farms in the 17 LGAs. 

“The projects and programmes articulated for this 2012 budget will revolutionise the Agricultural sector and reduce hunger and poverty,” the governor said.

Explaining his administration’s focus on agriculture last week Wednesday during the formal launch of the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, Orji enthused: “Agriculture is an important sector of the economy with high potentials for employment generation, food security and wealth creation.”

He, however, lamented that these potentials have largely remained untapped, resulting in dwindling performance in the agricultural sector both domestically and on the international scene over the years.

Apart from collaborating with the federal government to provide funding and improved varieties of farm inputs, Orji said his administration has consistently worked towards agricultural production by paying the counterpart funds for development partners and sponsored programmes such as FADAMA and IFAD.

He drummed it into the ears of the loan beneficiaries that it was recoverable and enjoined them to use it judiciously to be able to repay.

When he took the centre stage, Adeshina, the Minister of Agriculture, seized the opportunity to unfold the federal government’s support for Abia’s drive towards attaining food sufficiency.

He announced that the federal government would spend N35 million to provide access to cocoa seedlings to cocoa farmers in Abia.

The minister revealed that eight new cocoa hybrids of improved varieties which gives a yield of two tons per hectare as against the present average yield of 0.4 per hectare have already been released by the federal government which would also distribute 25, 000 pods of improved cocoa hybrid to cocoa farmers in Abia free.

The best cocoa farmer in Nigeria, Chief David Onyenweaku, is from Abia.

“Each farmer doing cocoa will get 200 sachets of approved fungicides, 5bags of NPK 20:20:20 fertiliser, 50 sachets of insecticides;” Adesina said, explaining that the farmers will pay half the cost of these inputs.

He also said that the federal government would drive cassava production in Abia by providing the state with a high grade cassava processing plant that can process 72,000 metric tons of high quality cassava flour.

The Minister disclosed that his ministry was collaborating with a prominent cassava farmer and traditional ruler of Oriendu community, Eze Philip Ajomiwe, in the area of cassava processing in Abia.

In promoting oil palm production, he promised that federal government would provide Abia with 200,000 improved palm seedlings. Abia Rice and maize farmers, the minister said, would get improved 50 Kg bag of rice and 40 Kg bag of maize seedlings free of charge.

Before the June 27 giant push towards food sufficiency in Abia, the government had taken several steps to boost agriculture.

These include payment of counterpart funds for development partners, sponsored programmes such as FADAMA and the IFAD-FGN-NDDC Community-based Natural Resource Management Programme; purchased and sold 54 tractors at subsidised prices to farmers, purchase of about 30, 000 bags of fertiliser and substantial quantity of F3 Amazon and the newly released CRIN CTI improved hybrid cocoa seedlings for farmers in the state.

The state has equally leased some its rubber and palm plantations to private firms to manage.

The governor said these efforts were geared towards making Abia hunger-free, drive income growth and accelerate achievement of food security as well as transform the state into a leading player in the national food market and generally grow wealth for all Abians.

Achieving the lofty ideals of the agricultural transformation depends largely on the commitment of all the stakeholders. The government, both state and federal, must endeavor to release fund and provide inputs on time when it would be useful to the farmers.

Farmers, on their part, must put into judicious use, everything that is provided to facilitate growth of the agricultural sector. They should note that agriculture is a result-oriented venture, it does not rest in realm of efforts only, just as its end products are tangible, not palpable.

In Abia, greater efforts should be made to promote mechanised farming to make it attractive to the youths who prefer white collar jobs or joining politics without having any profession while the government should equally focus attention on reviving the abandoned farm settlements which dot the land.

If agriculture is given a human face, by making it more attractive, economically rewarding and in the process create wealth and reduce poverty and reduce unemployment, the objective of the agricultural revolution would have been achieved. All hands, therefore, must be on deck.

Photo Caption
Chukwu Wachukwu, Chairman of the occasion, Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia State and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, observing the National Anthem during the flagging off of the One Billion Naira Commercial Agricultural Empowerment Scheme in Umuahia. Photo: Ibeabuchi Abarikwu.

Source TBE

Posted 05/07/2012 8:18:51 PM

 

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