How we are building agric as alternative to oil revenue, says Akwa Ibom government
• Community offers 721 hectares of farmland for farming
Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, has reiterated commitment to the development of agriculture to shift the paradigm from the oil dominated economy to a more diversified and self-sustaining system.
Similarly, some communities have offered about 721 hectares of farmland to be used for agricultural purposes to rev up production of crops.The basic occupation of the people of Akwa Ibom State is agriculture. For too long, however, dependence on crude oil earnings, as an extension of the country’s economic slumbering, has crippled the agricultural sector. The state accounts for 31.4 per cent of Nigeria’s total daily oil production.
About 70 per cent of the people are engaged in planting of food and cash crops such as palm oil, plantain, cassava, yam and cocoyam, essentially at subsistence level, as well as cash crops like rice, cocoa and rubber, though not in commercial quantity. Fishing is the other agricultural activity for which the people of the state are well known, especially communities in the coastal areas.
Oil earning, apart from environmental degradation due to oil exploration and spillings, has prevented the state and other major oil-bearing states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta from rigorous pursuit of commercial agricultural policies.
When Udom Emmanuel assumed office as the state governor, he expressed the determination to chart an entirely new course by way of diversification of its economy. “God knew that a time like this would come and has been benevolent to Akwa Ibom by blessing the state with rich, natural endowment and human potential, which attest to the fact that right attitude and creative skills are needed to harness the natural resource for employment generation and wealth creation,” Udom said three years ago.
In a statement made available to The Guardian, the government said it has invested heavily in the sector for the twin objectives of ensuring food sufficiency for the people and opening a major source of foreign exchange earnings for the state, and would consistently do more to create jobs and an enabling environment for the private sector operators.
The government said the results of his government’s agricultural initiatives were encouraging, motivating it to allocate more resources to the sector. The initiatives have either begun to yield fruits, or the processes point to a positive end. Udom told the people of Akwa Ibom on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the state’s creation in 2016 that his government was pursuing agricultural revolution that would lead to all-round food production and sustainability, for the purpose of feeding its people.
The government, Udom said, set up the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) with specific responsibility for job creation, especially in the areas of industrialisation and agriculture. The result of that initiative is that today, the government said, Akwa Ibom is one huge farming community. About 22 crops that were hitherto considered ‘non-natives’ in the state are being grown in commercial quantity. They include not just crops, but vegetables that are in high demand all over the country, like onion, cucumber carrot, water melon, lettuce, cabbage, the three species of tomato that are used in making paste, as well as the four species of pepper (red, green, yellow and Cameroun). The state also grows garden egg in commercial quantity.
The success of the AKEES business model, which started in just one demonstration farm and has proven that as many as 22 different crops can be grown in Akwa Ibom all year round, has attracted interest from land owners in the state who have offered 721 hectres of uncultivated farmland for farming.A consultant to the Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry at Mbiaya, in Uruan Local Government Area, Pastor Laolu Olaoye of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Ibadan, said the hatchery would take production of eggs and dairy products to a new height, for currently produces 10, 000 day-old chicks every week.
The government said it has registered 4,920 rice farmers under the FADAMA Programme, for the purpose of producing enough rice for local consumption and export. Based on the state’s comparative advantage in cassava production, it has embarked on cultivation of the crop in 300 hectares in five local government areas under the FADAMA III Financing Programme, using a seed multiplication scheme that provides free cassava stems to farmers in the affected areas. The government said the effort was aimed at ensuring the state not only meets its demands for cassava, but also to be in good stead to take advantage of the growing demand for the commodity in the international market for foreign exchange earnings.
The agricultural programme is not limited to crops and vegetables production. It includes animal husbandry. To this end, the government has entered into collaboration with Carlos Farms, a Mexican group known for large scale commercial farming, to build ranches for rearing of cattle. The initiative would result in availability of enough beef in the state that is produced under the highest international standards, as well as milk for dairy companies. Akwa Ibom was, in the past, a leading cocoa producing area in the country. The Udom administration said it has taken the steps to revive cultivation of the commodity commercially.
In a statement made available to The Guardian, it said over 450 youths in new methods of planting cocoa have been trained, and extension services to cocoa farmers are being provided. It has also established the Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme for the training of cocoa farmers to ensure improvement of yields, from 300 kilogrammes per hectare to about 2000 kilogrammes per hectare over three years.
To encourage specialization, the government it had embarked on zoning and mapping of cocoa producing communities in the 24 local government areas where the commodity is produced. As an incentive for production of cocoa with quality that meets international standards, it imported 1,000 bags of special cocoa fertiliser from Ghana in 2016, which were distributed to farmers. The government has also provided technical advisory services to 350 large scale fish farmers across the state.
The statements stated that the aim is not only to produce enough to feed the growing population, but also to sell to other parts of the country and beyond.“With the investments we have made in agriculture and the FADAMA projects, we are hopeful that in the next few months, prices of food in Akwa Ibom State would be one of the most affordable in the nation,” Udom told the people of the state. The government had made significant strides in agriculture, he added, through introduction of hybrid crops and seedlings to farmers.
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