Akwa Ibom Revolutions in Agriculture
22 Feb 2010
Endowed with outstanding, legendary visionary attributes, the all - rounder performing, best governor in Nigeria so far, Chief Godswill Akpabio gave agriculture a prime of place in his 9 point "action" agenda, when he and his deputy, Engr. Patrick Ekpotu "reported for duty" on May 29,2007.
To activate his vision for the state in this direction, Governor Akpabio also got hold of the foremost specialist, another performer “activist" in the world of agriculture from the University of Uyo, Professor Etok Ekanem, to man the portfolio of agriculture in the state, and undertake the mission of translating his lofty visions into action.
And baring his mind at the maiden press interview with the Pioneer as he came on board in 2007, the "pragmatic" farmer commissioner, Prof. Etok Fkanem, promised to "reposition agriculture" in the state, after which he sprang into action promptly, to do it!
As the ministry rolls out its drums to host the state to its 2nd “Agriculture Summit" today, the commissioner and his "managers" can proudly thump their chests for a job well-done, as they unfold a galore of earth-quaking landmarks of achievement within two and half years of the promised "repositioned" agriculture, which has actually metamorphosed into a laudable scorecard of "revolutions in agriculture" (It may be recalled that the 1st edition of the summit came up on 21st November, 2006, under the theme: "Investing in Agric as a business" when Dr. T. Ibia was in charge) With the theme Repositioning Agriculture in Nigeria for the D Dwindling Oil Fortunes - Akwa Ibom State Experience ", the three day summit which is expected to attract about 1,500 participants nationwide, covers February 9-12, 2010, at the state secretariat.
It is designed to showcase the treasure-drove of the fanning sector in the state. Farmers from all the 31 local government areas will converge in Uyo for an exhibition which shall host stakeholders in agro-based industries, banks, manufacturers and the academia.
Other activities during the occasion include a symposium through which technical papers will be presented by informed personalities in their fields of specializations nationwide.
A book entitled "Two Years of Agricultural Development in Akwa Ibom State under the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio" is slated for launching at the event. It will be rounded-off with facility visits/tours to private farms and project sites in the state.
Most importantly, prizes are expected to be given out to out standing participants in the Integrated Farmers Scheme who had applied their resources creditably well with glittering result, for the encouragement of others and as legacies of the fruits of investment of government in the scheme.
With the focus to reduce poverty and waste, creating wealth, generate employment and achieve sustainable development in agriculture, Prof. Etok Ekanem undertook the mission of guiding his ministry to increase the awareness, of farmers on current farming technologies and creation of sustainable food security for the state and its peoples.
Therefore, famers were assisted to maximally and rationally exploit and manage available natural resources and climatic factors or concepts detrimental to development of agriculture. Thus, they became encouraged to take up farming as a serious business.
Similarly, the government has also been guided to establish equity participation in agric investments through public-private partnership, in fulfilment of its statutory responsibility of providing the needed enablement that ensures availability of adequate/affordable food and agro-based raw, materials for food security, employment generation, wealth creation and economic emancipation.
This has to do with its policy thrust to cause quantifiable growth in the production and marketing cash crops, staple food, livestock and fisheries through institutional and infrastructural empowerment of private-small, medium and large scale crop and livestock farmers, fisher folks/farmers.
Within two years, the government has shown commitment for the immediate amelioration of the challenges experienced in the agricultural sub-sector, and set out specific targets for future development and sustainability.
Accelerated Livestock and Fish Production Programme (ALFIP): The most significant intervention in this regards is the approval of the Accelerated Livestock and Fish Production Programme (ALFIP) by the state government. This Programme is designed to, within the next three years, boost intake of animal' protein by the average Akwa Ibom State. It will generate employment for 30,000 people when functional!
Poultry: Through the programme, three poultry hatcheries will be established in each of the three senatorial districts; each capable of hatching 19,000 day-old-chicks a week. This will close the current demand gap for day-old-chicks in the state by 60 per cent and ensure retention of capital within the state.
Fish Farms: The programme will also establish ten fish farmer estates. The fish farm estates and community fish farm will produce a total of 5, 700 metric tons of fish per annum, with a total value of, N2.4 billion. The ALFIP programme will generate employment opportunities for 30,446 persons in the poultry and livestock activities and 1,400 persons in other fish farm estate; and community fish farms in the fish farm estates. The government is investing N11.6 billion in this programme.
Food Reserve: This Administration is also ensuring that food Security for Akwa Ibom State people is sustained by the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Strategic Food Reserve Programme.
The state has already spent N1.5 billion to acquire an integrated food storage facility at Abak with a capacity to store 30,000 metric tons of grains, 10,000 metric tons of fish and meat and space for the storage of 50,000 metric tons of fertilizer. The facility will also incorporate processing and packaging units, to add export values to the products.
But one of the critical problems challenging our efforts in food production is the issue of land fragmentation. Akwa lbom is a compact state with a large population occupying a small space. Due to the traditional land ownership system, each family owns a small portion of land, which obstructs agricultural production in commercial quantities.
Land Management: Accordingly, Chief Godswill Akpabio has taken deliberate steps to eliminate this problem by instituting a Land consolidation and Management Scheme. The Scheme envisages the contribution of a minimum of 200 hectares of land by each of the 31 local government areas of Akwa lbom State for management by an Agency under public-private partnership.
Food Security: The need for food security, taken along with strategies to eliminate crises and engage youths in productive ventures in food production, has prompted this administration to increase the number of youths participating in the Integrated Faffi1er's scheme from 310 to 620 and the investment portfolio for each participant from N300,000 to N500.000. Under the scheme, the young participants are encouraged to appreciate dignity in farming and its viability as an enterprise.
Fertilizer: It has also increased support to farmers by doubling the quantity of fertilizers supplied under a subsidy arrangement. The government has also procured 72 tractors for use by fanners in the state in order to facilitate land preparation and crop production.
Commercial Farming: The Government has established partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria for the implementation of commercial agriculture development programme.
The state is contributing 5 per cent of its monthly financial accruals and 1 per cent of the earnings of each of the local government councils to the fund for the purpose of drawing from the N244.2 billion reserve provided by the Federal Government for lending to commercial farmers.
Trust Fund: The government also plans to partner the Central Bartle of 'Nigeria, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Company and other commercial banks to establish a financial basket under a Trust Fund Scheme to service credit requirements of small scale farmers.
Partnership: The government has also established partnership with development partners, such I as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank for assistance to rural farmers in the Root and tuber Expansion Programme, the Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme, the FADAMA III Programme and the Rural Finance Institution Building Programme.
Collectively, these programmes are bringing approximately N500 million to the state economy in the next five to eight years.
Foreign Investors: The ministry is also encouraging foreign direct investment and partnership with foreign firms interested in developing the agricultural potentials of Akwa Ibom State, including value addition to the products and the development of export potentials and international market relations.
To this end, the Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnamese investors for rice production. The company has recruited personnel for the early commencement of implementation.
Similarly, the State is currently negotiating with an Israeli organization; Agridev - Israel; for the establishment of integrated agricultural systems. Officials of this organization were in the state recently and held high level discussions with the governor.
That organization is to facilitate the establishment of poultry production, processing, packing and export assembly as well as high technology aquaculture systems which will produce fish of international standards.
Arrangements have also been concluded to invite Malaysian investors to develop the oil palm sector, with high yielding oil palm and establish vegetable production facilities.
The success story of this ministry could not have been written without the consciousness, enlightened and steadfast support and encouragement of the state governor who had always proven a dependable pillar and a determined realist, burdened with the commitment to see through his brainchild, weaned and matured to bloom blossoms.
Along the line, the line-managers (permanent secretary, directors and heads of units/departments in the ministry deserve tons of kudos for their corporation, indefatigable contributions and team work spirit which has catalyzed the mission of Akpabio's vision for his people.
Structures on Ground: Thus, an outline of the ministry's set-up is reproduced herein for an insight into an objective understanding of its operations: - Six major components outlined herein have become the pivots and leaves on which the ministry has applied to marshal out the laudable outputs for which it is being celebrated today.
The Ministry of Agriculture And Natural Resources: It has a good structure, made up of directorates and special units, to carry out the vision of government and the mission of the ministry. There are four professional directorates, which provide technical buck stopping and professional advice to farmers. These are:
The Directorate of Agriculture: It carries out the production, procurement and distribution of improved planting materials to farmers and dissemination of production technologies. The directorate has established nurseries for oil palm, rubber, cocoa and multiplication, farms for cassava for the purpose of raising input for farmers.
The Directorate of Fisheries: It is charged with the mandate to facilitate and promote fish production from all available sources. The directorate promotes the development of marine and inland fisheries in the state and establishment of aquaculture and fish hatchery.
The Directorate of Livestock: Its mandate is to raise the per capita animal protein consumption of the people of Akwa Ibom State and encourage farmers to invest in livestock production.
The directorate is responsible for introduction, production and distribution of improved livestock species (day-old chicks, breeding rabbits, grass cutter, pigs, goats, sheep and cattle) as production inputs to livestock farmers and the operation of livestock investigation and breeding centres.
The Directorate of Veterinary Services: It ensures effective health care delivery for animals and livestock in the state. The directorate also carries out the inspection of animals for supply of wholesome meat for human consumption.
The Special Units include Akwa Ibom State Agriculture Development Programmme (AKADEP) which is sustaining extension services to farmers in all nooks and crannies of the state.
The Integrated Farmer's Scheme (IFS): This is a channel through which young and dynamic school leavers are trained and empowered to pursue career in various agro- enterprises. The Fertilizer Procurement and Distribution Agency: Its mandate is to procure and supply fertilizers to farmers in Akwa Ibom State at subsidized rates.
The Agricultural Information Services: It is through this unit that the ministry provides enlightenment for farmers and publicizes government agricultural policies and programmes.
The Agricultural Engineering Services: Its mandate is to channel engineering knowledge and machinery/tools for crop and livestock production in the state.
The Rice Development Project: For facilitating production in the stat through supply of disease resistance rice seeds farmers, development of c farm infrastructure.
The Agricultural Loan Service: It ensures that s ministry provides afford it credit to farmers and act as liaison between farmers / banks.
In a nutshell, the envisaged viability of the agric sector is seen by all as the key to , the wealth, and peace of the state and its people. Because as succinctly capped by Governor Akpabio himself - "For any people or nation to be great, it must be able to produce enough food to feed itself, with possible surplus for others" And therein lies the great strength of America.
The USA for an example, has produced so much food that she has more than enough for home consumption with surplus leftovers which are stored; still leaving enough reserves to distribute round the world at times of emergencies like natural disasters and wars as happened in Nigeria during the civil war; the tsunami, earthquakes, tornadoes and the likes of Haiti problem. Thus the end-point objective of the people's Godswill "Agenda for Food" can be glimpsed as the best thing that has ever happened to this state since its creation for many reasons.
First, besides the anticipated food security, gainful employment of youths, and attendant bandwagon of goodies there from, this programme shall go a long way to curbing or possibly eradicating the excess deaths of our traders who tow on top of"911", trailers and other trucks to buy food/livestock from former Bendel State zones, northern Cross River and the northern zones of Nigeria, etc.
The writer knew his onions when he wrote "the surest way to a man's heart is through the stomach". And of course, the surest way to the stomach lies through the farm! Hence the need for Nigeria to take a cue from the Godswill's model and make "agriculture" the in thing, instead of creating spurious "racehorses" in the dwindling oil fields, to the woe of the people (Niger Delta).
Like Ray Ekpu warned many years ago, oil is a wasting asset which will certainly dry up some day. God Almighty, who placed it on earth for humans, had a purpose in the comfort of His people. But you are aware that this same people have use the same oil to turn the world topsy-turvy!
Who knows, perhaps if these guys had used this Papa's gifts prudently, the oil might have gone 011 flowing sine-die, just like the endless oceans (which even have had wider, expansive and longer uses than the mis-used oil - petroleum) which remains intact after millions of years of usage!
But in the final analysis, with or without oil, agriculture remains forever an "essential commodity". Not just as a supplement to oil, but as an indispensable sector and life-wire of human existentialism. Any complain? No Complaint!
Just like it helped Cain and Abel to flourish before the devil swooped in and polluted their plantation with blood, and just after sacking their parents from the perfect plantation in Eden; the fates of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece and Rome can be a good lesson for the modern Nigerian "aje butter" lineages.
Their large empires rose to the peak with the help of agriculture which sustained their large populations and armies. When they forsook the farms for wars and manoeuvres, their empires fell, broke and become extinct.
So, Oga Godswill, Prof. Etok Ekanem, Elder Ita Essien and all the "Armies of the Green Revolution" in Akwa Ibom State and their importers, thanks 0 Jare! And welcome Nigeria to Akwa Ibom State, the new destination and food basket in Nigeria.