• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Agriculture to remain in forefront of Abia transformation

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Abia State recently hosted the seventh joint World Bank/Federal Government supervision mission on Third National Fadama Development Project covering the South East zone.

The event marked another milestone in the history of the state’s several fruitful collaborations with the World Bank and the Federal Government, in its passion to quickly develop the state through agriculture.

Abia State is the food basket of the South East geopolitical zone as it has a highly diversified agro-ecological condition, which makes the production of a wide range of agricultural products possible.

The state produces cash crops such as cocoa, rubber, cashew, palm oil, rice, maize and cassava in commercial quantities.

Agriculture is one of the most potentially viable sectors of the state’s economy, particularly in terms of its employment generation potentials as well as its contribution to the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR).

Therefore, the agricultural sector and other goals of the FADAMA projects will remain in the front burner of our march towards transforming Abia State.

Governor Theodore Orji acknowledged the noble objectives of FADAMA, which is targeted at the rural poor and that is why his administration had taken the lead in quickly keying into the programme, when it was launched at the federal level.

To show its interest in agriculture and rural development, the state government immediately released N15 million as its preparatory FADAMA project-fund in 2009.

Governor Orji also promised to continually honour the state’s obligations in spite of the paucity of funds, by directing the accountant general of the state to make all outstanding remittances to Abia State FADAMA III without further delays, beginning from the end of February 2013.

The governor also acknowledged the high level of commitment of our local government areas to ensure the success of the project in Abia State.

Consequently, he has instructed the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to ensure that all funds accruing to the FADAMA III project from the LGAs be deducted at source in order to ensure a steady cash-flow into the project.

In the words of the governor, “It has been of immense joy to see the huge impact that Abia State FADAMA III is making in the lives of our people, especially through the sub-projects that are spread throughout the state. I, therefore, make bold to say that the agricultural revolution, which we have embarked upon in this state has received a great push from FADAMA III projects, and will be absolutely incomplete without them.

“Our administration is committed to transforming the agricultural sector of our state and nation’s economy and in line with the visions of the Federal Government. This is why Abia State wasted no time in accessing and disbursing to genuine farmers the N1 billion agric loan backed up by the Federal Government and CBN efforts.

“We have equally continued to provide some improved cocoa seedlings, fertiliser and other required agro-inputs to our farmers to improve farm products.

“Right now, we have commenced the establishment of our Liberation Farm projects in our 17 local government areas of the state. This is to revive interests of the youth in farming and creating young agro-entrepreneurs.

“We have equally continued to make remarkable efforts in our rural infrastructure to help drive rural development, create wealth, and raise the level of food security in our state.”

To deepen the agricultural transformation agenda of the present administration in the state, Governor Orji recently had a meeting with Boon Intiratana, commercial councilor of the Royal Embassy of Thailand with the intent of partnering the Asian country in agriculture and food processing.

Meanwhile, the pilot project of the Liberation farm programme at Okikpe in Ukwa West Local Government Area of the state will be inaugurated in April this year.

About 850 youths, 50 from each of the 17 local government areas of the state, would be trained in poultry, piggery, plantain plantation and aquaculture under the programme.

The programme, according to Ike Onyenweaku, commissioner for agriculture, was designed to be attractive to the youths. The state government will also provide grants for the trainees after their training to start their own farms.

Agriculture is known as one of the most potentially viable sectors of Abia State’s economy, particularly in terms of its employment generation potentials as well as its contribution to the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR).

To give agriculture a boost, the current administration in the state is impacting positively on farmers through its agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP).

Consequently, the Governor Orji-led administration’s plan to create jobs and increase the state’s IGR through the establishment of mega farms in all the 17 local government areas (LGAs) of the state has already started recording some milestones, starting with the privatisation of Abia Rubber Company.

No fewer than 1,200 youths have so far been employed by the company and many more would be employed as they expand.

This administration has also entered into partnership with a Malaysian conglomerate to revitalise some oil palm estates in the state located at Ohambele, Ukwa East and Ulonna in Umuahia North Local Government Area of the state.

This is in line with the administration’s resolve to jump-start the industrial development of the state through the creation of agro-based value chain-industries and agro-young entrepreneurs in the rural areas of the state.

Entrepreneurs under the scheme will be fully engaged in the emerging mechanised farms, which have commenced in the state with the establishment of the Liberation farms in the three senatorial zones.

The proposed mega farms to be sited in the three senatorial zones of Abia State have commenced with the establishment of a plantain farm at Okeikpe in Ukwa West Local Government Area of the state.

About 1,700 youths would be trained and empowered in cassava, fishery, poultry and piggery farms that would also be established under the programme in the 17 local government areas of the state, while about 300 casual workers would benefit from the project. The mega farms are expected to serve as centres for intensive production of all agricultural products as well as job creation centres.

Plans are also on to establish a modern abattoir in Aba, the commercial hub of the state, by a Canada-based food processing company under the public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. This administration, however, needs the support of farmers to actualise its dreams of making the state the food basket of the South East and Nigeria at large.

UGOCHUKWU EMEZUE

Emezue is the chief press secretary to Abia State governor.