Akwa Ibom: Boosting agric to drive economic growth

In the 1960s and 70s, agriculture was a major revenue and foreign exchange earner for Nigeria and provided millions of jobs for the people.

But despite the potential of changing the fortunes of the Nigerian economy, the agricultural sector was neglected when the country discovered crude oil.

The sector which was neglected had since 2016 became an option for diversification owing to its vast potential to drive more sustainable economic growth in Africa’s most populous nation.

The federal government with its renewed focus on the agricultural sector in an attempt to diversify the economy away from oil had introduced various interventions to boost productivity and drive export.

Crop production remains the largest segment of agriculture in the country and it accounts for over 80 percent of the sector’s total output, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

Agriculture remains the largest sector in Nigeria contributing an average of 24 percent to the nation’s GDP for over seven years (2013 – 2019), according to a 2020 PwC report on the Current State of Nigeria’s Agriculture and Agribusiness Sector

In addition, the sector employs more than 36 percent of the country’s labour force, a feat which ranks the sector as the largest employer of labour in the country. All this underscores the importance of agriculture to the livelihood of millions of Nigeria, as well as to the economic well-being of the nation.

In line with the federal government’s efforts to revamp the sector, the Emmanuel Udom-led administration is aware of the potential of the agricultural sector and is committed to advancing its state’s economic growth through agriculture.

Right from the inception of his first term, Governor Udom has shown his commitment to the sector.

While delivering the 2018 budget to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on November 24, 2017, the governor said “agriculture plays a critical role in the Socio-economic and industrial development of nation and states.”

“My administration places a high premium on the growth and development of this sector to enhance food security, commercial production of agricultural produce and raw materials for industrial use and exports, job and wealth creation as well as improved revenue generation to the government.”

“The following programmes and projects will be pursued in the 2018 fiscal year for continuity and sustainability in the agricultural sector … to realize this aspiration, the sum of N17.913 billion is earmarked in the 2018 budget.”

Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the administration commissioned a million day-old-chicks (DOCS)/per month capacity poultry hatchery complex at Mbiaya Uruan through public-private partnership (PPP) and trained 450 youths on special cocoa best management practices.

It embarked on the distribution of improved oil palm and cocoa seedlings to farmers in the state and participated in the CBN’s Rice Anchor Borrowers scheme with about 4,920 registered rice farmers for empowerment.

Also, the administration provided extension and technical advisory services to about 350 fish farms; collaborated with Skye Bank and CBN on ABP for cassava farmers.

It mobilized 5,000 cassava farmers for the scheme, created 5,000 jobs (downstream) and about 15,000 jobs (upstream) through the value addition, collaborated with Skye Bank and CBN’s ABP for catfish farmers and mobilized 2,000 catfish farmers for the scheme as well as created 6,000 jobs (downstream) and 18,000 (upstream) through value addition.

Read also: Experts advocate urgent reset of Nigeria’s agriculture agenda

Other great strides by the Udom- Emmanuel led administration in the sector include raising of over 20,000 oil palm seedlings in nurseries for farmers, distribution of 54,538,100 kilograms of maize seedlings to farmers, installation of maize preservation and shelling machines at Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area and massive rice cultivation in Ini and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas.

Others are the establishment of fish processing factories in Ibeno and Mbo Local Government Areas, the establishment of agricultural equipment hiring enterprise centre in addition to the acquisition of tractors with accessories and the setting up of a technical committee on agriculture and food sufficiency.

The governor also mobilize the massive cultivation of cocoa in Ini, Obot Akara and Essien Udim Local Government Areas, provided two million improved cocoa seedlings raised and distributed to farmers, established a hybrid rubber nursery at Ebighi Anwa in Okobo Local Government Area, in partnership with the Rubber Research Institution of Nigeria and trained 360 youths in Israel on various agricultural enterprises.

Further notable achievements include the establishment of demonstration plots on various agricultural technologies for the transfer of improved technologies to farmers through the Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Programme (AKADEP), the establishment of the Ibom greenhouse, the planting of 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrid plantain suckers and 1,000 pineapple suckers at the Horticulture Garden in Uyo LGA amongst others.

Ernest Awakessein, farm manager of Ibom Green House, in an interview said “Ibom greenhouse has done a lot of employment directly and indirectly to Akwa Ibom people.”

“We have nothing less than 70 staff working here in this farm daily, and are paid monthly, and that adds to the economy and household income of the people that we employ.”

Another staff member of the greenhouse who works as a pest controller said “I and my family have benefitted a lot from this work. I have been able to put my skills to use. I have also been able to learn new skills while working here. I am grateful to Governor Udom for the creation of this opportunity, and I pray that God bless him.”

While campaigning for re-election in 2019, Udom re-stated his commitment to advancing the agricultural sector. He said, “In addition to my superior performance in the agricultural sector in the first half of my administration, I intend to boost the agricultural sector with a new policy framework that will not only provide food to the populace but also generate much-needed jobs and create wealth for Akwa Ibom citizens.”

Top on the agenda will be the establishment of agro-processing and related industries. Some of the agro-processing industries already under consideration are fruit & vegetable juice production, cassava and potato, edible oil production, salt refinery plant, and animal feed production.

Others are sanitary papers, egg-bed packaging, and waste to diesel plants, water treatment plants, detergent & soap production, ice making, bottling line for drinking water, juice and oil UPVC windows & doors.
Other projects also highlighted in the completion agenda is the establishment of Akwa Ibom Integrated cassava programme called Dakada Cassava Task Force.