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Nigeria @ 51: Making farming exciting

THE current global economic melt-down may prove a major blessing to Nigeria . As a profligate nation, the compulsory tightening of our belts may in the long run, change our attitudes and redirect our steps to a more realistic path to national growth.

We have since the advent of oil, shortly after independence, lived as if nothing else mattered except oil and gas. The tragic aspect of this over-dependence is the fact that we neither have the capacity to determine the increase in the volume of its deposit, nor can we even determine its price.

These are very desperate days for our leaders and the situation calls for greater leadership responsibility. It is at times like this that those saddled with the responsibility to govern must show character and provide the needed direction to the path of survival. Happily, we are beginning to witness that in some states in the current dispensation.

In Akwa Ibom State , the government and the people are not sleeping. As a major oil producing state in Nigeria, the state has had its own share of the largesse from oil and gas. Yet, the shift from the boom days to these days of dwindling resources meant that the people must start looking inwards. Though richly blessed with a soil and climate that can support any crop, the focus, for years had never been on agriculture. A careful study reveals that the state’s numerous rivers, creeks, streams can support all round season cultivation and a virile sea food production. From the rice belts of Ikono, Ini and Onna, through the timber areas of Ndon Ebom,, Ifia-oyong, Use Ikot Amama, through the cocoa belts of Ini, Ikono, Itu, to the oil palm found all over the state, Akwa Ibom can survive and sustain a sound economy that is agriculturally-based.

In recent times, there has been a steady and resolute implementation of programmes aimed at reviving the sector. A few weeks back, Governor Godswill Akpabio released N2billion naira to empower 4, 500 women in the core areas of agriculture. Experts say if all the states in the federation exhibit similar commitment, the nation would soon feed itself. Besides, the direct implication of empowerment is not lost on the polity.

Yet, Akpabio’s commitment and dedication to growing the agric sector is not new. Shortly after he was sworn-in for the first tenure as governor in 2007, he embarked on intensive youth empowerment drive through agriculture.

True, the government of Chief Akpabio has in its characteristic way identified agriculture as an area that could make the difference and commenced immediate action. The government has also realised that the neglect of this crucial sector has ensured that farming is still at the subsistent level with the farms now peopled by only the old in the villages. To change the hitherto status-quo and revitalise this sector, Akpabio came up with the idea of making agriculture more attractive and exciting to women and youths. This strategic thought led to the establishment of the Integrated Farmers Scheme (IFS) and very recently, Women in Agriculture Empowerment Scheme, in the state. In summary, the schemes are meant to provide employment to women and unemployed youths, especially graduates; make agriculture interesting and exciting for the youths who had long abandoned agriculture to the aged in the villages. They are aimed at shoring up the states economy as a cushion to the dwindling petro-resources. Moreover, they are also targeted at making the state self-sufficient in food production as a measure to ensuring food security.

To underscore government interest in the success of the scheme, the selection of the participants is painstakingly undertaken to ensure that only those sufficiently self motivated to make a living in the sector are selected. It was devoid of the usual political considerations that have marred similar initiatives in the past.

Mr.  DAVID DAVID, a jouranlist,  wrote from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.


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