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By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo

Akwa Ibom State government has appreciated international organisation, Solidaridad, for supporting and equipping farmers with the skills, and knowledge needed to achieve improvement in the agricultural sector.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Offiong Offor spoke yesterday while flagging-off the distribution of one thousand two hundred improved Oil Palm seedlings to Small holder oil palm farmers in the State by Solidaridad.

Offor said such support complements government effort of governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration towards achieving food security and sufficiency in the state.

Her words: “We all know that His Excellency governor Udom Emmanuel has always supported farmers with inputs, all geared towards improving food security and sufficiency in the state. Food is the most basic need of man.

“So government appreciate Solidaridad for this initiative. In many ways you have supported His Excellency’s food security and sufficiency agenda. Thank you for complementing the effort of this administration, thank you for being a dependable partner.

“Anytime you give people anything that empowers them economically you are giving them financial independence. By doing this you have equiped our farmers with financial strength”

In his remarks, Mr Kenechukwu Onukwube, the Project Manager, Solidaridad, Oil Palm Nigeria, said providing improved seedling to farmers was one of the interventions Solidaridad is currently doing in Akwa Ibom, Cross River , Enugu, and Kogi states, aimed at addressing the challenges in the oil palm sector.

He explained that after the organisation carried out a study on the status of Oil palm in the four states, it discovered challenge of decrease in yield due to the oil palm variety, which affected both income of the farmers and revenue to government.

“In order to prevent that downward trend that would be experienced in the next 40 to 50 years, we discovered that there is a need to quickly change the variety that is prevalent in the landscape. The prevalent ones are the wild variety.

“That is why you see very tall Oil Palm trees in the state and many of them have gone beyond their optimal yield level. So for that to change, the improved variety has to replace the wild palm trees and we have to do it in phases.

“So we are working with 48-select farmers in Akwa Ibom just to start with. We trained them on how to properly plant the improved seedlings, and I commend them and today we are happy that we have this to show. And our focus is on Small holder farmers to enable them have a voice in the sector” he explained.

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