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Obiano: Turning around agric fortunes of Anambra – Mbaji

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Anambra State has continued to set the pace in agriculture since the inception of Governor Obiano’s administration in March 2014. This year’s flag off of farming season in Awka and the agric inputs allocated to farmers further show that the state’ll continue to maintain the lead in the sector. In this discourse with RAY UDEAGBARA, Chairman/CEO, Lake Petroleum Ltd, Chief C. U. Mbaji ( Ide oha of Achina) speaks the magic wand of the governor that grows the agric sector, among others. Excerpts:-

ON OBIANO’S interests, successes in agriculture

  This sector is one of the major factors in the Obiano administration’s four pillars of development. Right from inception, this government has laid emphasis on food security. To achieve this, Governor Obiano and his team immediately embarked on the process of mechanisation, a serious move and departure from subsistence farming to ensure maximum yield and make the sector worthwhile for the youth.

There was massive introduction of agric equipment- tractors, ploughs, harvesters, threshers etc and full utilisation of fertiliser.

Expansive lands were secured, communal farming was introduced and incentives were provided for the youth who flooded the sector to reap the benefits of large scale mechanised farming. Multinational companies like Coscharis Farms, Ekcel Farms, Joseph Agro Farms, World Agro Allied Solution and NOVTEC Farms come on board.

  There were also Redemption Agro Ltd, Mass DEVAM Farm, Delfarm E-Force Agro, Tricity Integrated Farms and LYNDEN Farms. These are fully mechanised agric ventures, well subsidised by this government, better directed and advised by ANSIPPA. A few months after their establishment, I can say there was abundant food supply in Anambra State.

If you remember, Anambra began the exportation of agric products – ugu, onugbu, tomotoes, yams and other agro products. As far as I’m concerned, this state was the first to embark on the export of these agricultural products, and the IGR benefits of this venture are enormous.

  With the Obiano administration’s support, many established their own farms, including fishery, piggery, poultry and many were directly employed by the multinational farms. The administration of Obiano never relented in providing necessary incentives to these farmers, including necessary inputs like farming equipment, fertiliser and even start-up fund for the youths.

In fact whenever history remembers Anambra State and the exploits of this administration as vividly noticed in virtually all sectors of the economy, it will never forget the giant strides of Governor Willie Obiano in this all important sector.

 I can state clearly and without any equivocation that the federal government, during the tenure of Audu Ogbe, then Minister of Agriculture, copied Anambra Government’s standard, style and made some visible attempts at exporting agric products, particularly yams for some time before the process got stalled for one reason or the other. 

  For your information, the multinational farms enumerated in this conversation are farms owed by individuals who were attracted by this administration’s support, subsidies in answer to its “think home philosophy or Akulue Uno” call. It’s not enough to shout “think home,” It requires real support, continuous support and back-up, and Obiano administration is just doing that.

 From what I see on ground, soon, the youths’ farms will grow eyeing the bigger farms for competition. Thanks to this governments right vision and proactive measures. Citizens of this state, perhaps, never experienced much hunger as witnessed in most of the states.

Here I’ll advise this government to set up silos and food storage facilitates at strategic centres of the state, particularly at the food producing zones like Ogbaru, Anambra East, West, Nteje, Orumba Nroth and South.

  This will curb food waste and ensure there is no scarcity especially during famine, dry season, or flooding. Anambra has the smallest land mass not only in the South East but in the whole country, Anambra but like Isreal is effectively utilising what she has to maximise output. The emergence of Anambra as the best supporter of SMEs in Nigeria in 2019 is testament to the positive impact of the policies enacted by the Obiano administration to support private businesses here. Anambra rice production has risen from 80,000 MTN 2014 to 350,200 MTN 2019. Other agro investors in Umuchu, and Umunze are currently rearing over 500 high breed cattle (Efi Igbo). The mission and focus of this administration is for Anambra to become one of the top-3 states in agriculture in Nigeria.

   With the achievements in agriculture, I am not surprised that at the flag off of this year farming season, Governor Obiano’s last, much farm inputs were handed over to farmers, with politics sidetracked as these were sent to them directly in the form of farming implements/equipment and high yield seedlings.

This is not the first time Governor Obiano is giving out such agric inputs to farmers. I know that during last year flag off, he distributed similar farm inputs and organised for them some cash to boost start-ups. No wonder, hundreds of youths now see agriculture/farming venture as an enterprising business, and the effect on unemployment is not directly felt in all the nooks and crannies of the state. Food security is paramount.

  A hungry nation is an angry nation. There can be no meaningful development in any country where her citizens are wallowing in abject poverty and hunger. Messages of commendation to this governor on his intervention in this sector are worthwhile.

Here, it’s the duty of every onye Anambra to pray fervently that we get another capable hand that’ll take over from him come March 17, next year, when his second tenure expires. For the youths, they’ve to try more; do more by  going into farming. They have the energy. Government’ll provide the wherewithal.

Those of them educated should prove their skills in the sector and show that many gains accrue with shift from subsistent to mechanised farming. They should further go into agro allied industries to further boost that sector and enhance employment.

On pursuing, achieving set goals in the sector

  Oil or no oil, I must state that agriculture remains the mainstay of the nations economy. And here I must stress the urgent need for economic diversification, to diversify the economy away from oil. With serious price fluctuations in oil, it’s clear that soon dependence on oil becomes suicidal.

In diversifying our economy we must take into full cognizance our vast agric potentials, vast arable land, abundant human resources, high yielding seedlings and abundant rainfall, rivers, lakes, streams here and there.

These are resources lacking in most advanced economies. In Germany and Sandi Arabia, to mention but a few, there is no water, no river or lake. With industrialisation they’ve enough water to water their farms and produce enough food and even to export.

Also in Nigeria we have high population of youths who possess the necessary skills for agric ventures. Agriculture is no doubt labour intensive, the amount of machinery involved notwithstanding.

 The Obiano administration is doing much in this regard. It recognises the need for youths’ participation in this sector and has continued to attract them through the provision to them of adequate incentives – inputs like machinery, high yielding seedlings, fertilisers and start-up funds as earlier stated. Departure from subsistent to mechanised farming is the answer to food security now and here, Governor Obiano and his administration are on course.

If the premier of then Eastern Region, Dr. M. I. Okpara could conceive and set up farm plantations across the eastern state at that period of low industrialisation and got such high yields, present administrations in Nigeria, federal, state and local governments could utilise the present modern era of technology and develop farms that could feed the nation and also export to earn scarce foreign exchange.

Borrowing a leaf from Obiano administration’s approach to agriculture by other states will bring about so much improvement. With the resources within us, Nigeria can’t afford to be hungry and lag behind in this sector.

  I must say that this administration’s giant strides in the agriculture sector is unparalled, unrivalled. Who would have thought that Anambra State has to offer the world beyond commerce and industry? Who would have thought that a state with the smallest land mass and over 950 gully erosion sites could force its way to Nigeria agricultural map and begin exporting agricultural products.

As already hinted, agriculture is the number one pillar of his administration’s economic blue print called the Four Pillars of Development. The other three are Industrialisation, Trade and Commerce and Oil and Gas.

Obiano’s choice of agriculture as the key pillar of his developmental blue print instead of trade and commerce for which ndi Anambra are already known speaks of his ambition to break away from tradition and carve a new path. It also shows his desire to burst the ceiling of under achievements by successive Nigerian leaders; to challenge our timidity in the face of the mounting pressure on our mono-economic structure.

  So, taking himself more seriously than his contemporaries, Obiano pursues his agricultural programme with doggedness. His approach was strategic and anchored on his vision. He set up a special committee on agriculture, headed by Prof. Omaliko, a renowned agronomist.

The committee is charged with the mandate to study the land available for agricultural production in the state and run tests on the various soil types in order to find out where the different varieties of crops would grow best. Then, he established a Land Acquisition Committee, headed by Dr. Tim Menkaya, the former Minister of Health.

  Menakaya’s Committee helped solve the problem of negotiating with the various agrarian communities to acquire land for large scale farming. Obiano’s next step was to formally ignite the fire of agro-revolution in the state with the formal launching of the 2014 Farming Season at Nteje, on May 15, 2014.

He rose to the demands of that historic moment with fierce speech that established the significance of the event. He appealed to the pride of the people when he reminded them that “from time immemorial, our ancestors judged a man by the strengths of his farm. A man who could not feed his family was regarded as a failure”.

According to him, Anambra should become No 1 in the production of rice, cassava and fish in the first four years of his administration and finally, that agriculture should contribute at least, 40% of the GDP of Anambra State, and he’s achieved this is a clear strategic approach which only high minded administrators could apply to drive a process.

  It is a great credit to his administration that Europe has opened its doors to vegetables from Anambra State. But greater applause should even go to him for creating the structure for the emergence of the increasingly popular Anambra Rice which defeated other rice form South Africa, Morocco, Namibia, Cameroun, Egygt, and Ghana, to win the Best Rice in Africa at the African Products Forum, held in Lagos, few years back. Obiano’s administration investments drive in agriculture has attracted industrial farmers and become fully operational that people who are currently living in doubt will eventually believe that Anambra is finally on the rise.

  Expectedly, Obiano is not focusing on rice production alone. To date, about 100,000 farmers involved in the entire agricultural value chain in the state have been empowered through different cooperatives with about N3 billion worth of agricultural business plans executed. In partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Anambra has linked up over 3000 cooperatives to institutions offering credit facilities to farmers.

80km of feeder roads have been constructed to open access to 3000 hectares of land while improved varieties of seed have been widely distributed to thousands of farmers. And interestingly, Anambra has disbursed about N1.5 bln Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund to over 20000 entrepreneurs, including agro-entrepreneurs.

  If your remember, on inception of his administration, young graduates were equipped with crucial agro-entrepreneurial skills at the Agricultural Training School, now polytechnic, in Mgbakwu, where 250 of them were then graduated.

These youngsters received seed monies to set up their own farms and agric businesses. Fish production is on the upswing in Anambra and a Fish Demonstration Center has been set up in the Agricultural Training Center, at Mgbakwu. Today, all these plans have begun riving with life; new export routes are created to absorb the impending glut (ADP forecast).

  The Monitoring and Control Center in the Ministry of Agriculture ‘is an important component of Obiano’s agricultural superstructure. It offers at the touch of a button a comprehensive data on all farmers and farms in Anambra State and makes planning easy. From this control center, his administration can reach out with text messages and robo-calls.

This same organisation is reflected in the establishment of an Export Desk which interfaces with ABX World Inc. to open and maintain new windows in the international market for farm produce from Anambra State. Indeed, what is happening here in the state is truly agricultural revolution.

  In these agric ventures, we see the fruit of partnership- public private partnership (PPP) at work with such business conglomerates already mentioned above. Today, much is being earned in foreign exchange and ndi Anambra are happy.

On agric and youth employment

  This administration has given a new definition to leadership. It’s broken a new ground in governance; has given it a humane face. It believes that youths are catalysts of positive economic transformation. Consequently, it has brought entrepreneurship and technology into the agric sector, attracting young persons into the sector and by so doing, began to groom the next generation of farmers. Obiano’s administration is working on an economy founded on production, not consumption and is fully committed to engaging the youths as agents of state development.

From the records available, it’s clear that food security is on the front burner of this government and it’s refocusing development efforts on poverty alleviation, youths empowerment and rural, grassroots development.

  Of course, you know youth entrepreneurship remains the best vehicle for inclusive growth. In fact, the Obiano administration has blazed the trail in the area of agriculture and has recorded a major mile stone with donor agencies and development partners to give further boost to the sector and at the same time, providing the right institutional framework to turn around the agric fortunes of the state.

Mono cultural economy is not worthwhile in the present era and diversification of the stimulating the economy away from all oil is key to boosting SMEs and curbing youth employment. Remember all agric programmes are direct job creation schemes and we’re witnessing such schemes in various agricultural zones of this state where youths are channeling their skills towards achieving self-reliance in line with present global realities.

 To crown it all, I’ll say that what we’ve in Anambra State is agric revolution going on all food producing areas and from the score card of this administration, I state here that Governor Willie Obiano has performed creditably.

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