On Saturday, the 18th of April, this year, His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano announced a list of robust short term measures for the agriculture sector.
He did this to ensure that there is no shortage of food supply as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The broadcast also served as the formal launch of 2020 farming season.
It is no longer news that the coronavirus scourge which started as a joke in China did spread quickly like harmattan fire across the world including Nigeria and our own Anambra State.
At the time of this report, this virus which is no respecter of gender, colour, race, social status or age, has killed 28 Nigerians.
In other countries of the world, the death toll runs into tens of thousands. We are however thankful to God that no death has occurred in Anambra State. Instead, we’ve just been told that the only index case we recorded has just been discharged from the hospital after a confirmatory test on him returned negative.
Other samples taken from identified contacts have also come back with the same cheery news. Governor Obiano and his health team deserve kudos for the level of preparedness and professionalism with which they have managed the pandemic so far.
The decision to flag off this year’s farming season by broadcast therefore was to ensure the safety of our farmers in the face of the prevalent pandemic because bringing them together, as it’s customary, would amount to a flagrant breach of the NCDC’s protocol on the pandemic which forbids public gathering beyond a prescribed minimum size.
Coronavirus could be transmitted where there is a large concentration of people, making body contacts inevitable and the recommended social distancing difficult.
It is to safeguard against this danger that government shelved the usual fanfare and food exhibitions associated with the formal launching of our farming season to a more auspicious time next year when the current anxiety would have subsided. Our people say that a man whose house is on fire does not chase rats.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has altered different aspects of our social and economic lives, necessarily restricting our movements and the way we relate with one another. For almost one month now, the country has been on lockdown including our state.
This has compelled our people to stay at home in order to check the spread of the virus. Major markets and businesses are closed apart from essential services.
To avoid the negative consequences of the protracted lockdown from dovetailing into food shortage and consequent starvation, government of Anambra State felt the need to still formally kick-off this year’s farming season virtually as it appears there is no indication the pandemic may abate soon.
For, it would be catastrophic if after the coronavirus would have been contained, ‘hunger virus’ is unleashed on the population due to lack of strategic planning.
To boost farming and ensure that food supply is not affected in the aftermath of coronavirus, Governor Obiano announced that:
3000 hectres of land in the agricultural belt of the state has been secured for large scale farming during this farming season. This initiative, according to him, will gainfully employ over 2000 youths from these communities
He also said that the government has ordered the purchase of seven brand new tractors and implements to cultivate the land
Women and youths are going to be empowered by providing them with poultry cages and feeds
Inputs such as fertilizers and chemicals, including seedlings of rice, maize, yams and cassava stems will be distributed to farmers
Rice threshers would also be made available to small and medium scale rice farmers in order to ramp up the rice mills production and outputs for the markets
Government will encourage and support apiculture (breeding of honey bees). To this end, over a hundred youths have been trained and would be equipped with beehives, protective gears and smokers.
Arrangement is underway to massively procure fingerlings and feeds to leverage fish farming in the State.
This level of support, no doubt, demonstrates government’s commitment to encouraging our farmers in leveraging food production by the next harvest seasons. Farmers have never had it this good even before the advent of COVID-19.
It is expected that they should take advantage of these goodies to live up to their slogan which say: “No farmers, no nation”. This is the time to make good this slogan; this is the time to prove their mettle. To whom much is given, much is expected.
Nwosu writes from Atani, Ogbaru LGA