Anambra @ 30: Strengthening agriculture for food sufficiency, commercial security
AGRICULTURE constituted the greatest percentage of Nigeria’s GDP prior to crude oil discovery and boom in the country. The boom resulted in the governments’ complete abandonment of agriculture and the subsequent heavy dependence on food importation, for sustenance. To ameliorate the situation, successive administrations have in different times engaged in agricultural initiatives, such OFN, Anambra River Basin Authority, etc, which were all dead on arrival, or short-lived. This scenario is the same in all the states of the nation.
However, since 2014, the Anambra State’s agriculture sector has been witnessing an unprecedented turnaround. For example, when Dr Willie Obiano took the mantle of leadership in the state, he presented to the people of the state his economic blueprint comprising four pillars of development – agriculture, industrialisation, trade and commerce and oil and gas. This did not end in a paper as the visionary Anambra’s herdsman dived into setting up and inaugurating a 14-man Agriculture Blueprint Team to design a road map for developing and transforming the state’s agriculture sector into a leading player in national and global food markets. The team, headed by a renowned agronomist, Professor C.P.E. Omaliko, produced the blueprint which has mapped the state to determine which crops perform well in certain places and gave recommendations on the way forward.
Following this, Anambra has been deploying two pronged approaches – Public Private Partnerships (PPP) with large scale investors and off-takers and through the provision of support to small scale farmers. Based on a closer observation and available data, these have resulted in massive agro-investments in Anambra, bringing about huge youth employment and food sufficiency for local consumption and export. For instance, the state government is partnering with Cosched Farms at Anaku, in Ayamelum LGA, for commercial rice farming and processing with an expected output of 60,000 metric tons (MT); milling capacity of 150,000MT; and 2,000 jobs.
Anambra’s PPP with Lynden Integrated Farms at Igbariam, in Anambra East LGA, is for the development of a modern integrated poultry and production of high quality eggs and poultry meat in the state. It was expected to provide over 1,200 employment.
In Anambra, there is also Delfarms, a Songhai Model Farms of Benin Republic, with an integrated organic farm in each of the three senatorial zones of the state. The company has commenced operations at Igbariam, and was expected to create about 1,000 jobs.
Also in the list of the big agro-based companies that are domiciled in Anambra, are NOVTEC Farms Ltd, for the resuscitation of Anambra State Rice Project at Omogho and Ndikelionwu; Joseph Agro Ltd, for the rehabilitation of Omor Rice Mill and Irrigated Rice Production at Omor and Ufuma; Eckcel Farms Ltd, for commercial cassava and tomatoes production and processing at Omasi, among others.
Anambra is also into partnership with Eforce Agro Development for the procurement and management of tractors at Awkuzu Tractor Base, and has established rice mills with dis-stoners in some rice producing communities in order to improve the quality of rice produced in the state to meet international standards. It is on record that the popular Anambra Rice is an outcome of Anambra’s agricultural revolution; it defeated other brands from South Africa, Morocco, Namibia, Cameroun, Egypt, and Ghana, as the best rice in Africa at the African Products Forum held in Lagos few years ago.
In addition, Anambra has in recent time, established Agricultural Training Centre at College of Agriculture, the now Anambra State Polytechnic, Mgbakwu, to empower and train the youth on various agric skills and livestock productions.
Since 2014, Anambra has been consistent in the procurement and distribution of agro-inputs free of charge to the farmers in the state. According to data from the state agric ministry, “the 2021 Agricultural Mission is to increase cassava from 275,832MT to 2,139,944MT, Rice from 80,000MT to 525,000MT, maize from 15,902MT to 74,935MT, increase vegetable to 482,400MT, and yam to 110,000MT”.
Aside exporting onugbu and ugu vegetables, earlier last year, Anambra came up with Home Farming (Ugbo Azuno) initiative, whose objective is to encourage the people to cultivate vegetables and economic plants around their homes.
An industrialist, Chief C. U. Mbaji of Lake Petroleum Ltd, once revealed in a press interview that “about 100,000farmers in the agricultural value chain in the state have been empowered through different cooperatives with about N3b worth of agribusiness plans executed. In partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Anambra has linked up over 3,000 cooperatives to institutions offering credit facilities to farmers. Eighty km of feeder roads have been constructed to open access to 3,000 hectares of land while improved varieties of seed have been widely distributed to thousands of farmers”.
He added, Anambra had disbursed about N1.5b Micro Small and Meduim Enterprise Development Fund to over 20,000 agro-entrepreneurs.
Undoubtedly, it is not overstatement to say that Anambra has within the last seven years blazed a trail in the area of agriculture, putting up and strengthening the sector for food sufficiency and commercialisation. So, as the administration spearheading the cause is about winding up, it behooves the next person to occupy the Anambra’s seat of power to continue from where the present administration will stop, for food sufficiency and commercialisation.
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