The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. Austin Chikezie has assured farmers of more benefits to them if they are committed to the State Government SMART Agenda programme.

Hon. Chikezie gave the assurance when he commissioned a rice mill for the Igala Women Rice Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Society at Oko, in Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta State.

The Agric Commissioner said that the citing of the Rice Mill at Oko was in recognition of the commitment of the Igala Rice Farmers in the State in rice production and the State Government’s SMART agenda, even as he said that they have paid back the previous loan given to them in 2016/2017 for rice cultivation.

“The Igala women who were considered for the processing mills have shown outstanding performance in promoting rice production in the State. This prompted the State Government to consider their request for a Rice Processing Mill”, the Commissioner stated.

He explained that the rice mill was not for any individual but for every person in the area who was committed to rice production, saying the Mill was one of the five rice mills the State Government was determined to establish in the State.

He revealed that three of such mills were purchased by the state government for the 2016/2017 Rice Value Chain Development Programme which were installed at Obior, Onitsha-Ukwuani and Agbarho.

The Commissioner thanked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for his passion and commitment for agricultural development in the State, especially rice production.

He further said that Delta State was now a rice producing state with zones good for rice cultivation, such as Illah, Oko and all the areas around the River Niger in the state.

Responding on behalf of the beneficiary, the leader of Igala in Asaba (ONU Igala), Alhaji Adamu Bakwondera thanked the state government for the gesture and assured that the mill would be put to judicious use.

Alhaji Adamu also called on more women to join in rice cultivation as it is a very good business.

Present at the occasion were the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sir Austin Oghoro, Special Assistant to the state governor on Non Indigenes Matter, Alhaji Muktar Usman, the President, Igala Rice Farmer Multipurpose Coop Society, Mrs Salamatu Adamu among others.

Highpoint of the event was the commissioning of the rice processing mill by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. Austin Chikezie.

Delta Set To Export Palm Oil As Okowa Flags Off Distribution Of 220, 000 Oil Palm Seedlings

DETERMINED to make the people of Delta State prosperous through the production of palm oil for local consumption and export, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has flagged-off the distribution of 220, 000 palm seedlings to be planted in 1, 517 hectares of land.

The ceremony which was christened ‘flag off of the 2018 smallholder oil palm scheme’ took place at the Ejeme-Unor, Aniocha South local government area of Delta State.

“Prior to the advent of crude oil, oil palm played a leading role in the economic lives of our people, the significance of the commodity manifested in the part it played as a foreign exchange earner in the early years of independence and the Delta area of the former Mid-West State was noted for its leadership in the production of palm oil until attention was shifted from agriculture to crude oil in the mid 70’s,” the Governor said.

He stated, “this exercise is part of our effort to provide meaningful assistance to farmers towards boosting the production of palm oil in the State, it is meant to empower participants to key meaningfully into the SMART Agenda and a practical demonstration of my administration’s commitment to the prosperity of all Deltans through the production of palm oil both for local consumption and export.”

“My administration approved the raising of 220,000 elite seedlings in 2016 through the smallholder oil palm scheme to support 250 farmers, the 2018 planting exercise, for which we are here today, has 701 participants to cover about 1,517 hectares; the objective of the scheme is to support each beneficiary farmer to develop a minimum of five hectares of oil palm estate over time,” Governor Okowa said at the occasion which was attended by farmers and stakeholders from different parts of the state.

He continued, “successful participants in the scheme would be provided with seedlings, fertilizers and steel collars. Information on best practices and mentoring on oil palm production would be provided by Government through the Delta Agricultural Rural Development Authority (DARDA). Such assistance is intended to stimulate the production of oil palm through the Tree Crops Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to bring Delta State to its prime position as a leader in the industry.”

While urging farmers to utilize the opportunity provided by the scheme to start planting to enable them to reap the benefits, Governor Okowa assured the farmers that “all the support with regard to input, seedlings, steel collars and fertilizers are soft loans, which would be paid back under generous terms and conditions.”

Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Hon. Austin Chikezie had in an address, said, “this year, the three nurseries located at Ejeme-Unor, Oleh and Aragba Okpe have raised a total of 550, 000 seedlings,” adding that the farmers were also, supported financially by the Delta State government.

DTSG To Partner With AFAN For Agricultural Development

Delta State farmers have been assured of full Government support in all their farming activities in the state.

The Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Austin Chikezie gave this assurance during a courtesy call made to his office by the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Delta State Chapter.

Chief Chikezie said that the concluded election of the new exco members was a display of the preparedness of farmers in the State to partner with the Government.

While commending the association for its successful election he described the unity displayed by the group as impressive and encouraging.

The Commissioner reiterated on the Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa led administration’s commitment to bring about agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization in the State and assured of government’s willingness to partner with them to bring Agriculture in the state to a whole new level.

The Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Richard Asenime thanked the Commissioner for his support toward the success of the just concluded election adding that the association had come a long way.

He promised that the Association would hit the ground running to restore all that the state had lost during the ‘dark years’ and had already commenced on generating a database of all practicing farmers in the state so as to have accurate and up to date information about farmers in the state as well as help Government records.

MSMEs, Easiest Means Of Reducing Poverty – Okowa

MORE than 400 beneficiaries of the skill acquisition programmes of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration in Delta State had an exhibition program with Governor Okowa saying investment in Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) is the easiest means of reducing youth unemployment and poverty.

The exhibition program which took place in Asaba was witnessed by the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, wife of the Governor of Delta State, Dame Edith Okowa, Deputy Governor of Delta State, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro and his wife, Ebi; former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori and many others.

“Globally, it has been established that certain economic sectors and activities hold the highest potentials for job and wealth creation for the economy; these are agriculture, agribusiness, agro-based industries, vocational skills-based micro enterprises, cottage enterprises, small and medium scale enterprises as well as public works such as environmental sanitation, housing and road construction; in fact, interventions in these sectors are generally cost-effective and go a long way to reduce youth unemployment and poverty, while ensuring social inclusion, positive economic growth and sustainable development as has been observed in many countries in South Asia, South East Asia and Latin America,” the Governor said.

He continued, “through our flagship Skill Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), we have achieved what many thought was unthinkable; after two programme cycles, two thousand, three hundred and twenty four (2,324) previously unemployed youths are now small business owners and employers of labour.”

The Governor who lauded the products exhibition and business fair organised by the beneficiaries of Job Creation Scheme of his administration, disclosed that the beneficiaries were “trained and established in various enterprises including but not limited to ICT, hair dressing and makeover, catering and confectionary, cosmetology, craft/home care products, decoration and event management, electrical installation and repairs, fashion design and tailoring, shoe making, upholstery, welding and fabrication and auto-mechanic while the agricultural enterprises covered aquaculture, poultry, crop production, agro-processing and piggery.”

Chief Ibori at the event, said, “the people of Delta State did not make mistake by choosing you, Senator Okowa as their Governor, they believe you will deliver and you are delivering, thank you for remembering our youths because, at the end of the day, when we are gone, they will be the ones to take over from you and I.”

“I am indeed a Deltan and I have an opinion concerning issues in Delta State, I want to make it very clear, you have done very well and at the end of your eight years (Governor Okowa’s eight years as Governor), Deltans will be proud of you. Continue with your good work, we are solidly behind you and I want to call on all Deltans to continue to maintain the peace and security in the state so that this present level of development will continue,” Chief Ibori said.

Commissioner for Economic Planning in the state who is the Chairman, Steering Committee on Job Creation, Dr Kingsley Emu and the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh said the exhibition would provide the beneficiaries of the skill acquisition programmes the opportunity to make vital business contacts, create business relationship with investors and communicate their business vision to financial institutions.

Food Prices Fall In Asaba

Prices of staple food, including garri, yam and potato, have decreased in Asaba and environs, a market survey has shown.

Buyers at the Ogbeogonogo Market, yesterday, expressed happiness over the situation as the food dealers attributed the price fall to the reduction
in the cost price of the items.

Some farmers said the reduction in the prices was due to the bumper harvest which resulted from early and adequate rainfall in Delta and other neighbouring states.

Mrs Angela Okonta, a food dealer, said that a sack of garri which was previously sold for N20,000 now sold for N17,000. According to her, “a bushel of garri had previously been sold for N1,000 in June now went for N700. A bag of potatoes which was sold for N2,000 some months ago, now goes for N1,400. A medium sized tuber of yam previously sold for between N500 and N600 is now sold for between N300 and N400, depending on the buyer’s bargaining power,” she said.

A rice seller, Mr Eugene Nkenchor, said that a 50 kilogramme bag of rice which was earlier sold for N18,000 now sold for N17,000. “We now sell a bushel of rice for N1600 instead of N2,000,” Nkenchor added.

He said that there was a slight drop in the price of white beans as a bag of the commodity now went for N15,000 instead of N16,500. Nkenchor said a bushel of the item was now sold for N1,300 as against the former price of N1,500.

“But there is a slight increase in the price of brown beans. A sack of brown beans earlier sold for N17,000 now costs N17,500.

The dealer said a bushel of brown beans was previously sold for N1,400 but now sold for N1,700.

A farmer, Mr Nwanne Obi, said there had been a good harvest in the state this year due to early and adequate rainfall as well as the relative peace in the state.

Obi said that the yams in the market now were planted in the riverine communities between November and December last year. He said that those cultivated upland
between March and April had yet to mature, pointing out that it took a minimum period of six months for them to mature.

According to Mr Bartholomew Isichie, another farmer, garri and other products of cassava cost higher during the dry season because of the difficulty in harvesting the crop.

“During the rainy season, it is easier to harvest; the soil is soft and it is easy to dig out cassava tubers. He said that potatoes were much available in the market and cheap because the crop was usually planted in March and April and that it required only three months for it to mature.

State Government Re-Establishes 44 Flood-Victim Fish YAGEPreneurs.

The State Government’s Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) beneficiaries in fish production displaced by ravaging flood early this year at Akakpo-Anwai Fish Cluster have been re-established.

The beneficiaries, 44 in number, are to begin afresh with new starter pack at Anwai YAGEP Fish Cluster comprising 2 fish ponds each, 2000 juveniles, fish feeds to train their fish to maturity, #50,000.00 start-up allowance, #15,000.00 monthly stipend for 6 months among other items.

Handing over the fish ponds to the beneficiaries on behalf of the State Government, the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof Eric Eboh, thanked them for their patience over the unfortunate flood that submerged their ponds and carried away their fish.

He reiterated the State Government’s commitment to re-establishing them to ensure that they secure a sustainable means of livelihood and that they grow their businesses to enable them to train and employ other unemployed youths.

“You are here to take ownership of these ponds, to possess and prepare the ponds to receive your juveniles next week. You will receive your feeds, 22mm first, while 3mm, 4.5mm, 6mm and 9mm will be distributed in batches. Today, you will be enrolled for 6 months stipend of #15,000.00 each month and #50,000.00 cash allowance next week,” Prof Eboh emphasized.

On his part, the consultant who developed the technology, Engr. Dele Okhidievbie, said asbestos is best used in building fish ponds in swampy terrain, adding that there is no difference between the fish ponds supported by asbestos and the uncovered earthen ponds.

He explained that it is a good model of fish farming used in Zimbabwe in swamping areas where the soil cannot retain water.

While advising them to maintain strict discipline and hygiene to avoid water pollution and introduction of virus to the ponds, he said the technology will address every threat of flooding.

Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries, Joel Egwuenu from Ika North Local Government Area, expressed their gratitude to the Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa and the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof Eric Eboh, for the efforts put in to ensure that they are re-established after they lost all their fish to flood.

He pledged the members of the cluster’s commitment to ensuring that that the vision of the Governor is realised after the cycle and that they grow to become self-reliant and employers of labour.

DTSG Flags Off Improved Cassava Stem Distribution In Agbor

The Delta State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has distributed 4,000 bundles of new improved variety of Cassava stems to 70 cassava farmers in Ika axis of the State.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. Austin Chikezie while flagging off the distribution at Agbor stated that the aim of the programme was to improve farmers harvest and to create wealth.

“Specifically, the 2017 cassava programme is put together to increase cassava production for consumption and local industry, generate employment, increase yield from 16 metric tons to 30 – 45 metric tons per hectare, boost income of cassava farmers by about 100% and attract investors.” the Commissioner stated.

According to the Commissioner, “Delta State has ecologically been adjudged as one of the best in Nigeria for the cultivation of Cassava, the use of local varieties has been prevalent in the State and this has resulted in low yield. It is necessary to note that the efforts of the Nigeria Root Crop and Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan had yielded improved cassava varieties that are diseases resistant, early maturing and with average yield of between 30 – 45 metric tons.”

Hon. Chikezie revealed that the administration of Governor Okowa approved the introduction of the improved cassava varieties in Delta State in the 2017 budget year, saying that the State Government was poised to intervene massively in the agricultural sector in the State.

The Commissioner explained that the schedule of distribution of the improved cassava cuttings to farmers in Delta State was in three batches; October and December, 2017 for late planting and March 2016 for early planting, saying that the cuttings would be distributed among farmers who had expressed interest and had their farm land verified.

He however revealed that beneficiaries of the improved cassava cuttings would pay back with cuttings of equal measure giving to them at harvest which would in turn be given to other farmers in the State.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sir Austin Oghoro urged the farmers to take advantage of the cassava cuttings distributed to them, to improve their cassava production thereby increasing their income.

Highpoint of the programme was the handing over of cassava cuttings bundles to individual beneficiaries who were at the ceremony.

In the same vein, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources in order to ensure that the State Government’s effort at increasing cassava production in the State is successful, had embarked on training the Assistant Chief Agriculture Officers (ACAOs), Subject Matters Specialists (SMEs), and the Block Extension Services Officers (BES) and in the State on how to manage farmers who got the improved Cassava cuttings distributed to farmers in the State recently.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources urged the trainees to take the training seriously as they would be held accountable for any flop in the programme.

A research scientist and an Agric Extension Communication Expert from the National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, Dr. Okwusi Moses stated that there were innovations in the management of the new improved cassava varieties which the officers needed to know to achieve optimal yield.

Dr. Okwusi stated that the improved cassava was resistant to disease and also matured earlier than the old cassava varieties used by the farmers.

Okowa Calls For Establishment Of Agro-Based Industries

DELTA State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has said individuals should be encouraged to set up agro-based industries to encourage farmers.

According to the Governor, with the rate Nigerians have gone into farming, it is important for agro-based industries to be established to encourage the farmers to increase their yields through the industries.

The Governor made the call during a Town Hall meeting with the people of Patani Local Government Area at Patani.

He lauded the way Deltans, in particular, have embraced agriculture, observing that with different successes recorded by beneficiaries of his administration’s empowerment programmes in agriculture, it has become important for agro-based industries to be established.

“If we have small industries in relation to what we produce, it will help us to increase our production, preserve what we have produced and make it more acceptable to the consumers which will boost our socio-economic status as farmers,” the Governor said.

He emphasized, “as a government, we will encourage individuals to set up agro-based industries in areas we have economies of scale.”

The Governor who commended the commitment of farmers to make Delta State the food basket of the nation urged the farmers to organize themselves into cooperative societies to enable them to benefit from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sponsored Anchor-borrowers programme.

He disclosed that Deltans did not benefit much from the programme because of low awareness, and called on the farmers to also, liaise with relevant agencies to ensure that they benefit from the programme and used the occasion to inform the people that the free child and maternal health care programme of his administration is on course.

“We have free maternal and healthcare programme for children under five, we have also launched Contributory Health Insurance Scheme that will capture all Deltans, the health of Deltans is of great concern to my administration and with the insurance scheme, there will be affordable and quality health care for our people,” the Governor said.

Answering questions as it concerns clock-in and clock-out biometric exercise for local government councils’ workers, the Governor said, it was not a punitive measure but to ensure that only those are paid salaries are true workers.

“It is not a punishment, it is not going to be forever but, if it is effective for three months, we will be able to identify true civil servants because, it will be difficult for you to work elsewhere and also, work in the civil service,” he said.

Earlier, Chairman of the local government council, Mrs Josephine Abeki had in an address, said, “your (Governor Okowa’s) SMART Agenda which is putting smiles on the faces of the good people of Delta State is clearly seen by all in the various appointments and empowerment of indigenes from the local government area in your (Governor Okowa’s) government.”

World Food Day: Delta To Export Plantain And Garri Flour To The International Community

Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta says the state government is partnering with farmers in the state to commence export of plantain and garri flour to the United Kingdom.

The governor, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Tam Brisibe, stated this on Monday at an occasion to mark the World Food Day in Asaba.

He noted that the state has a comparative advantage and ranked best within the country in the production of plantain and garri, a by-product of cassava.

The governor said the theme of the Day, “Change the Future of Migration, Invest in Food Security and Rural Development,” was in line with the state government’s agricultural empowerment programme.

Okowa said that the world in the last few years recorded great migration of people, particularly the youths, from the rural to urban centres in search of jobs, safety and security. He said that the incidence of migration had remained a global challenge and a threat to agriculture.

“Plans are at advanced stage to ensure that Delta joins agricultural crop exporters; we are looking at the possibility of exporting red and white garri and plantain flour to the UK.

“The export programme will facilitate and improve agricultural production activities in the rural areas in respect of cassava production and plantain thereby reversing the trend of rural-urban migration,” Okowa said.

The governor also said the solution to the challenge was in the provision of farming methods to attract youths as well as provision of lands and other incentives to the farmers while boosting rural development. He said the state agricultural programme was tilted to the rural areas which had encouraged and empowered many youths, women and retirees in returning to farming.

“Seventy five per cent of the state population reside in the rural communities and this administration has put up programmes to develop youths and women through agricultural empowerment programmes.

“We are creating enabling environment for our rural farmers through rural electrification, water and beautification projects across the 25 Local Government Areas of the state.

“Rural urban migration is a threat to food security and as the youths migrate to the urban centres they leave farming to the elderly and aged farmers in the rural areas; this is also a challenge to the urban centres.

“So, we must develop the rural areas to make migration to the urban less attractive and to invest in food security,” he said.

Earlier, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Austin Chikezie, said the state government had adopted community friendly and sustainable agricultural practices.

“Such practices include co-operative farming, cluster fish farming, cluster youths empowerment programme and promoting peaceful herdsmen-farmer’s meetings. This is vital to promoting peace in the community, reducing youth restiveness, creating jobs, increasing youth income and reducing rural-urban migration,” Chikezie said.

He said government had keyed into the Central Bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and other initiatives to boost oil palm, rice, fish and cassava to ensure food security, create jobs and wealth.

The display of produce for exhibition and sale by the farmers and the presentation of Certificates of Participation by the state government as well as the recognition of some outstanding efforts by some farmers were the high points of the day.

FOOD SUFFICIENCY: Okowa Advocates Increase In The Activities Of Extension Service Officers

TO boost food production in the country, Delta State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has advocated an increase in the activities of agricultural extension service officers to farmers.

The Governor made the call at a one-day interactive session with 2015/2017 beneficiaries of Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) in Asaba.
According to Governor Okowa, “agriculture remains the greatest employer of labor, it is encouraging that most of our youths that we have empowered to operate in that sector are doing well, but, we must have enough people in the extension service to encourage farmers.”
“I am glad that our youths have embraced agriculture, it will lead to food sufficiency and boost our drive in creating entrepreneurs; we are going to strengthen the mentoring and monitoring unit to ensure that beneficiaries of our empowerment programs are encouraged to do well,” he said.
Governor Okowa observed that those who have succeeded in their businesses were determined to succeed, asserting, “if you stay resolute, success story will surely come; challenges will surely come but, you need to be resilient to do it right.”
“I am glad that a lot of you are doing well, people in government should be able to patronize you, I am very impressed with the success stories I have heard today,” he stated.
Beneficiaries of the empowerment programs gave different stories about their challenges, their successes, and their prospects and gave commendation to Governor Okowa’s administration for giving them the opportunity to be employers of labor.
Mr. Itdjere Ericson, Mrs. Linda Nnabundo, among others, suggested that with the level they have grown within two years of establishing their businesses, they were capable of training beneficiaries of the skill acquisition programs and called for patronage from the state government.