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Okowa’s Giant Strides in Agriculture

by blcknyt1511
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by Nduka omodon

Nigeria’s diverse climate, from the tropical areas of the coast to the arid zone of the north, makes the growth and production of virtually all agricultural produce that can be grown in the tropical and semitropical areas of the world very possible.

Although the Agricultural holdings are generally small and scattered, farming is often of the subsistence variety characterized by simple tools and shifting cultivation. These small farms produce about 80% of the total food consumed in the country. Farmers in Nigeria engage in crop production, fishery, livestock and Poultry.

However, large-scale agriculture is not common. The economic benefits of large-scale agriculture are recognized and the government favors the formation of cooperative societies and settlements to encourage industrial agriculture.

In spite of an abundant water supply, a favorable climate, and wide areas of arable land, productivity is restricted owing to low soil fertility in many areas and the inefficient methods of cultivation.

In as much as the Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on oil, the agricultural sector contributes significantly to its economy. The National Bureau of Statistics estimates that twenty five percent (25%) of the GDP of the nation’s economy is largely made up of the Agriculture sector (a total value of N4.575 trillion) and Seventy Percent (70%) of its labor force is employed in this sector.

At independence, food export accounted for over Seventy Percent (70%) of Nigeria’s GNP. Forty years later, it is almost a complete reversal with food items accounting for over fifty percent (50%) of imports. The decline in food production can be attributed to Nigeria’s over dependence on Oil while largely neglecting the agricultural sector.

Owing to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the price of crude oil crashed drastically.

Nigeria did not earn foreign exchange from the sale of Crude oil in the month of April as a result of this. The nation’s crude oil production has been on the decrease since January 2020 with the month of April 2020 recording as low as 1,777,000 barrels a day compared to the 1,844,000 barrels a day for the month of march 2020.

The volatility of the Crude Oil market has necessitated the need for the nation to diversify into other sectors of the economy especially Agriculture with the sole objective of becoming self-sufficient in food production and a major player in the food/ Agro export business.

Interestingly, Delta State under the visionary leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, through the Ministry of Agriculture in the last five years have undertaken giant strides in achieving Agricultural growth and development thereby, improving the Socio- economic growth and development of the State especially the rural areas.

The aim is to provide excess food for local consumption, employment for the teeming youths of the state, industrial raw materials for agro-industries as well as alleviating poverty in the state.

The State Government while encouraging new entrants into Agriculture has empowered a lot of farmers in the state through various programs and projects.

The Palm Oil development scheme was developed to assist Oil palm farmers to increase their plantations. Over two hundred and twenty thousand (220,000) oil palm seedlings were raised and distributed to two hundred and fifty (250) farmers to cultivate five hundred (500) hectares of Oil palm in the year 2016. This created over four hundred direct and indirect jobs. Mini oil mills were equally fabricated and distributed to the Oil palm farmers in the State.

In acceding to the demand of Oil Palm farmers in the State, the Delta State Government established two new oil palm nurseries in oleh in Isoko South LGA and Arhagba Okpe in Okpe LGA in order to bring inputs nearer to the farmers. In each of these new nurseries, One hundred thousand (100,000) Oil Palm seedlings were raised while the nursery in Ejeme-Unor raised five hundred and fifty thousand (550,000) oil palm seedlings. Four hundred (400) existing and new Oil Palm farmers were assisted to cultivate eight hundred (800) hectares of oil palm in 2018. This equally created four hundred direct and one thousand indirect jobs.

Within the same year, four hundred thousand (400,000) improved oil palm seedlings were also raised at the three nurseries in Ejeme -Unor, Oleh and Aragba-Okpe and distributed to Three hundred and fifty (350) farmers to assist them in cultivating Seven Hundred (700) Hectares of oil palm farm land. The intervention created 2,080 cumulative jobs .

The rice development programe to promote all seasons rice farming was embarked upon by the state Government in 2016. Sixty (60) beneficiaries were trained and supported in cash and kind. Three rice processing mills were purchased and distributed to rice farmers in Obior in Aniocha North, Ikweghwu-Agbarho in Ughelli North and Onicha Ukwani in Ndokwa West LGAs respectively and this created Sixty direct and one hundred and Eighty indirect jobs.

The State Government further trained and empowered One Hundred and Ninety eight (198) rice farmers in the rice development project in 2017. Farm inputs consisting of fifteen thousand (15,000) kilograms of rice seeds, Nine hundred (900) bags of NPK fertilizers , Six Hundred (600) bags of Urea, Nine hundred (900) Litres of glyphosphate and Six hundred (600) litres of Orizo plus were distributed to rice farmers .Two hundred and forty two (242) hectares of rice farm was cultivated to produce One thousand five hundred (1,500) Metric tons of rice.

Under the Cassava Cuttings Multiplication and Distribution Programme, the State Government trained and sensitized farmers on the new improved TME 419, NR 8202 and NR 8082 cassava cuttings in 2017. A total of One Hundred and Nineteen (119) participants were trained and thereafter, they were empowered with the improved high yielding, disease resistance varieties of Cassava Cuttings. The yield per hectare is between 25 – 35 tons instead of 12 – 15 tons. So far, 176 farmers were empowered with 10,237 cuttings across the three (3) Senatorial Districts of the State to plant about 186.95 hectares of Cassava farms.

In its bid to promote fish farming in the State, fifty (50) persons were trained and engaged. The Delta State Government established two (2) fish farm clusters at Ewulu in Aniocha South and Mbiri in Ika North East Local Government Areas respectively. A total of Eighty (80) ponds were constructed at the clusters and at the first cycle of production, Sixty (60) metric tons of fish were harvested. The project generated fifty (50) direct jobs and Seventy (70) indirect jobs.

In order to close the huge gap created by low level of livestock production in the Country, the Delta State Government has embarked on various livestock production programs.
The State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture established a rapid Goat and Grass Cutter Multiplication unit at Delta State DARDA premises in Ibusa.

In 2019, one hundred and eighty-three (183) Livestock (Goat) farmers were trained on profitable goat farming skills using best practice management systems. Seven hundred and fifteen (715) persons were trained on Goat Fattening(Finishing) Enterprise.

Pig Multiplication and Farmers Support programme was also embarked upon by the State Government in 2018. The beneficiaries were trained and empowered with starters’ pack under a Youth Mentorship Scheme. Fifty Seven (57) direct jobs and many more downstream were created during and after the implementation.

Having considered the lucrative nature of Poultry business, its potential to create jobs through its value chain development and as a source of income to many households/families, the State Government undertook the training of Poultry farmers through its Broiler Out- Growers’ Scheme.
Sixty (60) poultry farmers were trained on modern production techniques and supported with loans to expand and improve their enterprises for sustainability at the total sum of Seventy Million, One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira (₦70,120,000) in year 2019.

To ensure that farmers in the State benefit from the CBN ANCHOR BORROWERS SCHEME (CBN – ABS), over Thirty Thousand (30,000) farmers have been registered across the selected enterprises of Cassava, Rice and Fisheries. However, about Five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fourteen (5,814) farmers met that criteria and have been fully accredited and approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to participate in the first phase of the programme. They have equally been trained.

The scheme is a financial model for small holder farmers in Rice, Cassava and Fish. It is designed to increase production and supply of raw materials to food processors. Through this scheme, qualified commodity out growers are assisted to identify an anchor firm (Off taker / processor) and supported with loans at 9% interest rate by the CBN to increase their farm holdings. High quality inputs and technical assistance are also provided for them.

CBN has set aside Two Billion Naira to implement this programme in the State in collaboration with the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and the Bank of Agriculture.

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