Akwa Ibom: Pivoting Food Production In Nigeria
By Uwemedimoh Umanah
Food is a basic necessity of life in addition to shelter and clothing. No man can live without food and proper feeding engenders a healthy population.
The desire of every government to feed its citizenry has been the priority of governments the world over. That is the reason governments in developed countries subsidize agricultural production reasonably.
In the US, The original intent of farm subsidies was to provide economic stability to farmers during the Depression to ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans.
1956-57, it cost the British taxpayer $655,200,000 to subsidize agriculture, a sum more than enough to pay the whole of the agricultural wages bill. Had this money been used instead to reduce the government’s annual budget deficit, there need not have been the inflation of the British currency which has deprived provident classes of the community of nearly 50 per cent of the value of their savings since World War II. As there are only some 500,000 farms in Great Britain, the subsidy averages $1,310 per farm.
This burning need led to the formulation of Agricultural policies such as the Operation Feed in 1976 the Nation and Green Revolution in Nigeria which was part of the fourth National Development Plan in April 1980.
These policies helped tremendously in boosting food production in the country since independence. But the challenge of producing enough food to feed the populace remains a mirage due to policy somersaults by successive governments in Nigeria.
Akwa Ibom state under Governor Udom Emmanuel has become a model in food production in Nigeria. Through a conscious, bold policy and strategic insights, the state has formulated and implemented policies capable of engendering food sufficiency. Two (2) of the salient points of the Governor’s 5-point agenda are wealth creating and poverty alleviation. In this regard, His Excellency sees agriculture as an alternative to the oil economy.
Today in Akwa Ibom, government has empowered the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES) to engender agro business. That is the reason tomato, cocoa and coconut plantations have evolved in the state. The state inspired coconut refinery would also create a sustainable economy and industrial base for the state. Speculatively, it has been said that the refinery would create over 5000 direct and indirect jobs. This is predicated on its over 250 uses, implying that different companies would be producing different finished products from Coconut.
This is an idea driven by a careful and deliberate development strategy and thoughtful blueprint.
Truth be said, tomatoes produced in Akwa Ibom courtesy of AKEES have flooded our markets, making it unnecessary for traders to travel to the northern part of the country or anywhere else to buy the product.
Recently too, His excellency also established and commissioned cassava processing plants in all the senatorial districts and few months later, garri production in the state have been tripled, while the cost has astronomically reduced. Mrs Veronica Dennis, a Garri trader in Akpan Andem market described Governor Emmanuel’s vision in this regard as unprecedented. ‘We have never had it this good the processing plant our Governor built in Eket has brought about increased production and drastically reduced the price of the commodity…’ Her opinion was corroborated by one Anthony Akpan who admitted that he recently joined well meaning Akwa Ibomites to buy garri at an exceedingly low price at the secretariat, in a Programme organized by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Trade Matters. ‘This gesture by our Governor of investing in food production has really helped the common man like me. Garri was gradually turning into an elitist food due to rise in price but I think with this new focus by the state government, things are getting better. May God bless our Governor…’
The multiplier effect of the food revolution is that the governor has created an Agro-driven economy, capable of complementing and possibly substituting the oil/ petroleum economy.
Agro business being the yardstick of the south East Asian miracle, would create a tremendous number of jobs in the state and will reduce pressure on the civil/public service.
An academic research in the University of Uyo recently has shown that in the last 24 months, more agro based business have been established in Akwa Ibom than in any other part of the country, thanks to the ingenuity of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Uwemedimoh Umanah, an International public Analyst, writes this piece in Uyo