By Essien Ndueso
Agricultural development under Governor Udom Emmanuel has catapulted Akwa Ibom state into a bastion of food sufficiency. A man with rare foresight and unprecedented creativity, Governor Emmanuel, on assumption of office caused a cherished revolution in the agricultural sector.
His drive towards Food Sufficiency necessitated the opening up of the hinterlands with high quality roads networks, creating access to the rich agricultural prospects across the State. This redeeming wind blew across Ini, Obot Akara, Uruan, Oron, Oruk Anam and others. Such critical opening up preceded and gave rise to the flourish and boom in agricultural activities in those areas.
The Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, the Foreign Direct Investment Committee comprising indigenous egg heads have worked hand in gloves with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Women Affairs to coordinate the Agricultural renaissance and diversify the state’s economy. Their efforts in line with the Terms of Reference spelt out by the Governor helped facilitate the acquisition of new improved seedlings of cocoa, maize and rice as well as fast tracked improved plantain and cassava productions.
Cocoa production received a special attention through the training of farmers on modern skills to embark on a cocoa maintenance scheme and only recently distributed Agro Chemicals –NAPSAC Sprayers to all cocoa farmers . This initiative ripened the successes and prosperity in cocoa production. The state has suddenly become the largest cocoa producing state in Nigeria.
There is also the revolution in the growth of vegetables like cucumber and tomatoes, with the establishment of large green houses in the state. This means that in season and out of season, the farms do not blink.
Mr Emmanuel has equally upped the ante of storage and processing of agricultural products to add value to the efforts of rural farmers. There are various cassava processing mills in the State; a grinding that is directly responsible for the crashing of the price of garri, and further attestation to the food sufficiency praxis of the State.
Farmers are fed improved inputs from the State Government ranging from improved cassava stems, rice seedlings and fertilizers, to encourage farmers to cultivate all year round and ensure abundant food in the state. Another staple food in Akwa Ibom State is Rice, and indeed there also has been a high rising profile in rice production. With rice mills strategically located in the State as the Ibom Agricon Rice at Ini Local Government Area, and yet another one, Sacam Rice Mill at Ikono, and the Ibom Golden Rice in Ibiono, there is an abundance of the commodity for the people.
The state government is embarking on distribution of improve seedlings to farmers and provision of mechanized farm implements to assist in the enhanced rice cultivation. The Commissioner for Ariculture and Women Affairs, Dr. Glory Edet, explained that the rice is cultivated both upland and swampy areas. The 11,000 hectares coconut plantation has received a boost with adequate attention to quality fertiliser while another span of land in Okobo has been reserved for more coconut plants to feed the Coconut Oil Factory being executed in the state.
The wind of industrialization has also blown refreshingly across agriculture. This is evident in the fertilizer blending plant to blend fertilizer to meet the needs of the local farmers. The fertilizer blending plant does not walk alone on the lane of industrialization brightened by agriculture. The five hundred metric tonnes capacity King’s Flour Mill is conspicuous as a cynosure of agricultural strides.
Beyond crop farming, the livestock market is also in the radar. Recently, the governor completed the central abattoir project in Itam, standing it out as the very best in this part of the country.
The Governor’s drive to make Akwa Ibom the poultry nerve center of the entire South South and South East regions, informed the completion of an ultra-modern world class hatchery for day old chicks at Mbiaya Uruan. This hatchery has a poultry farm for parents stock and also modern facilities for off-taking and processing the matured birds from farmers.
The vision of the Governor in stimulating the local economy and encouraging small and medium scale enterprises, prompted him to commence a 3bn naira revolving loan facility which means that traders, small businesses’ owners and are exposed to an interest free loan ranging from 100,000 to 5million naira. This is in addition to the interest free loan to N 2000 cassava and corn farmers.
Tens of thousands of traders can comfortably link the boost in their businesses to these visionary steps. The Governor has embarked on changing the story of market places in the State, with new markets replacing old dilapidated structures and capping it all with the ultra modern market in Eket.
The governor believes that the power sector is germane to the success of agricultural transformation in the State. Thus the revolution in the power sector, including the establishment of several power substations across the State has significantly reduced overhead cost in the production process of the food processing and other allied industries.
Governor Udom Emmanuel’s vision in the agricultural sector has passed a critical litmus test. During the most turbulent time of the Coronavirus that ravaged the world, with Nigeria having a taste of the chunk, Akwa Ibom State flew on the wings of agricultural planning. When there were no interstate movements, or the difficulty of, the food sufficiency vision of the State came to roost. The flour mill and rice mills in the State became like Joseph’s food pyramids in Egypt that saved the people.
Akwa Ibom State is a flagship in agriculture whether in cultivation of the soil for man’s use, tending of livestock, storage and processing of agricultural products or in their distribution and marketing. Governor Emmanuel is leading green revolution through well thought out fertilized agricultural policies and programmes.
He believes that for Akwa Ibom State to achieve food sufficiency, there must be more tractors in the farms than luxury SUVs in the streets. This is the secret of the bumper harvest in the agricultural sector that is witnessed in the State presently.
It is all-together, a leadership of fertile innovation and creativity in agriculture, where Governor Udom Emmanuel remains the farmer-in-chief. It is a flourishing experience in the State, in and out of season.