Editor's note: The special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on local media, Prince Emmanuel Sam, writes on the steps taken by the Akwa Ibom government to ensure that agriculture becomes a mainstay of the state's economy.
In line with his determination to diversify the economy away from oil, Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration is investing massively in agriculture. Talk of Akwa Ibom without oil in the nearest future, this is it.
In the past, it was believed that certain agricultural plants and crops such as cucumber, carrot, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, are not suitable for cultivation in the state. But such myth has been long set aside following massive successes recorded with the test run of it which was anchored by AKEES. Today, these crops are cultivated in large hectares and sold in commercial quantities.
Conscious of the dwindling revenue accruing to the government from oil, owing to the uncertainty in the international oil market and as the world gradually moves away from fossil fuel to renewable energy, which has further reduced the demand for crude at the international energy market, the Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel has systematically remodeled and overhauled agriculture towards ensuring it's viability as not just an alternative money-spinning sector but one that can be structured to be enticing and lucrative enough to entice young graduates to see agriculture as a means to self-sustainability, job creation and wealth generation.
Just recently, the government of Akwa Ibom state through the ministry of agriculture, in its bid to promote food sufficiency, distributed over 2,000 goats to livestock farmers in the state. According to the commissioner for agriculture, Dr. Glory Edet, the distribution was in fulfillment of Governor Emmanuel's avowed promise to ensure the sufficiency of food and consumables cultivated and reared in the state.
African dwarf goat species were presented to the farmers which she said are the best in terms of taste and quality but lamented that they were almost going into extinction at the local goods markets.
And the government's efforts seem to be yielding some positive results. Just recently, a group of young and vibrant agro experts under the aegis of Agricultural Graduates and Professionals (AGRAP) stated their readiness to collaborate with the Akwa Ibom state government in order to boost staple food production.
The national president of AGRAP, Sampson Izonguwu, who made their position recently during a courtesy call on the commissioner for information and strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong in his office in Uyo, said the group made up of professionals in various fields of agriculture, with a common bias for mass production of staple food inline with the food sufficiency drive of the Udom Emmanuel's administration, wants to partner the Akwa Ibom state government in the area of sustainable food production and profitability in the agricultural sector.
Agriculture has recorded steady growth since the Udom led administration came on board and has contributed towards getting the state's economy back on its feet after the country’s recent recession and supported macroeconomic stability against a backdrop of volatility in the global oil market. Akwa Ibom is home to vast amounts of arable land and a large, diverse production base that includes many high-value cash crops, offering significant opportunities for development and investment.
Recognising the sector’s high growth and export potential, the state government has increasingly focused on agricultural development as a support mechanism for macroeconomic and non-oil growth. This explains the rush by young Akwa Ibom sons and daughters moving away from the white-collar jobs to embracing and becoming entrepreneurs through investments in agriculture.
Agriculture, it must be noted, is the largest single economic sector in Nigeria by contribution to real GDP growth, and a major source of employment for the country. Although the sector’s growth rate has fluctuated in recent years, it has remained positive and the sector also holds high potential for future growth.
Nigerian agriculture can be divided into four broad subsectors: crop production, livestock, forestry, and fisheries. Almost all these areas are being given priority attention by the government, owing to the governor's philosophy and belief that agriculture is fundamental to every country’s prosperity, security, and sovereignty.
This explains why farmers, processors, researchers, and policy-makers at all levels are working together under the economic recovery plan of the government to promote and ensure a vibrant agricultural economy. The result is that Akwa Ibomites now enjoy not only an abundant food supply but also nutritional choices and affordability. Akwa Ibom is now beginning to understand the critical link between agriculture and prosperity. In a few years' time, Akwa Ibom will have agriculture becoming the new oil.
But to Governor Emmanuel, potential alone is not enough but finding a way to unlock it. This perhaps explains his urgent need to quickly put in place a major transformation in the agricultural sector and his vision is anchored on the premise that the change has to be across the entire value chain – from field to mill to table and another set to the factory for export so as to earn foreign exchange. The focus would be on creating ecosystems in which small, medium and large-scale farmers would not only co-exist, but flourish together.
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Jerrywright Ukwu is a senior political/defence correspondent at Legit.ng based in Abuja. He is a graduate of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos and the International Institute of Journalism in Abuja. He is also an active member of both the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. He spends his leisure-time reading history books.