Agriculture contributes about 21.9 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment to close to 36.4 percent of the country’s population especially for those in the rural areas. Agriculture often serves as a fall back to national economy in times of national economic emergency hence regarded the mainstay of any economy.
This an Anambra governorship hopeful under the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, says, is still practiced on a subsistence level in the State despite the abundance of arable lands and other natural endowments that should have made Anambra a great agricultural State. “The total real investment in agriculture is less than the number anticipated or highlighted in the media. The combination of lack of technological development, political will, inefficient distribution of agricultural inputs and insufficient government support has led to underinvestment in agriculture in the State”.
Dr. Okwenna who was a former Commissioner of environment in the State, disclosed that if given the opportunity to serve as governor of the State his government, shall invest massively in agriculture to make Anambra a key agricultural state in Nigeria. ‘Combined with our quest for industrial development, we shall not only produce primary agricultural products, but will be committed to transforming them into finished and semi-finished products for distribution to other parts of Nigeria, West African Sub-region and for export out of Africa”. According to him, agriculture and agribusiness shall provide Ndi Anambra with large number of jobs, food, raw materials and contributes to food security, poverty reduction, wealth creation and to the development of trade and the economy of the State.
“We will designate Awka North, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum, Oyi, Ogbaru, Ekwusigo, Nnewi South, Ihiala, Orumba North and Orumba South Local Governments as the Agricultural Belts of Anambra State, based on the availability of arable lands and favourable climatic conditions prevalent in the areas. Under this arrangement, lands within these Agricultural belts, will be dedicated for increased agricultural production”.
Dr. Okwenna promised that his administration shall within the Agricultural Belts create Farm Estates where farmers are leased land for agricultural purposes for a period of time. “Farmers in these estates shall be encouraged and supported to mass produce tomatoes, vegetables, pepper, garden eggs, cucumber, watermelon, okra, teferia (Ugu), plantain, banana, cassava, yams, maize, rice, beans etc. We shall promote irrigation farming within the mapped-out Farm Estates to ensure all the year round farming activities. Access roads to these Farm Estates will be of top priority for the government for easy evacuation of produce.There will be provisions for residential farmer’s apartments for in-farm residents”.
He also disclosed that they will set up fish farm estates in some of the Agricultural Belts where government will provide the lead in building fish ponds and then lease out to investors and benefitting farmers at a fee or allocate lands for them to build their fish farms in a highly regulated environment over a period of time. “Veterinary Doctors and personnel with up scaled skills shall be assigned to regularly monitor developments within the Fish Farms Estate. Farmers within the estate shall have the advantage of cooperating to produce fish foods and droplets and getting hybrid juvenile fishes. Anambra Marketing Board shall be available to produce and supply them with feeds and market their fish products”. “The Fish Farm estates are expected to produce hundreds of thousands of tons of fishes every year and will not only satisfy our fish needs and export, but will produce tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs to young school leavers and graduates of fisheries”.
He said adequate security shall be available to secure the farms while provisions are made to accommodate resident farmers.
“In the same way, we shall establish Poultry and Pig Farm Estates across the State especially within the Agricultural Belt of the State. Just as with the Fish Farm Estates, Government shall build poultry farms and lease out to farmers, school leavers and investors or expanse of land mapped out and allocated to them to run their poultry farms in a regulated environment and assigned with experts to regularly monitor developments with the poultry and pig Farms Estates. These farms shall be supported by government through provision and supply of improved varieties and feeds. “The Anambra Marketing Board may arrange credit supply of feeds and hybrid day-old chicks/broilers and piglets to young school levers/farmers to encourage them to start poultry farming and pig rearing.
He is enthusiastic that through the scheme, Anambra State shall take over and supply Nigeria with chicken and poultry products and as well ensure that no Anambra youth or woman is left unemployed unless the person is lazy.
Dr. Okwenna, further promised that if given the mandate, his government will al place emphasis on livestock farming to provide Ndi Anambra with enough protein requirement without depending on imported or malnourished livestock. “We will designate some expanse of land within the Agricultural Belt for ranching and invite investors to take advantage of this. We will also invite and partner with Governments of Botswana and Namibia to develop and upscale the management of Ranches in Anambra State”.
While promising that his government will promote:
• Ehi-Igbo Variety, to ensure it does not go extinct, the guber hopeful hinted that they would cross-breed the Ehi-Igbo variety with imported cows from Botswana and Nnambia to improve their size and meat producing potentials as well as the goats.
On dairy farm he said “since we have a particularly young population and therefore need milk for growth. We will convert part of our livestock farms into Dairy Farms. Female cattle shall be raised within these farms for the purposes of producing milk. The milk shall be processed at the Diary farm for use within the State, for sales in other states and for export”. “We will bring the best breed of cattle for diary purposes. The Diary process may also produce cream, butter, cheese, mayonnaise, yoghurt, pasteurized nunu etc”.
Cereal (Rice) Farming:
Dr. Okwenna said, “We will advance the farming of rice, maize, wheat and other cereals in Anambra State and make our products very competitive in the Nigeria market. We will modernize our farming methods and promote irrigation farming extensively to ensure all year-round farming”. Furthermore, we will upscale our processing facilities to ensure a zero stone tolerance level and better packaging he added.
The governorship aspirant who dwelt extensively on Agro-Processing and Storage said, “We shall place great emphasis on processing and storage to reduce food losses and the economic returns to farmers” adding that government will be committed to providing synergy for proper processing of all agro-produce with appropriate technologies to add value, improve quality and provide enabling environment for preservation, storage and subsequent sales and distribution.
“We will promote and support the establishment of cottage industries in all parts of the State for processing of the food products and other products”.
According to him, the core strategy is to ensure that appropriate machines, equipment and technologies are locally fabricated, propagated and maintained within Anambra State. “The Anambra State Industrial Development Centre shall be dedicated to fabricating machines, equipment and molds locally to be used by industries within the State in order to reduce our dependence on imported machines and spare parts”.
“We will use Anambra Marketing Board to syndicate funds and partner with investors and industrialists to ensure the setting up of cottage industries across the State and to provide good corporate governance for the facilities”.
He said processing of agro produce from other neighboring states shall equally be encouraged to further enhance the economic development of the State.
Farm House Franchise: he said “We shall create a Farm House Franchise and ensure that they are established in all Communities within the State. This will give residents of Anambra Communities, the opportunity of accessing fresh organic foods, fruits and vegetables at affordable prices all year round. Franchise for this Farm House Brands will be sold to operators at a fee and they are supplied directly either from the Farm Estates or through the Anambra Market Board. A franchisee shall provide space and cooling system for the Farm House”.
He promised that government will through the Anambra Marketing Board periodically provide Farm Subsidy to genuine Farmers in all Farm Estates, Ranches, plantations among others across the state and that the subsidy may be through farm inputs, machinery, irrigation facilities, cultivars, seedlings to enhance food production in the State. “We shall establish the Anambra State Institute for Agricultural Research and Training, within the Agricultural Belt of the State, the Anambra State Institute for Agricultural Research and Training (ASIAR&T), shall be developed to research and develop options for achieving significant improvement in agricultural productivity, marketing and competitiveness.
The institute according to him, shall promote innovations, establish a knowledge management capacity and strengthen the agricultural research system. The Institute will run regular and part time training programmes on agricultural improvement and innovations. It will partner with foreign Institutions and experts especially from Israel, United States and Canada to upscale the knowledge of our agricultural practitioners” he said
He called on Ndi Anambra all over the world to join him so as to take Anambra State to the next level through agriculture.