Agriculture has been described as mankind’s primordial occupation and has been a veritable anchor in the sustenance of many households, who have depended on their homestead farms for food security and to drive the grassroots economy.
Agriculture produces the raw materials for a large number of industrial processes, and has also provided a most effective solution to the problem of unemployment in developing countries, especially given the right policy and related incentives and support.
The sector has proven to be the strongest and most effective driver of wealth creation and serving as an engine of growth in the Small Medium Enterprise sector, which is the hub of employment, income-generation and wealth creation in any emerging capitalist system.
The strength and power of any nation depends on its ability to feed her population.
The economic growth of the most developed and developing economies is based on agricultural policies and programme.
At a time when the global economic crisis is taking its toll on nation’s economy, the world needs to be reminded that it is not everyone that works in offices and factories. The crisis is threatening the small scale farmers and rural areas of the world where 70 per cent of the world’s hungry live and work, according to global estimates.
With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, according to FAO report, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger.
In Nigeria, prior to the discovery of oil, the country was an agriculture driven-nation, exporting large quantities of palm oil, groundnuts, cocoa etc., but today the agricultural sector lies in ruins as attention has been shifted to oil and gas.
Though several policies have been initiated by successive governments in an attempt to encourage agriculture but to no avail due to lack of the political will to implement those policies, inconsistencies, corruption and total negligence. Some of the Agric policies include Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), the Green Revolution, Presidential Initiative on Rice Production, Presidential Initiative on Cassava Production, National Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS), DEFRI and others.
In Rivers State, in an attempt to change the ugly trend of total neglect on agriculture and to diversify the economy of the state, the Rivers State Government, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi has in 2009, the year under review planned to reactivate the State-owend moribund Risonpalm Oil Nucleus and Delta Rubber under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the envisaged new acquisition of 10,000 hectares of land for oil palm and rubber plantings.
This he said would enhance production and generate massive employment opportunities for the youths.
According to the Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Emmanuel Chinda, the major objective achieved in agriculture by the present administration is the payment of the arrears of 2008 and 2009 counterpart fund contributions to the Rivers State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) agricultural projects which the National Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS), Root and Tuber Expansion Programme (RTEP), Community Based Natural Resources Management Programme (CBNRMP) and FADAMA III targeted to touch the lives of the rural populace of the state.
He said the micro-credits scheme of the state government through the microfinance banks was designed to assist rural formers and fisher folks obtain hitherto, scarce credit facility for increased agricultural production, adding that support was also given to large farm establishments and cooperatives in the state to access the commercial agriculture credit facility put up by the federal government and facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria with a view to boosting food production in the state.
The Commissioner further maintained that the State Government has during the year 2009 installed palm oil processing mills across different sites in the state with plans to also install rice processing mills that have been received at difference centres, noting that the projects when successfully executed, will encourage the development of oil palm and rice estate farmers whose production capacity were limited due to lack of availability of processing facilities, also it will enhance household incomes and create employment opportunities in the benefiting communities.
To boost food production, government in 2009 provided substantial agricultural inputs at subsidised rates to farmers, revitalised the feed mills and hatcheries at Rumuodomaya and Atali farms, resuscitated the divisional agricultural farms, cassava multiplication project and has attracted increased funding to the agricultural sector, Chinda noted.
Effort was also made to ensure that the organise private sector invest their capital in agricultural production, processing and marketing with a view to enhancing agricultural production as well as achieving food security in the state.
Stakeholders in agriculture who spoke to The Tide commended the efforts of the Amaechi led administration in agriculture compared to the neglect imposed on the sector by the past administrations, especially on the past administrations, especially on the projects that are counterpart fund dependent like the FADAMA, RTEP, (BNRMP) NSPFS.
According to the Rivers State Fadama III co-ordinator, Mr. Kingsley Amadi, the payment of the counterpart fund for 2008/2009 has enabled the World Bank to release the initial deposit of $600,000 for onward disbursement to farmers in the state.
He explained that in each of the states, 20 local government areas will benefit and 10 communities will benefit and in each of the 10 communities 10 Fadama Users Groups (FUGs) are expected to benefit, noting that in the state, 1,100 FCAs/FUGs have been registered as cooperative while another 1,100 are in the making all under the courtesy of counterpart fund paid by the government to boost agriculture
In spite of the progress made on agriculture in 2009, governments at all levels should strategise to tackle the challenges posed by climate change, long spells of draught, many years of neglect on agriculture, increasing use of arable land for production of crops that can be turned into biofuels, lack of knowledge of fertiliser and agro-chemical use, pollution in the coastal areas, militancy and sea piracy in the Niger Delta.
Government should prioritise agriculture and increase its budgetary allocation to the sector, rehabilitate the decayed rural infrastructure like the feeder roads and farm estates to enable farmers produce and transport their produce to the available market. There should be adequate re-orientation of youths towards earning a living through agriculture, processing mills and storage facilities should be constructed to enhance availability of produce all round the year and to curb wastages of produce.
Capacity building and training young school leavers on agriculture should be encouraged, provision of farm inputs, adequate funding of agricultural agencies like ADP and others, should be maintained.
Inconsistencies in the policy thrust of government on agriculture should be discouraged if progress must be made in agriculture in 2010. Farmers accessibility to micro-credit, markets, information on modern farming methods/technology and mechanised farming should be encouraged.
Traders Protest FG’s Move To Restore Festac Town
The move by the Federal Government to restore Festac Town in Lagos to its original status has sparked up protest among traders occupying Agboju Amuwo Planks and Building Materials Market.
The traders on Wednesday, protested at the FHA office in Festac Town against the demolition of their market, following the demolition of illegal structures by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) ahead of the restoration.
The Tide recalls that there was a petition to the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, in 2020 about illegal structures that had taken over Festac Town.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on the restoration of Festac town organised by FHA, last year, its South-West Zonal Manager, Mr Akintola Olagbemiro, said, “This year, we commenced the restoration of Festac town, following the consent judgement from the court against illegal occupants of Festac land.
“Our action is to save the residents from the insecurity that has taken over the entire Festac town as a result of illegal structures everywhere”.
The chairman of allottees of First Gate to Third Gate, Mr Kole Olatunji, in his remarks at the meeting said the land from First Gate to Third Gate was allocated between 1985 and 1999, noting that with the consent judgment, original owners of the land as allocated should take over their plots.
But the chairman of plank market, Muhammed Bello, protested the seven-day notice given to traders to vacate the place without alternative arrangements.
Bello said: “How do they expect us to remove our wares in seven days?
“What we want is that they should allow us to remain there and we will pay whatever amount they ask us to pay”.
Speaking in the same vein, the chairman of Cane Chair and Furniture Association, Emmanuel Okoye said: “We need freedom. Let them tell us where they want us to stay. That place was swampy. We filled the place with several millions of Naira which we got as loans.
“We also rely on loans to do our business. Whatever the government wants us to pay; we are ready to pay to remain there. We have been there for 27 years. What we lost to the demolition is over N300 million”.
Fuel Tanker Explosion Kills Five, Injures Two In Ogun
No fewer than five persons were on Wednesday burnt to death, while two others sustained first degree of injury in a fuel tanker explosion at Ajilete, along Owode-Idiroko road, in Yewa South local government area of Ogun State.
Eyewitness accounts revealed that a truck bearing 33,000 litres of petroleum product was descending the steep portion of the road when its tank suddenly detached from truck’s body and tumbled to the ground with a bang.
The explosion, the witnesses said, killed five persons on the spot, while two other persons were injured.
The Tide learnt that the seven victims were all residents of the area where the accident occurred.
Confirming the incident, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Commander, Idiroko Unit, Akinwunmi Olaluwoye, said five deaths were recorded in the accident which occurred at about 8.15 am on Wednesday.
According to him, the remains of the dead had been claimed by their families.
He disclosed that a bus and a motorcycle were also caught in a web of the explosion and razed.
He said, “no vehicle rammed into the tanker. The tank dropped off from the back of the tanker and exploded. The number of persons involved are seven; five dead, two injured.
“The driver had taken away the head of the truck as at the time we got there. But we have allowed the police to take charge and handle that aspect”.
Travellers To Access $4,000 As CBN Boosts Forex Supplies
Nigerians travelling abroad can now access a maximum amount of $4,000 foreign exchange from banks following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) announcement to increase forex supplies.
The CBN had said in a recent statement that it had concluded plans to increase the amount of foreign exchange allocated to banks to meet legitimate needs.
This followed the warning by the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to Deposit Money Banks to desist from denying customers the opportunity to purchase foreign exchange.
The purposes to access forex included Personal Travel Allowance, Basic Travel Allowance, tuition fees, and medical payments as well as Small and Medium Enterprises transactions or for the repatriation of Foreign Direct Investment proceeds, the CBN had stated.
Sources from some of the banks said those travelling on business trips could also access a maximum amount of $5,000 for each trip.
At a virtual Bankers’ Committee meeting last week, the bankers discussed how the CBN intended to assist with forex to ensure availability for the upcoming summer period and the return of students to school in September.
The CBN also said the BDCs would continue to have their weekly allocations.
The committee observed that the rates were going up.
It stated, “The CBN has said that all the banks must make availability at all times and anyone who wants to buy BTA, PTA, medical fees, student school fees and all the eligible invisible purchases to ensure that Nigerians are not forced to go and queue in the parallel market.
“So what the Central Bank is doing is to encourage all banks to make sure that there is available forex at all times, and that his information should be communicated on all our platforms.
“We are asking our customers to come to the branches and for BTA, for example, present the required documents, which are basically your international passport, your visa, your valid ticket and fill up the form in the bank.
“And what we have been instructed to do is ensure that we don’t turn anybody back and that we should request from the Central Bank once we exhaust the forex that we have.
“The idea is to have a hitch-free summer period and the resumption for children to go back to school. The idea is to ensure there is less pressure on the forex and then the rates will come down”.
Speaking during the virtual meeting, the Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said, “I think again as part of the Central Bank’s role in terms of price stability and the need to support small and medium enterprises, there was highlight of the need for banks to go and support SMEs who import small raw materials for them to set up their businesses”.
The Managing Director, Ecobank, Patrick Akinwuntan, said, “All banks are available to ensure forex need is met.”
Managing Director, Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, said the CBN had provided sufficient foreign exchange to meet the needs of all legitimate Nigerian travellers and therefore, the idea of going to any other market should not arise at all.
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