Sustaining The Songhai Initiative

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By 2015, the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi may handover to his successor a state that is built on a solid foundation for economic prosperity and empowerment.

This vision is anchored on three core values which include agricultural development, skills acquisition through scholarship and training and infrastructural development. Perhaps, the most visible among these, is the state government’s massive investment in the agricultural sector.

The Rivers Songhai Farm Project at Bunu-Tai being powered by the State Government through the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) is a testimony to the vision of the government in creating sustainable livelihood for the people of the state.

Sited on a-314 hectares of land in Bunu-Tai in the Tai Local Government Area of the state, the farm is 20 times the size of the Songhai farm in Porto Novo, Benin Republic. The Rivers Songhai Farm is also one project where there is zero tolerance for waste.

According to the Executive Director of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Mr. Noble Pepple, “The plan here is to be the centre for excellence in training, production, research, demonstration and development of sustainable agricultural practices.”

Mr Pepple, who spoke to newsmen shortly after a media tour of Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) projects, listed the key objectives of the Songhai initiative to include the development of a resilient integrated programme, agriculture with industry and commerce, the development of human capital for the empowerment of individuals and groups as well as the establishment of a centre that serves as a model for youths in the state.

The RSSDA Executive Director, also listed other objectives to include broadening the socio-economic base of the state and the South-South region through aggressive production processing and marketing of agricultural products and other related services, provision of skills for the unemployed youths of Rivers State and beyond, encouragement of agro-tourism and reversal of rural-urban mitigation.

He said that the agency had also established regional aquaculture training centres across the state for the training of farmers.

While conducting newsmen round the Songhai Farm, at Bunu-Tai, a Beninoise, Mr Ide Adamo said that the Songhai spirit is not only technology transfer, but to teach Rivers people the virtue of honesty, hard work and transparency.

Mr. Adamo explained that Songhai Farm does not encourage wastage as everything under the sun is useful as far as the Songhai farm is concerned.

According to him, the human faeces  can be used as biogas for cooking while mosquito larva and animal dumps are all part of fertilisers.

At the integrated Aqua culture centres at Ubima and Ikuru Town in the Ikwerre and Andoni Local Government Areas respectively, the Manger, Enterprise  Development (RSSDA), Mr. Silvester Okoh and Mrs Victoria Adewuye told newsmen that the centres are used for the training of farmers in the state in all levels  of agriculture.

The Ubima centre, Mr  Okoh said, trained farmers from Ikwerre, Etche, Omuma, Obio/Akpor, Abua/Odual, Ahoada East and West Local Government Areas and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area.

Mrs Adewuye told newsmen at Ikuru Town, that the Integrated Fish Training Centre in the community, serves the need of farmers in Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro, Khana and Gokana respectively.

At the Workmanship Technical Training Centre (WTTC) Bori, the Manager, Media, Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Mr. Kingsley Uranta described the centre as a cutting edge training institute that will drive skills acquisition for young men and women in some critical areas such as fabrication, pipe-fitting, welding, carpentry, masonry, tiling and catering.

He said that to actualise this, the RSSDA is partnering with Hybrid College United Kingdom and the Bonny Vocational Centre (BVC) for the award of City and Guild Certificates to graduands.

Rivers sons and daughters have also benefited from skill training in Norway and Namibia, while a number of them are on overseas scholarship programme. Some of the journalists especially those from Lagos could not hide their feelings on what they saw.

One of them, a correspondent with The Punch told The Tide that Rivers State had overtaken Lagos in terms of performances.

“We thought that only Fashola was performing, but the situation here is simply amazing.”

Another reporter from The Punch described the Songhai Farm project at Bunu-Tai as a billion naira enterprise. “Oh boy, billions have been sunk here. This is good for this country.”

For the reporter from Business Day, “Oil will dry one day, but this place will not dry.”

Some of the observers said this is indeed an investment that will certainly define the future of Rivers State.