The general negative ef fects on the environment in the Niger Delta region by oil firms has been blamed for the poor agricultural yield and output by farmers over the years.
Baring his mind on the contentious issue recently in his office in Port Harcourt with our correspondent, Director, Institute of Pollution Studies in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Prof. Alex Chindah explained that the truth was that oil activities such as pipeline laying, oil spill, operational failure among others have left a lot of the environment devastated.
He said the opening of pipeline routes through areas that were meant to be conserved and ordinarily not accessible opened them up and created routes for man and animals alike which help destroy farms, as evidenced by mass cattle movement throughout the region.
He explained that even when oil spills occur either by accident or sabotage, adequate attention was not given and wondered why they don’t take good time to make sure that they clean the environment as it where.
“They just do a wishy-washy job then leave the environment on its own like that”, adding that the environment was like a child that needed to be tended.
He emphasised the need for substantial part of the land to be forested as according to him, the United Nations mandate requires that “every country and state should at least have 25 per cent of their land area being vegetated forest area” he revealed.
On the adverse effects of gas flaring on plant life, Prof. Chindah who holds a PhD in Marine Biology from the RSUST said that in areas were there are gas flares, crops were seem to be growing well but do not produce.
“If you go to Rumuekpe in Emohua Local Government Area of the state, from our study, the maize will be very high but it will not have crop and the same thing happens to human beings who all leave around the gas flare area”, he explained.
He further explained that a study carried out somewhere in the state show that a lot of farmers were suffering from what he described as a “glare-like effect where their eyes are open but they were not seeing”, he said.
“So those things are very serious. It is an effect on the farmers who live there and people who dwell and do business around the area where you have the gas flare”, he said.
On the effects oil spill has on farmlands and streams when in adequately cleaned, Prof. Chndah said the little streams the people use for fishing and surely the only source of drinking water are being polluted.
“For example, when it happened at Isiokpo sometime, the company concerned supplies water for a while and vanished leaving the people to suffer”, adding that government should empower her agencies to properly monitor and punish those found to have remerged on their operational obligations.
He believed that government has put in place the appropriate laws to guide the companies in their operations but expressed that the government needed to adequately empower its agencies to enable them access areas through air and other means.
“Well government has taken a step I would say, because they have the penalties, they have the laws which the companies must abide to and so on, but then there is no will from government to make sure that these things are followed to the letter.
“The agencies that are supposed to make sure that these things are made right do not have the capacity”, he said.
According to Prof. Chindah, a honouree of the national merit award, member, order of the Federal Republic (MFR), the government should be able to give the relevant agencies enough money to enable them monitor the companies.
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa. Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said. Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water. The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting. He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative, Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with comparative advantages.
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.
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