Abia: Promoting Agriculture through credit facility

When Governor Theodore Orji was sworn-in on Sunday, May 29, 2011 for a second term of four, one major sector he announced will receive transformation was the Agricultural sector. The governor’s reason was that through massive investment on Agriculture, positive change will be made on the standard of living of the people and as well accelerate development. According to Gov. Orji, Abia is tremendously blessed with fertile land and has population of almost two million. The huge Agricultural potential when fully tapped will serve as the main engine for economic
development. I see my re-election into office for this second term as a call to finish that truncated assignment from our first term. It is now time to freely develop Abia people through all-round investment especially in Agriculture.
“This is the beginning of a new dawn, a new healing, signifying the renewal, which Abia have been yearning for’’, he said.
Apparently not many people took the governor’s pronouncement serious, not because of any other reason, but for the fact that past governments had paid lip service to the development of critical sectors such as basic infrastructure and Agriculture which has the capacity to boost the socio-economic and political growth of Nigeria. Analysts holds that nonchalant attitude of successive administrations in the country had relapse Nigeria, a country perceived across the
world as a nation with litany of potentials and opportunities to running near-mono economy tied on crude oil production.
However, Abia people began to appreciate Chief Orji’s disposition to revitalize Agriculture through some laudable policies like the establishment of 17 Liberation Farms in each of the Local Government Areas of Abia, tractor provision to farmers and the recent disbursement of one billion Agricultural loans to some registered farmers.
HRH Philip Ajomiwe, the traditional Ruler of Oriendu Ohuhu in Umuahia North Local Government Area, is a notable cassava farmer and food processor in Nigeria, he believes that lack of credit facility and inputs were major set-back experienced by farmers before now. “I have been into farming for over 30 years and I know farming have
the potential to address economic and social problems affecting the country’’ he said. Ajomiwe, said that Abia farmers are lucky to have a visionary governor with a mission to develop Agriculture in the person of Chief T. A. Orji.

Ajomiwe, an award winning cassava farmer and food processor in Nigeria, said with the enabling environment provided in the sector, many young graduates are now embracing Agriculture as profitable business. “There is nothing you produce that you do not have market for in Nigeria. If you cannot cultivate cassava, venture into poultry, fish farming or livestock, the profits are all there to make you comfortable,”  he said.
Speaking during the official flag-off of the disbursement of the one billion naira Agricultural loan and Roll-Out of Growth Enhancement Support Scheme held at Aguiyi Ironsi Cenotaph, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia on June 27, 2012, Gov. Orji  said his administration is determine to build an economically viable state, through a sustainable Agricultural
development. “From inception, this administration placed premium on revitalization of Agriculture which in the past was the mainstay of the nation’s economy. “Our programmes and policy thrust are aimed at boosting food production because of the belief that self-sufficiency in food production is panacea for sustainable democracy and economic growth,’’
he said.
He explained that his administration’s belief that Agriculture employs over 70 per cent of Nigeria adult population, guided his decision to sign the Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) to enable farmers in Abia access the one billion Agricultural loan of the federal government. “Through this loan, government is targeting food sufficiency by 2015, increase export crops production and provision of jobs to the army of employable youths across the state among others,’’ he said. The governor said Abia is participating in cassava, rice, cocoa, oil palm, aquaculture, leather, pig farming and in second phase of sheep and goat husbandry, adding that Agricultural transformation implementation committee to achieve the mandate have been inaugurated. Explaining the need for closer collaboration in achieving sustainable Agricultural transformation, he added that for Nigeria to do well in Agriculture, interested farmers, corporate bodies and government must collaborate. “We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Agriculture to guarantee federal government’s collaboration on cassava value chain development and transformation programme. “My administration consistently paid counterpart funds to development partners; sponsorship of programmes such as FADAMA, the IFAD/FGN/NDDC Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme, in addition to purchase and sale of 54 tractors at subsidize rate to farmers.
According to the governor, 30, 000 bags of fertilizers were procured for free distribution as a back-up to federal government growth enhancement scheme in addition to other inputs for distribution to Abia farmers at the event. “We also provided substantial quantity of F3 Amazon and newly released CRIN CTI improved hybrid coca seedlings in addition to other inputs to farmers,’’ he said. “I urged the beneficiaries of this loan to make proper use of the credit facilities to achieve hunger-free Abia, drive income growth and accelerate the achievement of food security, as well as transform the
state into a leading player in the national food market and generally grow wealth for Abia people.

On his part, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said that Nigeria with population of more than 165 million is blessed with  more than 84, million hectares of arable land. He noted that with the strength, the country has the capacity to attain food sufficiency, rake in substantial amount as foreign income from sales of Agricultural products and create thousands of job opportunities to her people. Adesina observed with regrets that rather than tap this God – given blessing, Nigeria spend more than N1.2 trillion and $71 billion on the importation of basic food and fish annually.
According to the Minister, “it was for this reason that President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan decided to transform Agricultural sector  to stop making farmers of other countries rich through importation of their products while Nigerian farmers are relegated to slaves of other nations.
The Minister who used the event to launch the Federal government’s  Agriculture programme tagged, ` Roll-Out of Growth Enhancement Support Scheme’, said the scheme aimed at providing supports to make Agriculture a
business venture and not a way of life. “Under the scheme, government will ensure that hybrid rice, cocoa, maize, seedlings, improved yam, cassava crop varieties, modern farm inputs, 25 per cent subsidy on fertilizer and other technical support would be provided farmers.
“In today’s event, we will distribute hybrid cocoa seedlings that produce two tons per hectare as against the existing type which produces 0.4 ton per hectare. Government has abolished the old arrangement of distributing fertilizer which made politicians hijack the commodity at the expense of genuine farmers,” he said. Adesina also said that already some farmers are making the country proud through their commitment and resilient outing in the Agricultural ventures, noting that Chief David Onyenweaku and Chief Philip Ajomuiwe both from Abia have been outstanding in the areas of cocoa, cassava,
and cassava procession.

Abia State Commissioner for Agriculture, Chief Ike Onyenweaku in an address described the event as epoch-making, noting that the milestone will change the future of farmers as many are already embracing Agricultural programme of the government. “Abia farmers are enthusiastic to key into the scheme because the state is blessed with rich Agricultural potentials, fertile soil, adequate rainfall which can grow oil palm, cassava, rice,  cocoa, cocoyam and various livestock,’’ he said. Onyenweaku said that the state is currently participating in about eight commodities Value Chain and the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme. He assured that extension services will be reinvigorated to offer useful guidance to farmers on best practices in the use of the various Agro-Inputs made available through the Growth Enhancement Support
Scheme.
The Chairman, Abia State branch of All Farmers Association, Chief Dunlop Okoro said that farmers in the state feel elated with the Agricultural policy of Governor  T. A. Orji  especially the flag-off of one billion naira loan. “With the provision of credit facility, farmers now have more impetus to excel.  We will expand our farms, create more jobs and increase profitability,’’ he said. Okoro appealed to government to advise the consultant in-charge of the loan facility to reach out to the umbrella body over-seeing the affairs of farmers to address problems currently plaguing accessibility of the loan.
Analysts believes Governor T. A.  Orji’s transformation of Agriculture is in the right direction as jobs would be created to many and the state economic status made stronger if the present tempo of investment is followed, by farmers and future government. They hold that Abia state has the potential to attract investment in the following Agro-allied industries: cassava starch and flour, fruit and vegetable canning, if the Agricultural sector is fully developed.