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Repositioning Agriculture For Robust Economy

The viability of the agricultural sector is key to the wealth and peace of a state and its people. Before the oil boom in the mid 1970s, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria's economy. This explains why the Akwa Ibom government, under Gov Udom Emmanuel, has prioritized agriculture and is steadily engaging it to boost the state's economy. The government's investment in the agricultural sector has not only brought development to communities, but has generated employment for the people. Akwa Ibom government has backed up its drive for food sufficiency with the construction of inter local government roads to ease the evacuation of agricultural produce to available markets and boost socio-economic lives of the people in rural communities. Akwa Ibom is rich with arable land and favourable climate that supports all-year-round cultivation and extraction of agricultural and forest products such as palm produce, rubber, cocoa, rice, cassava, yam, plantain, banana, maize, and timber. Therefore, the Emmanuel-led government has initiated laudable agricultural programmes as part of its agricultural revolution to boost the state's economy and increase food availability through farming initiatives, while also strengthening agricultural practices through proper input support system to farmers. Some of the agricultural programmes are carried out through partnerships with private investors using the public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. In the last five years of his administration, Governor Emmanuel has channelled funds into a variety of initiatives to establish small-scale farming businesses and community plantation in the state, while farmers were supplied subsidised fertilisers and improved seedlings as part of government efforts to revolutionise the agricultural sector, and to realise its potential both as an alternative foreign exchange earner to oil and provider of food and employment. From the onset in 2015, he inaugurated the state Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, and later inaugurated the Foreign Direct Investment Committee. Both committees have worked relentlessly in collaboration with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Women Affairs to coordinate programmes and policies for the state's agricultural renaissance. As part of this drive, government has organised series of training for coconut, cocoa, oil palm and rice farmers, on current farming methods and techniques, as well as distributed improved cassava cuttings, aside from the provision of other inputs towards ensuring high yield and bumper harvest in addition to the provision of interest-free loans. The state also ventured into the cultivation of vegetables as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper through green houses for all year round availability of the crops. Today, the state boasts of several agro processing industries, such as rice mills, garri processing mills, flour mill, fertilizer plant, etc, which have contributed to the food sufficiency drive of the government. So far, the results have been quite encouraging, as the state government has successfully used agriculture as a strategy for youth empowerment. By venturing into agricultural revolution to make the state a hub of agriculture, Akwa Ibom government is looking beyond crude oil. There is, therefore, no better time to invest maximally in agriculture than now when the global price of crude oil is dwindling such that world economies are changing investment direction from dependence on crude oil to other viable sources of revenue generation. It is expected that more Akwa Ibom people would venture into large scale agriculture, while it is envisaged that the enumeration of farmers across the 31 local government areas by the state government would develop a detailed database of farmers, to enable the government successfully implement life touching agricultural policies in the state in line with Governor Emmanuel's vision of making agriculture a key driver of the state's economy in the post COVID-19 recovery era.

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