INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE: My Topmost Priority – Hon. Umo
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The governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Idorenyin Umo, as part of his political schematic plan, has identified agriculture as one of his topmost priorities to tackle as soon as he gets into office as governor of Akwa Ibom State come 2023.
In the blueprint made available to the press, he stated that agriculture is a veritable source of wealth and prosperity for a nation if properly invested, monitored, cultivated, processed and distributed locally and the excess imported; adding that it would be another avenue through which youths could be massively employed.
Hon. Umo who has served in several organizations including the defunct Peoples Bank of Nigeria, stressed that many are chasing after white collar jobs whereas the few who are into agric business are those with much economic power, noting that even those who earn salaries still spend it to buy farm produce to feed their families.
The Ibiono Ibom born businessman cum politician whose wealth of experience also spans through information and communication technology is of the belief that as soon as he steps into the state’s Hilltop Mansion, he would use his office to utilize public-private partnerships to establish farm settlements in each local government area with the view to making the state self-sufficient in food production. With this, each local entity will be actively involved in food production ranging from crops cultivation to animal rearing which will lead to locally sourcing for man power. Youths in these areas would be trained and retrained to consistently be able to deliver even with the deployment of advanced technologies to make cultivation, processing and preservation easier and faster.
The spreading of agric investment into local entities will also lead to the evenly distribution of partnership by investors instead of them clustering in a particular area while other regions would be left in their peril. It is also worthy of note that when most of these youths are actively engaged in production, and food is sufficient in the state, crime rates will drastically reduce as some of those who engage in illegal activities do so to be able to satisfy their immediate needs.
Hon. Umo, whose name is synonymous with wealth, has seen that agriculture is more like a gem and if harnessed appropriately will turn the state to a food hub not just for domestic consumption but other countries of the world would rely on Akwa Ibom for their food supplies; and he intends to empower areas of specialized agricultural produce for large scale production of such commodities for local use and export. These exports will further boost revenue generation of the state as, apart from earning from taxes on the exportation of these products; the state government will also have trade relationship with other countries which would ease overseas training for indigenes to further the course of agriculture in the state.
The state government, under his governorship, would further provide the necessities for startups and also follow up to ensure that the dream is achieved, noting that agric investment does not only stop at cultivation but processing and preservation is key. In as much as mechanized farming may be deployed to meet the demands, it will give room for greater number of people to be employed, noting that it is human beings who would still operate the machines as well as repair them when they are faulty.
His government is also set to provide regulatory framework for foreign investments in the production of exportable commodities to create employment opportunities and also bring foreign earnings to the state. This includes enactments that will favour and encourage agricultural practices in the state, it will lead to the free flow of quality seedlings for planting as well as best breeds of animals. This will also see to the establishment of research centres together with the training of staff to be in line with modern farming best practices to be able to offer the best to the state.
To many, agriculture might just end in planting of crops or rearing of animals but to embark on a project of this magnitude, the governorship hopeful, in his idea as a business man, intends to make the state a food hub where outsiders will depend on for sustenance. This goes far beyond the duo as agric education, engineering together with the business aspect of agriculture are key to successful farming.
To ensure that this project is kick-started on the right foundation, test will be carried out in various local government areas in the state to determine the nature of soil as well as the right kind of crops that would be cultivated. This will ensure that the best seedlings are being dispatched to farmers. Wastes from the production of these crops would be processed for the feeding of livestock, not just to reduce cost of purchasing feed but to minimize waste and recycle as much as possible.
Researchers would be saddled with the responsibility of identifying the right kind of crops and their varieties before cultivation. This will give room for crops with higher nutritional content and medicinal value to be cultivated for consumption. To further ensure the continuity of this project, there would be need for the establishment of agric educational centres which would see to the development of quality agricultural practices and also impart same knowledge to grassroots level which would be transcended to newer generations. These regulatory policies will ensure that farming in the state is run and managed in a way that it will yield profit. This will make the farmer to know what to produce, how to package and preserve with the view to making profit from the venture.
While many might focus on food production, others may divert to ornamental plants and flowers, vegetable and fruits. A few may also invest in forestry, knowing its long term economic importance ranging from construction to electrification, paper production, furniture etc.
Veterinary medicine as part of agriculture will see to the training of youths in pest and disease control. A lot will also be engaged in engineering for manufacturing and maintenance of machines and tools. The roadmap also entails the establishment of agro-based industries with a view to providing processing and adequate storage facilities to ensure food security for the state.
His government will also provide a land bank where investors can readily access land for relevant projects that will promote agricultural development in the state.
According to Hon. Umo, “given the natural resources and rich arable land of the state, I believe that agriculture can be a major source of wealth and prosperity to the people of the state. “Under this sector, I hope to utilize public- private partnership to establish farm settlements in each LGA with a view to making the state self-sufficient in agric production; empower areas of specialized agricultural produce for large scale production of exportable commodities to create employment opportunities and also bring foreign earnings to the state. Establish agro based industries with a view to providing processing and adequate storage facilities to ensure food security for the state; provide a land bank where investors can readily access land for relevant projects that will promote agricultural development in the state.
“For development to be sustained in the state, adequate steps must be taken to ensure that the various environmental challenges receive attention. Accordingly, this government shall review existing policies and laws to ensure that they respond adequately to emerging challenges affecting our land, air and aquatic environment; to ensure that environmental factors are taken into consideration locating, designing and building developmental projects in the state.”
His government will go further to “promote international best practices in environmental management and sustainable development in the state; reappraise the drainage designs for the state capital and other parts of the state, to contain the perennial flood and erosion problems that impede traffic flow that threaten our land resources during rainy season; review the urban development plan with a view to segregating certain development”, he added.