There are strong, direct relationships between agricultural productivity, hunger, poverty, and sustainability, as three-quarter of the world’s population live in rural areas and eke their living from agriculture, hence the need for proper planning and timely implementation of agricultural development programmes which is imperative to achieving food security for all.
Food Security for all as a Sine-qua non for Sustainable Development? is by no less timely, as the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the visionary leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR), alongside the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Adewunmi Adeshina , has repositioned the agricultural sector in Nigeria, as one of the cardinal policies in the Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government.
Way back in Nigeria, cash crops such as groundnut, palm oil, cocoa, and rubber latex, were the corner-stone of the nation?s economy, until the discovery of (black gold) “crude oil” in 1956 at Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, which exiled agriculture to the back seat.
Sole dependence on crude oil, garnished with the non-diversification of the economy, led to food insecurity, growth in unemployment and an alarming increase in crime rate. Therefore, Agriculture, if properly implemented can become an effective economic drive and also curb social and economic insecurities plaguing society.
To succeed, agricultural-development plans must be less ambitious and more targeted. Bayelsa is richly blessed with natural resources, land, good soil, forest, minerals and good climate, and fast becoming the destination choice for investors, who for see the rich untapped resources in the State.
Diversifying Bayelsa State’s economy from oil /gas sector to alternative sectors in order to provide self-employment as well as create wealth for the unemployed populace remains a top priority for the Restoration Government and as well ensuring community participation that conforms to global best practices on identified Agro projects.
Government cannot succeed alone as research evidence suggests that agricultural-development programs also require the active engagement of private agents such as farmers or farmers? organizations, input suppliers, warehouse operators, buyers, and traders, including international trading companies, with aim of pursuing selected initiatives that have identified sources of demand and appropriate enabling investments supervised by a nimble implementing authority.
Since its inception, the Restoration Government under Gov Henry Seriake Dickson has successfully trained over 500 youths in different aspects of agriculture, in Songhai, Benin Republic, along with the setting up of School of Agriculture to train more youths in farming and Agri-business. It also constituted the Bayelsa State Agricultural development Company Limited, which has four (4) key Companies under its umbrella namely; Bayelsa Palms Ltd, Bayelsa Farms Ltd, Creek foods & Supplies and the Niger Delta Seafood Limited.
Added to these are; the Shrimp Culture Project, National Food Security Program, Community based National Resources Management program, Roots and Tuber expansion Program, Green house Vegetable Project, Agriculture extension Scheme in collaboration with Bio Resources Development Center, Odi Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP),which is a collaboration with World bank.
The Bayelsa State Government lately entered into a bilateral agreement with the Israeli Government to partner in the cultivation of large scale fish farms, food crops and vegetables, to tally with a robust policy aimed at making Bayelsa State the hub of rice, cassava and poultry production, for commercial purpose.
The procurement of Rice processing machines, storage of hundreds of rice bags in paddy form, which were planted and harvested in Bayelsa State await processing. Rice milling machines are also being installed in strategic places across the State, building of livestock /piggery pens, construction of Humidity combustion chambers for speedy plantain growth and building of a Veterinary hospital are part of the overall plan in repositioning Agri-business in the State.
Through economic empowerment programmes and increased food production, Gov Dickson has been able to maintain social and economic security and peace in the State, thereby re-orienting our people to co-exist peacefully and forge ahead for the common good.
Another approach being considered by Government is agricultural-development corridor, in which commercial farms and facilities for storage and processing are concentrated around major infrastructure project. Two of such corridors which are under way include:
1. The construction of the Agge deep sea port in Bayelsa State, due to the state’s littoral and maritime environment, will help revive agriculture, boost the economy, attract business moguls and importers from Delta, Edo, and the East especially Onitsha, which is the commercial hub of Anambra State. Such facility operating at full capacity will also help to tackle youth restiveness by providing employment and creating increased commercial activities. The enormous benefits of the on-going efforts by Governor Seriake Dickson to construct the Agge Deep Sea Port valued at over N45 billion ($3 billion) is indeed a welcome development to the State and the south-south regions. The port is to occupy an area of about 8,000 hectares, and once completed, will be declared a Free Trade Zone for oil and gas.
The sea port is designed to include an industrial park, 500 mega watt power plant, fabrication yard, jetty, outfield chemical plant and tank farm, dry docking yard, as well as cement and bagging plant. Others are a steel pipe rolling mill, container terminal, fertilizer plant, supply vessels maintenance service yard, port authority, security and customs administration complex, Port housing estate, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, parks and other facilities. The construction phase of the project is expected to employ 100,000 workers while 1,200 jobs will be created after its completion, as a cheque of N230m representing 50 percent of the consultancy fee was presented to Scot Wilson and Arup to kick-start feasibility studies within Nine months.
2. Connecting Bayelsa State to other parts of the country by Railway, which the Federal Government is vigorously implementing for the movement of people, products, goods/service. Inevitably increasing commerce and boosting the GDP of the State.
Meanwhile, as Government plans to urbanize the State, processing for domestic use will become more attractive, as it is both a source of demand for agricultural products and a job creator. Coupled with the recent increase in power output and quality standards of infrastructure in the State, the agro industry is sure to outrun other sectors in coming years.
BY Blessing Oyanimigha