Amgbare Ekaunkumo, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State government has commenced Accelerated Agricultural Development Service (AADS) in the state.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. David Alagoa represented by the permanent secretary in the Ministry, Chief Ebiweni Clever gave the hint at the 2021 World Food Day with the theme : Our Actions Are Our “Future: Better Production, Better Nutrition, A Better Environment And A Better Life”.
He described the theme as very apt, saying that food Production start with Agriculture adding that Bayelsa State Government has started the rice programme and stressed the need for farmers to process their products (yield).
The Agric Commissioner informed that the essence of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Service is to support farmers obtain inputs, interest free loans and other incentives to promote farming as a business.
He said those in the food chain suffered untold hardship as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic who he stated need assistance and formally flagged off the 2021 farming season.
He thanked those producing food for their sustained efforts.
The Guest Lecturer, a project Management Expert, Mr.Eddy Oyintonye, speaking on the topic “Harnessing Agricultural Potentials for An Agro-based Industry In Bayelsa State” identified Leadership commitment, development of business model, human capacity building, research, risk management policies, public and private partnership as key drivers to the growth of the agricultural sector in the state.
He noted that good policies and actions of leaders will create better nutrition, environment, life while quality management will ensure better output.
The guest lecturer stated that oil and gas practices have destroyed the environment and enjoined farmers to change the narrative in the agric environment through the use of environment friendly implement as better environment is key to sustainability.
Mr.Eddy Oyintonye advised farmers in the state to go beyond producing raw materials to processing, packaging and ensure that we are able to feed ourselves, and export food to other parts of the country using our comparative advantage in plantain, yam, cocoa yam, cassava, fish among others .
He enjoined government and farmers to invest in the state areas of weakness and strength in the value chain and covert the identified areas to opportunities.
Speaking further the guest lecturer advised farmers to reduce competition among the farmers associations, rather collaborate to define strategic goals to enhance productivity.
He enjoined the state government to develop agricultural hubs like agric sea ports, airport, technology incubation centres, markets, free trade zones, strategic policies development and implementation to close up gaps, create opportunities to attract investors .
He advised the government to create data generation and provide security information management systems, and encourage farmers to adopt eco friendly agricultural practices with reference to the Israeli model.
The guest lecturer recommended the setting up of industrial parks, incubation centres, effective risk management, construction of access roads, storage facilities, ware-housing, provision of water and electricity, processing facilities as factors that will make agric business attractive .
Earlier, the facilitator and moderator of the programme, Reverend Ebi Emarah urged formers to look beyond the civil service and political economy to invest in agriculture, develop progressive approach to build capacity and production line, saying that the main money is in the value chain.
He urged farmers to take the off takers and endeavour to process, and package their products.
In the interactive session, a Farm Coordinator in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Doutuwa George asked how a poor farmer can process his/her products?, Mr. Akuogbo Seitonkumo Happy raised concerns on how to tackle herdsmen attacks?
On her part Mrs.Elizabeth Robert, member Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, Bayelsa State Chapter said she does not know how to procure processing equipment, and Chief Weridongha Patrick decried the relegation of farmers to the background as loans meant for farmers are diverted by politicians and call for change of attitude.
Responding to some of the questions, Director Finance in the Ministry of Agriculture, Johnson C.K identified lack of cooperation among Bayelsa farmers as major factor hindering them. He advised farmers to come together and set their priorities right, and advised then to stop selling fertilizers meant for the state.
Also speaking, an insurance broker, Tonbra Suowari noted that in fighting among farmers and factions in farming associations is destroying the growth of agriculture in the state.
He told farmers to prepare themselves to start small, grow big and stop blaming government and take agriculture as business. He advised them to get relevant information to benefit from the various loan packages of CBN and other agric loans such as the HANCO borrower scheme.
Ajemuta Akpo Abraham, procurement Officer NG- Cares(Result Area 2) FADAMA 3 said there are over One.Thousand Cooperatives in FADAMA 3. He asked farmers to contribute three percent by dropping their harvest regularly to get the fund.while stating that Bayelsa farmers have no excuse to fail.
A Missionary Doctor, Engr.Akuwasa Wilfred , member Bee Farmers Association of Nigeria, said most health problems facing people.emanate from the type of food they eat. He advised people to eat natural food, fruits and have knowledge of the medicinal value of stems, leaves and roots of crops.
Foods on display at the World Food Day at the Ministry of Agriculture include different species of fresh fish, plantains, cassava, cocoa nut, palm oil, crabs among others.