Agriculture is a major sector of the economy. In fact, calls for diversification from total dependence on oil can hardly be overemphasized. The sector is believed to be the key to eradication of poverty and hub sustainable development. The possibility is that the sector can been transformed by mechanization and commercialization towards providing medium and large-scale enterprises for farmers.
Major crops for this purpose include, among others, palm oil, cashew nuts, kola nut, cocoa, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnut, rubber, gum Arabic, maize melon, palm kernel, millet, yams, beans, soya beans and plantain.
Akwa Ibom through the leadership model of Governor Emmanuel has since launched a strategic plan to achieving food sufficiency in the state, and diversifying the economy from Crude oil-driven to Agro-based Economy, especially considering the dwindling oil prices due to Covid 19 Epidemic that have lockdown the entire world economy.
Governor Emmanuel has resolved and is aggressively implementing policies that will increase food productivity for the betterment of the National economy as a whole. The leadership model of the Governor has been able to achieve the following:
• Akwa Prime Hatchery – 540,000 day old chicks per month
• Coconut Plantation – 640,000 hectares
• Cocoa Plantation – 500,000 seedlings nursery raised in 2017
• Cassava Plantation – 800 hectares across the state
• Oil Palm – 400,000 seedlings being raised across the state
•Establishment of Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme (SCMS) for the training of farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing and tree care by fumigation, to ensure improvement of yields from 300 kilogram/hectares to 2000kg/hours over 3years.
• Importation and distribution of 1000 bags of special cocoa fertilizers for optimal yield.
• Distribution of training kits to all participants at practical field training on cocoa.
• Extension of technical adversary services to about 350 fish farms in the state.
• Cultivation of cassava under the FADAMA 111 + Financing programme.
TRANSFORMATION IN CASSAVA PRODUCTION
No doubt, Casava is a staple food and most favorite in Nigeria; we eat it everyday.
For instance, Governor Udom Emmanuel has commissioned 100 hectares of improved cassava stem plantation at Okobo Local Government Area, with a general call on the people to support his administration‘s drive at ensuring food sufficiency in the state. The improved cassava stem plantation which is a pilot scheme of Family Empowerment And Youth Re-orientation Path Initiative has been on in the last four years.
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has commissioned 100 hectares improved Cassava Stem Plantation at Okobo Local Government Area, with a call on the people to support his administration’s drive at ensuring food sufficiency in the state.
The improved Cassava Stem Plantation which is a pilot scheme of Family Empowerment And Youth Re-orientation Path- Initiative (FEYReP), Pet- Project of the wife of the Governor, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel is geared towards sustaining garri as a stable food, and allied cassava products are also made available.
The Governor has directed the inter-ministerial Direct Labour Committee and the Ministry of Works to rehabilitate two of the community schools as well as open access road to the plantation.
The Wife of the Governor, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel, stated that the project was in line with the Governor’s initiative of returning people to the farm for employment generation and enhancement of food sufficiency in the state. To further ensure food sufficiency, the Akwa Ibom State Government is constructing 10 cassava processing plant across the state to reduce the price of its products such as garri, flour, chips, bread and fufu by 50 percent.
Mrs. Emmanuel said that the plantation has provided employment to over 100 people of the area and expressed appreciation to the Elders and Youths of Ikono- Offi/ Nsie community for providing land for the project, noting that the project is a springboard for other development programmes in the area.
As a model leader, Governor Udom Emmanuel has designated 6,000 hectares of land for the cultivation of cassava. Consequently, the state is expected to cultivate 6,000 hectares of cassava in 2019 thereby moving the present cluster to core status. In addition, the Governor has approved the establishment of three new cassava processing factories in the three senatorial districts in the state, including those of Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area (Nung Udoe) and Abak Local Government Area (Ikot Ekang). This will reduce the cost of processing cassava into other deriavatives such as fufu, garri and pallets as well as their prices significantly.
TRANSFORMATION IN COCOA PRODUCTION
In this respect, Governor Udom Emmanuel has charged the youth and indeed everyone to take to Agriculture as a key to food sufficiency and employment generation. Hence, he has resuscitated Cocoa production through the establishment of cocoa development committee chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo. He also flagged off the cocoa maintenance scheme to improve the yield of cocoa from the present 300kg/ha to 1,500kh/ha between 2016 to 2019.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has provided support for 8,200 cocoa farmers to cultivate 30,000 hectares of Cocoa. He has trained 480 youths on cocoa maintenance scheme. Experts have been brought into work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Technical Committee to teach cocoa farmers the conventional agronomic practices to improve cultivation of cocoa in the state to earn foreign exchange.
Akwa Ibom State Government through the leadership template of Governor Udom Emmanuel has established Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme (SCMS) for the training of farmers and youths on pruning /shade management, under brushing and tree care by fumigation, to ensure improvement of yields from 300 kilogram to 2000kg/ha over 3years and also imported and distributed 1000 bags of special cocoa fertilizers for optimal yield.
GOVERNOR UDOM’S LEADERSHIP MODEL AND IMPLICATIONS ON AGRICULTURAL SECTOR THROUGH AKWA IBOM ENTERPRISE AND EMPLOYMENT SCHEME (AKEES).
In a bid to ensure availability of stable food to all residents of Akwa Ibom State at affordable prices, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Leadership Model is using all agencies and apparatuses of government in projecting effectiveness of farming to the rural and urban dwellers. AKEES is another agency of Government which is also involved in funding farmers, as it has helped young farmers to establish over 11 farms across the state.
ENTERPRISE ACTIVATION MODELS OF AKEES
Micro- Franchising: This model allows beneficiaries of the AKEES programme to own their individual businesses through small scale partnership and business-based authorization.
Enterprise Programme: Here, individuals are enabled and supported to start their businesses for the meeting of certain needs in the market place. It allows for start-ups in other parts of the country to consider doing business with the ones domiciled in the Akwa Ibom State.
Job Programmes: The question of unemployment depends largely on the employability of the jobless. This is why AKEES has a programme designed to equip youths with requisite skill-sets for diverse industries.
Common Facility & Equipment Centres: Having studied functional prototypes in emerging economies of the world, this model was developed to encourage the formation of industry clusters all over the state. Merits are that individual entreprenuers that belong to the same industries can utilize the same facilities and apparatus for their different production operations.
AKWA IBOM ENTERPRISE AND EMPLOYMENT SCHEME (AKEES)
AKEES programmes in the state as at today has covered significant grounds spanning agriculture, finance, legal solutions, fashion and clothings, publishing and advertising , ICT and Data management etc. So far, it has proven itself an effective tool for employment generation and viable option for wealth creation. But sadly, cynics and those who engage in negative politics with all things had since pooh the programme, describing it as a scam. Now that the programme is yielding viable fruits, their impervious and clutterd minds have refused to accept the phenomenal success so far recorded.
AKEES as a policy has set objectives and milestones. One of such is the reduction of youth unemployment by 50% come 2020. It is an indubitable fact that unemployment across the youth bracket has constituted a serious social anomie. Vices like violent crimes, drug abuse, rape, militancy, political thuggery and sundry other sub- culture behaviours are results of lack of gainful engagements. It is often common yet disheartening to observe that many youths populate any political gatherings on working days suggesting therefore that the youths available at such places are literally idle. Afterall no sane person that is involved in a money-making venture would abandon his lucrative undertaking to go and idle away his precious time at political events that he knows his contributions are not needed. The Udom administration is apparently determined to change the mindsets and attitudes of our youths and reconfigure them into a vision that is in tandem with the Dakkada Philosophy which is a launch towards greatness.
Suffice to say that AKEES vision has successfully merged with the Dakkada Philosophy and crystallised into a galvanizing tool. In about 15 months, more than 21 thousand people have registerd for the AKEES programme in acknowledgement of the moral demand that they must rise to their fate of greatness. It is goodbye to the era of complacency, lamentation and self-pity.
It is a period of reawakening and realization that our destiny lies in our hands and that with GOD on our side, our dreams are within our reach. That is what this robust vision midwifed by the Udom Emmanuel administration. The fact is, government has redefined the agro- economy of Akwa Ibom people.
Pursuant to this, AKEES has evolved four unique enterprise activation models. The first one is that which allows beneficiaries of AKEES to own their individual business through small partnership and business based authorization. There is also the enterprise programme where individuals are supported to start their businesses through the meeting of some certain needs in the market place. Another of AKEES model is the job programme which is designed to equip youths with the requisite skills sets for diverse industries.
AKEES common facility and equipment centres are drawn from prototypes used in emerging economies in Asia. The model is developed to encourage the formation of industry clusters. The strong merit of this model is that different entrepreneurs in similar engagement can utilize the same facilities for their operations. But one point must be clear, according to the facilitator who doubles as the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Technical Matters and Due Process, AKEES is not involved in the business of giving or sharing money, neither is it into reckless loan giving. It is available to help enrich business ideas and perhaps design programmes of operation for the owners.
TRANSFORMATION IN JOB CREATION
Governor Udom Emmanuel has created more employment opportunities through creating more businesses in Akwa Ibom State via AKEES – Engr. Ufot Ebong –immediate past Senior Special Assistant to Governor on Technical Matters and Due Process.
The focus of governance in Akwa Ibom State principally has been on industrialization and job creation. This is made absolutely necessary to establish a programme that will engage the skills, ideas, capacities and productive endeavours of Akwa Ibom people towards inspiring an industrial revolution from down up.
AKEES have sought to get young people off the streets and into work through trainings, partnerships, franchise schemes, internships and specially designed enterprise development schemes. Guided by the objective to reduce youth unemployment by 50% by 2020, through the development of youth entrepreneurs, AKEES has begun to impact whole industries in the sub-region in just one year. Over 1500 have been employed; over 85 businesses have been either created or reinforced.
TRANSFORMATION IN TOMATOES AND VEGETABLE PRODUCTION
The value chain of tomatoes/vegetables farming is quite enormous. It creates wealth, employment opportunities, self-sufficiency; the ultimate aim is to export the farm produce to the neighboring states and region. An individual by name Uyio James Michael, an indigene of Obot Akara, attests to initiating the weaving of baskets that is used to stock up the tomatoes after harvest. He targets having about 25 persons in his employ and the financial gains are lucrative. No slave labour, the labourers are placed on a monthly wage and additional incentives.
Interested farmers in Akwa Ibom State have been urged to take advantage of the millions of tomato and other cash crop seedlings grown at the various demonstration farms across the state under the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES)
Visible Agricultural transformation across the state is comprehensive. There is also the development in root crops, vegetables and fruits, which are 22 different types, like lettuce, cabbage, radish, pepper, tomato, cucumber, garden Egg etc. Of essence, one particular crop enjoying massive attention of farmers is TOMATO. The simple reason is the surge in tomato cultivation and the huge demand for it both within and outside the state.
It follows that Agricultural Revolution initiated by Governor Udom Emmanuel through AKEES has come to stay. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Technical Matters and Due Process, Mr Ufot Ebong, Agricultural Revolution is one project every Akwa Ibom State person should embrace totally, because apart from ensuring availalbility of these highly nutritious vegetables, the all-round income projections of the sales of the crops are incredibly encouraging.
Also, AKEES Vegetables Nursery/Demonstration Farm at Osongama Estate, Uyo, has been established. This is where all the vegetable/fruits are nursed and groomed to a stage that is ready for transplant to large and permanent farms. The species of tomatoes nurtured in the nursery includes – Roma Red; Tolga and Cobra. A stalk of tomato has a minimum of 60 fruits and it can be harvested 5 to 6 times in its lifespan.
A large expanse of vegetable farms spans across the State – 2.5 hectares of tomato plantation at Mbiabong Etoi, Uyo; 2.3 hectares of vegetables plantation at Ibiaku Obio Ndobo, Uruan LGA; 8 hectares of tomato and other vegetables plantation at Mbak Etoi, Uyo. Diverse Demonstration Farms at Shelter Afrique Estate, Osongama Estate and many other sites.
AKEES FARM: STIMULATING AGRO-ECONOMY
A novel template employed by the government to reduce unemployment, boost entrepreneurship, and stimulate the economy positively is Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES). Through its hands-on capacity building framework, AKEES has spearheaded the acquisition and utilization of skills and building of career entrepreneurs. In the last 24 months, AKEES has taken young people off the streets through trainings, partnerships, franchise schemes, internship opportunities and targeted enterprise development schemes.
So far, over 1,500 youths have received gainful employment with over 85 businesses either created or reinforced through the scheme. The ‘Enterprise Activation’ model of AKEES gives room for evolving a franchise strategy, which allows beneficiaries to take ownership of their businesses through small scale partnerships and business-based authorization. One of its unique selling points is that it allows startups in other parts of the country to consider doing business with those domiciled in Akwa Ibom State.
Other facilities of AKEES like the job programme, tackles the employability of job seeker, while the common facilities and equipment center encourages the formation of industry clusters and their value-chain all over the state.
With AKEES facilities, the State is fast becoming an emerging economy in Nigeria, giving face lift to digital businesses with 3,000 youths trained on ICT. Over 1,000 youths have also been trained on fashion design and clothing. One of the beneficiaries, SUNICK CLOTHING, which hosts a ‘Fashion Common Facility Centre (CFC) for AKEES, accommodates over 300 tailors and designers across the State. Sunick Clothings has already taken a mega deal of large production orders for jerseys for academic institutions, football clubs and uniformed organizations.
Statistics shows that AKEES is the consumer power house for top-ranking staple foods such as tomato, which in February 2016 alone yielded 12 tonnes within 8 weeks when it is ripe for harvesting.
TRANSFORMATION IN RICE PRODUCTION
The State Government, Governor Udom Emmanuel, has secured 10billion naira for small scale rice growers through the anchor borrowers programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture, a total of 6, 3715 hectares of swamplands is targeted for cultivation by 46,920 rice farmers in the State. Government is currently partnering with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) on the provision of farm inputs for a total of 3,600,000 farmers in Akwa Ibom State between 2016 to 2019.
A breakdown shows that 600,000 farmers will benefit from the scheme and 1200,000 farmers are earmarked for 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Do you know that Nigeria as a country currently imports over 2.1million metric tonnes of rice from Thailand, United States and even India, thereby creating millions of employment opportunities for the citizens of their various countries, while we as our Nation drain our scarce resources importing rice to promote leakages, capital flight and unemployment in our country’s economy, with a yearly expenditure of $356Billion on rice importation alone at the expense of our capital project?
The total local consumption for rice is about 5million metric tonnes and a projected consumption rate of 35metric tonnes in 2050, which our local rice production and resources cannot accommodate going by our low production level nationwide. This massive demand gap has created a veritable opportunity and viable options for us as a State to aggressively partnership with the private sector (Foreign and Local investors) in developing and further expanding rice production like Ebonyi State and Sokoto State to an appreciable level.
Manufacturing is the target of Akwa Ibom State Government through the leadership model of Governor Udom Emmanuel. In partnership with the private sector, factories are built to enable processing and preservation of seasonal crops for all year round consumption, processing feeds for animals to encourage fish, snail and grass cutters breeding etc.
Distribution of Agricultural produce is one of the paramount aims as the State Government always provides vehicles for the fast evacuation of foodstuff from producing areas to sales point all over the State, provide for refrigeration trucks for movement of perishable foodstuff and animal products.
TRANSFORMATION IN POULTRY PRODUCTION
In keeping with his avowed commitment to upholding the widowhood rights and ensuring their welfare, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. UdomEmmanuel, has instituted the Akwa Prime Hatchery empowerment programme for widows in the State.
Tagged “Naomi Initiative” the programme is packaged for poverty alleviation, job creation and wealth creation amongst widows in the State interested in poultry farming. Under the “Naomi Initiative” benefitting widows are provided with a starter pack, including a breeder farm, a carton of starter chicks of 3 weeks old, feeds, fumigation as well as other extension services to ensure sustenance and successful processes of the out growers poultry farms.
This measure which is a reinforcement of the widowhood rights as domesticated in the State is also a means of diversifying the chain value of Akwa Prime Hatchery for increased productivity in poultry products. It would be recalled that, at inauguration of the factory on May 28, 2016, Governor Udom Emmanuel had said the Akwa Prime Hatchery will not only accentuate his industrialization drive, but will provide job opportunities and create wealth for the people.
The Governor had at the time organized free training for over 1000 interested poultry farmers and set-up out-growers breeder farms for 200 successful poultry farmers, along with feed mill .
Sitting on a large expanse of 5000 hectares of land in Mbiaya Uruan, Akwa Prime Hatchery has an incubator capacity of 56,000 eggs and production capacity of over 230,000 day old chicks per week. With the success story at Akwa Prime Hatchery, poultry farmers in the State, who hitherto travelled to the western states for supplies of day old chicks now, now have them at their door step. The factory is now the supplier of day old chicks and also supplies the neighboring states.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has also inaugurated 540,000 Egg capacity poultry Hatcher that is catering to the needs of poultry farmers in Akwa Ibom State and the entire South South Geo-political zone at Mbiaya in Uruan Local Government Area of the state/other remarkable achievements in the Agriculturaal sector include:
• Training of over 450 youths on special cocoa best management practices to ensure improvement of yields from 300kg/ha to 2,000kg/ha over a three-year period.
• The distribution of improved oil palm and cocoa seedlings to farmers in the state; participated in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Rice Anchor Borrower Scheme with about 4,920 registered farmers for empowerment.
• Commissioned 1,000,000 day-old-chicks (DOCS) per month Capacity Poultry Hatchery complex at Mbiaya Uruan through public private partnership (PPP).
• Mobilization of poultry farmers to off-take the product of the poultry hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan.
• Establishment of out-growers scheme for the hatchery and training scheme of poultry farmers; extension and technical advisory services to about 350 fish farms in the State and identification of water reservoirs for inland fisheries programme; data collection and collation from fishing settlement and farms for enhanced fisheries policies.
• Collaboration with Skye Bank and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Anchor Borrowers Scheme for cassava farmers and mobilization of 5,000 cassava farmers for the scheme as well as creation of 5,000 jobs (Downstream) and about 15,000 jobs (Upstream) through the value addition.
• Collaboration with Skye Bank and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Scheme for Catfish farmers and mobilization of 2,000 catfish farmers for the scheme as well as creation of 6,000 jobs (Downstream) and 18,000 (Upstream) through value addition.
In view of all these achievements, the policy thrust of the leadership model of Governor Udom Emmanuel administration is to grow agriculture as a business and not as a developmental project or past time or a subsistent vocation.
And for post Covid 19 wobbling economy, the governor is poised to develop more agro based businesses and buiding of industries that will use the crop from the farms as source of raw materials for production.
It goes beyond assumptions to conclude that, because details presented in this article are all verifiable and accessible, statements made by the Governor in that connection cannot be practical, as critics and cynics might choose to project.