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Agriculture revolution in Niger Delta

As an officer in the Army, I took to farming believing that is the future of the country and that  on a personal level, I could better sustain my family. Our lands are so fertile that I did not need much fertilizer; the inputs were minimal and the yields were much. Our climate, by God’s grace is predictable; it rains when it should rain and the sun shines when it should; so why not take advantage of what nature has freely given us as Nigerians.

When in July 2015, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed me Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, I had the primary responsibilities of streamlining the Programme and transforming it back on track, working for peace in the Niger Delta and sustainably reintegrating some 30,000 Amnesty beneficiaries back into society.

Although we have various integration programmes which include education, vocational training, professional training in Aviation and Maritime, automobile engineering, entrepreneurial training and tourism and hospitality, I had no doubt that the best way to integrate such a huge number of beneficiaries quickly and sustainably, is through aquaculture and agriculture. However, I also realized that  this requires a lot of planning and painstaking implementation; like other programmes, we had to conceptualize, plant, culture and  water  the ideas to the germination and harvest stages.

We approached a number of agencies and embassies especially the Israeli Embassy. We have also  gone into partnership with various Agricultural bodies. But as a basic step, we had to get the beneficiaries interested so they can buy into the Programme. In keying into the Federal Government’s Agriculture Initiative, we presented our  ideas and the facts on the ground.

The facts are that agriculture creates mass sustainable jobs and empowerment; advanced  technology and high yield varieties ensure good harvest, and costs can  be drastically reduced by building locally fabricated integrated feed mills which rely entirely on local products. Also,  our country of over 180 million people is a huge market in itself and additionally, the ECOWAS (West African Region) provides a market that is more or less limitless. On the national level, we know that in   taking to agriculture, the country is moving towards  food self- sufficiency and security.

I am happy at the level of enthusiasm for agriculture amongst Amnesty Beneficiaries and to harvest this, we had turned to the  National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) with an agreement to train an initial one thousand beneficiaries and youths at its Bio-Resource Centre in Odi, Bayelsa State. Unfortunately, budget delays have not allowed us to take full advantage of this agency which uses  technology and the principles of science to produce high yields in farming.

However, the Presidential Amnesty Office  has  trained and began to empower Amnesty Beneficiaries in crop farming,  fishery and  poultry. As at June, 2017, 1,000 Amnesty beneficiaries across the nine Oil-Producing States are being trained in agriculture and will be empowered to establish their own farms.  These include 105 Beneficiaries undergoing training in Agro-Business with the Songhai  Rivers Initiative at the Songhai Farms, Rivers State,  and 100 Beneficiaries training in fish farming under  kabocastle Services  at its Perecastle Fish Farm, Patani, Delta State.

Also, an average of 25 Beneficiaries each are being trained in fish farming in   six centres including  the Delta State University by  Gedisco Energy solutions, Infinite Farms in Ozoro, Delta State and     Orus Resources Farm, Aluu, Rivers State. At the  Institute of Oceanography, University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State,  96 Beneficiaries are undergoing training in fish farming. The Ma-Atari Farms,  Port Harcourt are training some Amnesty Beneficiaries in agriculture and poultry farming, the Ogbebor Leadership Institute, Ologbo, Edo State is training some in rubber processing, TSC Services is training 24 in General Agri-Business  at the  Edo State College of Education, Iguoriakhi, Edo State while  Eunirusk Investment is training 18 in  Cassava, Corn and Oil Palm at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. Forty eight Amnesty beneficiaries are  being trained in crop farming by the Faculty of  Agriculture,  Imo State University.

The  training in  agriculture is designed as a full value chain ; from farming, production, processing, packaging, marketing to  Agri-Business Management. By our planning, each farm  will require the services  of at least four farmers. This has the prospect  of creating 4,000 farm workers in the Region under this phase.

Also, some leaders of the Amnesty Beneficiaries have bought our argument that  building houses is not sustainable as they have to be serviced and  maintained, but in contrast, taking to agriculture is a money-yielding venture. So many of them have bought  into the agriculture revolution.  One of them is into large scale rice farming in Bayelsa State while another which has taken to plantain  cultivation, is emerging as  the biggest farmer in Bomadi, Delta State.

It is not only the consciousness of the Amnesty Beneficiaries that  need to be transformed but also  that of the Niger Delta and country as a whole; oil is a wasting asset, it may dry up in the foreseeable future. In contrast what the future foresee is that agriculture would enrich us all. So let us start with the basic policy of eating only what we grow, and growing what we eat. Change should begin with each of us.

  • Brig.-Gen. Boroh (rtd) is the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.


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