“FARMING as an activity contributes nearly one-sixth to our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a major portion of our population is dependent on it for livelihood.
“Government recognizes the need to restore agriculture to its pride of place in the State. This is underscored by the global challenge of hunger and malnutrition threatening millions of people. We have proposed projects in the 2021 Budget that will employ improved farm input, farming systems, and post-harvest processing technologies to increase food production, create jobs and ensure food security.”
These were the words of the Governor of Delta State, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Tuesday in Asaba when he presented the Year 2021 Appropriation Bill to the Delta State House of Assembly for consideration.
The governor is realistic in his approach to handling issues and his passion for the growth of agriculture in the state has become legendary. Since assuming office as Governor in 2015, he has recorded a lot of visible achievements in the agriculture sector.
Agriculture, which was practically been despised as dirty job meant for the aging population and retirees, has become so lucrative and attractive that numerous graduates and undergraduates are today proud to say they are farmers in Delta State.
Young persons are now actively involved in poultry, fish farming, piggery, goat rearing, snail farming and rearing of ‘grass-cutter’. Several others are ready to take visitors round their plantain cum oil palm plantations, cassava farms, rice farms, maize farms and several others.
The good thing about the development is that there is ready market for the produce. In every local government area of the state there are farms established by those who were empowered by Okowa administration.
Yes! Through the Job Creation Office, a lot of Deltans have been trained to be enterpreneurs in different fields, but my joy is seeing the success stories recorded in the area of agriculture. All over the world, even with mechanisation, agriculture remains the greatest employer of labour.
This has also manifested in the state where those who were trained and equipped to function have also trained others or employed more hands to work in their farms. These, in no little measures, have given a boost to the socio-economic life of the people of the state. Social vices have also reduced as more people are getting gainfully engaged by the day.
With an increasing number of people getting involved in agriculture, it will certainly get to a stage where there may be glut and Governor Okowa, in his characteristic proactive approach to handling issues, is going the extra mile to protect the farmers and encourage them to work harder.
During that presentation of the Appropriation Bill, otherwise known as Budget proposal, the governor disclosed that before the end of this year, there will be the groundbreaking for an Agro-Industrial Park at Aboh Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.
The choice of Ogwashi-Uku for the project is very ideal – it is not far from the biggest market in Africa, Onitsha. It is not also far from the Asaba International Airport, which will soon have cargo section and, of course with the dualisation of the Ughelli-Asaba Expressway, the products will be readily evacuated through the Warri Port and other sea ports in the state.
In addition, with a functional railway, getting goods to the railway station at Agbor will only take minutes. This certainly makes the nascent industrial park an investors’ delight.
Okowa said, “After four years of rigorous planning, hard work and negotiations, the Agro-Industrial Park at Aboh Ogwashi-Uku is finally ready to take off. It is currently at construction stage under an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with a completion period of eighteen months. The ground-breaking ceremony will be performed before the end of this year.
“The Park is being developed as a multi-purpose and multi-product epicentre of agro-processing, agro-industrial and agribusiness activities to catalyze and transform agricultural value chains in the State. It is a joint venture between Delta State Government, Mirai Technologies Ltd and Norsworthy Investments Ltd. In this regard, the three parties have jointly registered a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) known as Delta State Agro-Industrial Park Limited.
“By design, it will have clustered set of infrastructure, facilities and utilities including power, water, security, research and training, quality assurance, sewage and waste management. Others are marketing and commerce, packaging, warehousing, storage, equipment maintenance, administration, conferences, residential accommodation and hospitality.
“The value proposition of the Agro-Industrial Park includes the elimination of persisting infrastructure constraints to agro-industries, diminution of the cost of operations, and enhancement of the overall ease of doing agribusiness. The common infrastructure, facilities and amenities will enable firms and businesses to operate smoothly, attain maximal efficiency, maintain profitability, and grow investments over time. These will foster improved competitiveness of agro-industrial and agro-processing businesses, increased flow of private investments to the state’s agricultural sector, job and wealth creation, sustainable growth, and diversification of the state’s economy.
“At full capacity, the park will host from 20 to 30 agro-processing factories and agribusiness enterprises. Altogether, the number of direct jobs that will be created by the Agro-Industrial Park could be up to 4,000, while the indirect economic impacts will cover tens of thousands of farmers and agricultural value chain operators.”
This is really a bountiful period for the agricultural sector. While the governor provided billions of naira for the Ministry of Agriculture, the administration also provided for the Micro-Credit agency, Job Creation Office, among other funds that can be accessed by farmers.
With the huge investment and passionate interest in the sustenance of agricultural programmes, the dreams of food sufficiency, no doubt, is becoming achievable in Delta State. All that is required is engaging in positive actions, remaining focused and prayerful, believing in God and encouraging Governor Okowa and his administration to always bring out their best.
By FIDELIS EGUGBO,
Special Assistant, Media, to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa