PROMINENT leaders of Urhobo ethnic nationality have stressed the need for agricultural investors in Urhoboland to urgently embrace the huge potentials inherent in commercial livestock and crop farming to create employment and reduce the level of poverty among the people.
At the third edition of Urhobo Economic and Investment Summit, the leaders, who were drawn from various walks of life, submitted that the age-long practice of subsistence farming was no longer fashionable, and cannot create the desired level of economic prosperity across the 24 kingdoms of Urhoboland.
The theme of the virtual summit was “Harnessing Agricultural Potentials for Growth and Development in Urhoboland” was organised by the Urhobo Economic and Investment Group.
Among the participants were the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Barr. Ovie Omo-Agege, members of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ben Igbakpa and Hon. Francis Waive, Hon Efe Afe, Chief of Staff to Governor of Delta State, Olorogun David Edevbie, members of the academia, traditional rulers, development experts, among many others.
In his submission, Omo-Agege said Urhoboland has the natural resources needed to sustain a strong agrarian economy, noting that there are many untapped potentials in the agricultural sector that can be harnessed to create job opportunities, support rural development, and secure sustainable food production for the Urhobo ethnic nationality.
He advocated the need for farmers to fully engage in “complementarities between cropping and livestock farming in mutually reinforcing and sustainable ways”, noting that recent concerns over alternative initiatives to open grazing have expanded opportunities for livestock and animal husbandry.
“In all, we must all be pro-active in the context of the present socio-economic climate in both our country and at the world stage. There are growing concerns and agitations for every group of persons to be inward-looking in terms of economic development and the pulling of their peoples from the throes of poverty. People need to look at historical areas of proficiencies and competencies, explore and exploit them. The Urhobo nation will not be left out”, the Deputy Senate President said.
On his part, Hon. Igbakpa, who represents Ethiope East/Ethiope West constituency in the House of Representatives, stressed the need for Urhobos to be adequately prepared to tap into future opportunities that may emanate from the proposed African Continental Trade Zone.
Similarly, Hon. Waive said there was need for reorientation of Urhobo farmers to make them more receptive to government programmes aimed at promoting agricultural activities.
Edevbie said the theme of the summit was apt and a wake-up call to fully harness the potentials of agriculture for a brighter socio-economic growth of the Urhobo nation.
In a keynote address, a Professor of Animal Science at Delta State University, Anwai, Lawrence Bratte, explained that although the Urhobos are notable for agricultural activities, their inability to transcend the small scale farming and adopt modern agricultural techniques remains a drawback in the quest to leverage the gains of the agrarian sector for the significant improvement of the standard of living in Urhoboland.
Bratte, who is the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture at DELSU, observed that the multiple challenges of limited capital, dearth of processing mills and disorganised markets in the agricultural value chain have made it difficult for Urhobo farmers to benefit from the widening demand-supply gap in certain agricultural products, such as cassava and yam.
He called on Urhobo farmers to intensify efforts to access available agricultural credit facilities provided by government at all levels, and proposed a more robust private sector participation in the establishment of farming clusters and settlements with full processing units to attract investors.
An Urban Expert with Future Cities and former Special Adviser to UK erstwhile Prime Ministers, Olorogun Nero Ughwujabo, said modern technology has radically changed the methods of agricultural practices around the world, noting that current realities demand that Urhobo farmers should build know-how, collaborate at different fronts and facilitate market linkages with investors across the globe.
Engr. Dr. Emmanuel Audu Ohwavborua, a director at NDDC, Called on Urhobos at home and in diaspora to venture into Agriculture as one of the most reliable sector in Nigeria considering the dwindling oil prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Delta State Government, Mr Ede Oghoro, said the state and federal governments are providing the necessary infrastructures to promote farming in the state, adding that certain institutional programmes like the Anchor Borrower’s Programme and Accelerated Agricultural Programme were designed to give greater impetus to farming.
Earlier, the convener of the summit, Mr Kingsley Ubiebi said his group was an interventionist body and a think-tank set up to complement the efforts of other groups to achieve an economically prosperous Urhobo Nation where peace and security flourishes.