By Leonard Okachie
Umuahia, Oct. 7, 2020 No fewer than 350 farmers in Abia on Wednesday participated in a one-day training in modern cassava production and entrepreneurship under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrower Programme.
The training, which was facilitated by Kanyi Kesandu Multipurpose Cooperative Society, took place at Ngodo Isuochi in Umuunneochi Local Government Area of Abia.
The programme’s Anchor in Abia, Dr Chidia Maduekwe, who is also the founder of the cooperative, said the essence of the training was to avail farmers in Abia the opportunity to benefit from President Muhammadu Buhari’s laudable programme on agriculture.
Maduekwe said that Abia was not doing well in agriculture, in spite of the landmark performance in the sector by the late Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dr Michael Okpara, and Sen. Orji Kalu as a governor.
“Abia people are deeply yearning to return to agriculture, considering the feat achieved by Okpara and replicated by Kalu, who donated palm seedlings to civil servants as governor.
“I see no reason Abia should lag behind in agriculture and not benefit from Federal Government’s agricultural programme, which other states are already enjoying,’’ he said.
He expressed his determination to ensure that Abia keyed into all the good governance programmes of Buhari’s administration.
Maduekwe, who is also the Managing Director, Nigeria Film Corporation, Jos, said that it was his duty as a government appointee to enlighten the people on federal government programmes.
“I have to make sure that I cascade Buhari’s programmes to Abia to enable the people to benefit from them,’’ he said.
He said that the training, which was organised in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), would take place in the 17 local government areas (LGA) of Abia.
He expressed satisfaction with the turnout of participants at the event, saying that a similar event at Nkporo in Ohafia LGA on October 1, also recorded an impressive turnout of farmers.
A Consultant on CBN Projects on Agriculture, Mr David Ogunbiyi, said that the exercise was meant to sensitise and mobilise the farmers to benefit from the bank’s anchor borrower programme on cassava.
Ogunbiyi said that the programme was initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015 as parts of its efforts to encourage Nigerians go back to agriculture.
“In the 1960s, Nigeria was renowned for its greatness in agriculture. Today, all that have gone with the advent of oil.
“Nigerians have abandoned agriculture in pursuit of oil,’’ he said, and urged the people to return to agriculture for Nigeria to return to the era of greatness.
He said that the CBN programme would help to take millions of farmers out of poverty, provide employment for the people and boost food production and security.
A resource person, Mr Samuel Amajor, who spoke on entrepreneurship, regretted that Nigeria had became an import-dependent nation, when the people turned their back against agriculture.
Amajor, a retired Director in NDE, said that God endowed Nigeria with arable land, citing the great feat achieved in agriculture before the emergence of crude oil.
“Our nation has drifted backwards to become import-dependent and cannot feed its citizens.
“Let us look inward and see what we have in our environment that we can harness to empower ourselves and become self-reliant economically,’’ Amajor said.
He charged the farmers to be creative in their venture, if they hoped to excel in the current competitive economy.
“God has given us fertile arable land, brain and hands. Let us use our heads and hands to empower ourselves, feed ourselves, families, communities and Nigeria,’’ he said.
Also, Mr Ikechukwu Emezue, a Director at the Farm Centre, Gregory University, Uturu, in a lecture on Cassave Value Chain, urged the farmers to embrace modern technology in cassava production.
Emezue said that there was more profit in cassava value chain than the production of cassava “for garri and fufu.’’
“Cassava production can be diversified outside garri and fufu to live stocks feeds and industrial purposes.
“The benefits of cassava value chain are limitless. It helps to ensure food security, economic sustainability and reduction in crime,’’ he said.
Emezue warned that Nigeria would experience worse food scarcity during the post-COVID-19 era.
According to him, the earlier we embrace modern methods of farming, the better for Nigeria.
Some of the participants, including the Traditional Ruler of Isi Obinolu Kingdom, Isuochi, Eze Kenneth Ugha, Mr Anthony Maduabuchi and Mrs Chidinma Eze, said they were excited that the programme was brought down to them.
They promised to tap into it to enhance their fortunes in cassava farming and commended Maduekwe for the gesture.