EKWEREMADU: TEACHING THE PEOPLE HOW TO FISH
One of the major parameters to measure a strong and stable nation is the level of her food security and self-sufficiency. Usually, a country is considered to be socially and politically stable if it possesses a very stable agricultural basis.
Interestingly, this great height can only be achieved through sustainable agricultural endeavours, which play a vital role in the economy of every nation, thus translating into a stable political economy.
In Nigeria, though we have a heavy dependence on oil, agriculture still plays a pivotal role in our economy, as most of our rural dwellers heavily depend on it as a major source of income and employment.
Co-incidentally, our problem is that most of our farmers are still engaged in primitive and subsistent agriculture, leading to low produce and poor preservation techniques. This trend, if allowed to continue, will definitely lead us to avoidable food crises.
Therefore, when at the instance of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Abia State, engaged women farmers, numbering over 750 from Enugu West Senatorial District on a training programme on improved agro-technologies and value addition, observers were quick to praise the idea, describing the Senator's vision as timely and courageous.
The training progrmame, which started with women farmers from Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, is scheduled to take the experts from Umudike to all the other four Local Government Areas of Enugu West Senatorial district, namely Udi, Oji-River, Aninri and Awgu.
Already the women farmers from Ezeagu Local Govt Area, who benefited in the programme, were exposed to all aspects of modern agriculture, including encouraging adaptation of improved technologies on root and tuber crops from the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, processes of livestock rearing, fish farming techniques, plant breeding, greater use of fertilizer and pesticides and food produce-storing techniques, among others. These techniques, according to the experts, will ensure that food could be made available in the country throughout the year. The women farmers were also trained to train others, which will ultimately culminate in job creation and youth empowerment in the Senatorial district and beyond.
Also, Senator Ekweremadu has been teaching his people 'how to catch fish' through his outreach organisation, the Ikeoha Foundation, a non governmental organisation funded by him. Since the year 2004, this foundation has awarded scholarships to over 3, 000 students from Enugu State, cutting across different higher institutions in the country.
Over 50 graduate engineers from Enugu West Senatorial District at the Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI) Enugu, to expose the young engineers to practical engineering. He has also established functional adult literacy centres in 25 communities spread across the Senatorial district.
Annually, micro-credits are freely distributed to small business groups, with sewing machines and power generators distributed to widows and youths in the district.
Finally, I want to salute the collaboration between Ekweremadu and the experts from National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike. It is a step in the right direction which if emulated by other well meaning Nigerians, will catapult the country into a food basket of the world. This I call 'teaching the people how to catch fish; not just giving them fish.'
Mgboh, a Public Affairs analyst writes from Enugu
Furthermore, youths are galvanised to stay out of trouble and more importantly sponsored abroad for trials through the annual unity football tournament sponsored by Senator Ekweremadu for his Senatorial District.
To crown it all, the Senator made it a point of duty that the roads and bridges he attracted interlinked communities in his Senatorial district and beyond, to help the rural farmers evacuate their produce, since agriculture is usually common in the rural areas.