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We Have Restored Our People’s Sense Of Pride—Obiano

By James Eze
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The governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has declared that two years of result-driven investment in agriculture by his administration has turned up impressive results that have restored the pride of his people.

Speaking at the flag off of the 2016 Farming Season in Umunze on Wednesday, Governor Obiano recalled that “two years ago, when we lit the fire of agricultural revolution in Anambra State, we had nothing but our dreams. Today, standing before you on this podium, I am proud to declare that Anambra State has become the first state in Nigeria to export farm produce to Europe.”

Enumerating the achievements of his administration in agriculture in the past two farming seasons, Obiano pointed out that the state now has large industrial farms that have pushed up its rice production to 190,000 metric tons, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs and had finally capped the achievements up with the production of wheat in commercial quantity.

“We are making steady progress that will eventually drive home the point that Agriculture is the neglected corner stone of the Nigerian economy. We are extracting values to justify our decision to make agriculture the number one pillar of my Economic Blueprint. Indeed, from May 15, 2014 when we made the call to arms in agriculture, we have given Ndi Anambra another reason to be proud of their beloved state,” he declared.

Pointing out that the state had attracted $1.011 worth of investments from seven firms to agriculture alone, Governor Obiano commended Ndi Anambra for heeding his call to invest in agriculture, singling out Stine Industries Limited for a special praise for winning the Best Rice in Africa award at the recent African Products Forum in Lagos and dusting competing rice brands from South Africa, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia and Cameroun. “That is the Spirit of Anambra! That is change at its best. That also is a fulfilment of one of the basic expectations of leadership – to shine the light so that the people will see the way,” he explained.

According to him, the state government had empowered about 50,000 farmers through cooperatives, approved over N120m worth of business plans and linked 3000 cooperatives to institutions offering credit facilities.

“This farming Season, we shall raise the bar of performance. The Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) will today pave the path to a brighter future for 15,000 people through the disbursement of the N1billion in its SME Retail Lending Programme. The sum is part of the N2bn Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund that my administration has accessed from the Central Bank of Nigeria,” Governor Obiano further declared, pointing out that 800 direct jobs and 5000 indirect jobs were created through the scheme during the last farming season.

Narrating the plans of his administration for the new farming season, the governor explained that his administration had set up a Monitoring and Control Centre to capture and build up a data bank on all famers in the state to avoid identity duplication and ghost farmers.

He also revealed that plans are underway to set up an Agro Library that would archive important data like the history of land ownership and boundary information in order to check the incidence of land disputes that might stall progress in the state.

Also speaking, the MD/CEO of Anambra Small Business Association (ASBA), Mr. Clement Chukwuka revealed that of the N1bn disbursed the agency last year, 45% went to manufacturing and 35% went to agriculture while 12% and 10% went to trade and commerce and services respectively.

According to him, “it is gratifying to note that our N1bn SME facilities granted to beneficiaries since last year has almost zero default rate as no obligor has defaulted in their monthly interest payment obligations.”

Mr. Chukwuka also revealed that ASBA would commence the second phase of the micro credit scheme as it had concluded modalities to ensure that the 250 youths that underwent training at the Agricultural Training School in Mgbakwu and their counterparts who graduated from the Technology Incubation Centre in Nnewi would be given seed monies to start up their own businesses.

In his own remarks, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Afam Mbanefo revealed that the state had developed a world class Farmers Information management System (FIMS) that would enable it practice smart farming.

“We have the information and data to guide and manage our farmers as well as interested investment. We have the traceability functionality, we have the required transparency. We therefore request our farmers to approach the control center desk here or visit our office to register for free and be provided with Farmer ID and Cooporative ID,” he declared.

Also, in an obvious response to the challenge posed by the growing menace of Fulani cattle herders, Hon. Mbanefo revealed that his ministry was developing plans to sustain clean meat policy in partnership with the Anambra state butchers association, one of which is to develop Ramp for rearing of EFI Igbo & Ewi Igbo with a keen interest in also promoting the good old Okuko Igbo.

He expressed confident that the development would bring back the Igbo traditional livestock heritage and introduce a market that would attract billions of Naira into the Anambra state business strata.