By Prince Ejeh Josh
The future is agriculture:
In a recent study jointly conducted by Simeon Ehui of the World Bank and Marinos Tsigas of the United States International Trade Commission on the role of agriculture on Nigeria’s economic growth, their findings concluded among other things that: Nigeria’s agricultural sector has a high potential for growth, however, this potential is not being realised, and opportunities it presents are far underutilized.
According to the above researchers; productivity in agricultural sector is low and basically stagnant. Farming systems, which are mostly small in scale, are still predominantly subsistence-based and for the most part depend on the vagaries of the weather. They further added that many agricultural policies have also been ineffective, either because they have been misguided, or because their impacts have been swamped by macro policies affecting inflation, exchange rates, and the cost of capital.
The above is yoked with the alarming rate of poverty driven by unnerving fall in the prices of crude oil at the international market. Since the discovery and mining of crude oil in Nigeria, the country has wholly depended on the petro-chemical sector for its earnings, and has, over the years, failed to diversify. This unimodal and monolithic economic behavior has precariously entrenched itself and left Nigeria’s economy in a weak precipice.
As a result of this negative trend, many economic and development experts have called for a drastic measure to save the economy from further degenerating. For these experts, the only way Nigeria can escape from the scourge of poverty and economic conundrums is to diversify. This entails making a quick inroad into the agricultural sector.
Governor Ugwuanyi’s Agribusiness drive:
It is in this light that the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State had decided to make agriculture and agro-allied industries in the state part of its core agenda. A state that would be driven not by external influences but by local contents inspired by government’s dedication for an alternative revenues to petro-dollars. This impressive agenda for the good people of Enugu State prompted the engagements of experts and agronomists to spearhead the quest for a sustainable agriculture, self-sufficiency in food production and upsurge in the revenue generation of the state.
With the measure on board, innovative policies were formulated, blending traditional way of farming management with a modern idea of commercial agriculture which transcends farming to trade-marking, processing, packaging, branding, services, marketing, exporting and the conversion of raw materials into finished products within and outside the state. This has created a form of synergy between the divergent areas of agriculture such as crop production, animal husbandry, horticulture, fish farming, and the likes.
The effort pushed further to establish a complementary synergy between agricultural sector and other sectors of the economy in the state. With the current state of affairs, the agricultural sector has inevitably become a catalyst triggering other sectors into operation, thereby diversifying the economy of the state with outstanding returns.
In fact, statistical outputs from recent studies by independent researchers have indicated excellent improvements in the economy of the state, and that by diversifying Enugu’s economy, economic growth has sped up, thousands of jobs have been created; youths have been engaged in empowerment programmes and wealth creation, agriprenuership and export activities. What this means is that, an enabling environment has been created for youth to see hope in tapping from the limitless opportunities presented by the untapped goldmine called agriculture through incentives made available by the state.
Furthermore, reports show that more willing people are now moving down the rural areas where these opportunities appeared tempting and lucrative the government having gone extra mile to create vitally needed infrastructure, with plethora of mouthwatering incentives that would enable farmers produce, process and market their products at profitable rates.
To be certain, these efforts were well-thought out and piloted in some areas that served as litmus ground before giving them a form of commercialization. The ingenuity was a huge success. This, indeed, was the beginning of the success story of agro-allied revenues in the state. The thrilling aspect of the success story of the ongoing agricultural revolution in the state is two-pronged: the people are earning huge incomes flowing from the project, and the state is also earning revenues from it. However, since the projects were weaved around the people, the latter seems to be earning higher. This articulated gesture has boosted the per capita income of the citizens, raised the bar of their purchasing power and enhanced their bargaining capacity.
It is on the strength of the above innovation and foundational takeoff that Enugu State is presently priding itself in various agro-allied businesses. In recent past, as a way of assuring farmers and agriprenuers of more income and capital flow, the state has literally trademarked all its products. For the first time, references are made to Coal City Rice, Enugu Cashew, Enugu Garri, Nsukka Pepper, Enugu Palm Oil, Enugu Okra and Enugu Vegetables.
For the Coal City Rice which has become a household staple food across the state due to its quality taste and standard of production, the state took extra efforts in procuring rice destoning milling for rice processors across the rice producing belt of the state. Free seminars and trainings are regularly organized on the use of these machines with a high regards for standard, professionalism and purity.
Due to the need to achieve standardization of products, the Special Adviser on Agriculture, Engr. Michael Ogbuekwe introduced the packaging standards and has encouraged the destoning of every rice produced in Enugu State. This is in addition to the packaging brand that would make the product compete favourably at the open market. Interestingly, the process of marketing this product has been made easier with the introduction of the marketing board. This boost in the marketing process despite increasingly demand has resulted to commercialisation as tons of the Coal City Rice are finding their way into market. Consumers have hailed the product as easy to prepare, delicious, zero-chemical, with its natural nutrients unaltered.
For the much touted, frequently patronized and bestselling Nsukka Pepper, the office of the Special Adviser on Agriculture, Engr. Michael Ogbuekwe, with the support of the state government, had to take a further step to drive the product beyond local market by creating an industrial content for it. The Nsukka Pepper has been rated as one of the best species of peppers in Nigeria.
To seize the opportunity presented by this product to yield more equities for the people and returns to the state as revenues, the government swiftly took the pain of trade-marking, re-branding and repackaging of the seasoning such that consumers could have them handy, and they could easily be exported without damage. This is a commendable innovation brought into the history of Nigeria’s agriculture which requires documentation for the development of other agricultural sector.
Pleasingly, a huge market has already been created for this pepper as different companies have started introducing this pepper into the ingredients of spices they produce. Amongst the companies are Tiger Food Limited and Global Resources International Business. For the above dream to be realized, the state created a deliberate market linkage programme to ensure aggregation of products and assist the farmers have access to industries.
In addition to the above remarkable programmes, the Enugu Cashew has also been trademarked by the state and repackaged for industrial production. Today, cashew contributes immensely to the economy of rural areas of Enugu State
It’s also pertinent to mention other products duly trademarked by the state which have potential of engaging thousands of young entrepreneurs in agriculture. These products are Enugu Palm Oil, Enugu Garri, Enugu Vegetables, and Enugu Okro.
Efi Igbo Ranch:
As a groundbreaking advancement in agriculture, and in a determined attempt to place the state at an economic vantage point, the state, through the Governor, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has initiated the idea of a modern ranching system aimed at meeting the beef demand of the public.
The modern ranching system, with a technology transfer from states and climes already successful in the business, would serve as a hub for interested farmers to get trained. The primary purpose of this project is to trigger the local economy, get more people employed, create more wealth, and enhance capital flow through beef and milk production.
Already, the project has commenced in earnest at Eha-Alumona, Nsukka Local Government Area of the state being the pilot section before it would be domesticated in other areas and by private farmers.
Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Support Project
The Federal Government and the World Bank are partnering with the Enugu State government through its Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Support Project (APPEALS), for the development of value chains of rice, cashew and poultry. This project is billed to support and develop over 6,000 farmers and cooperatives in Enugu State. Its impact on the economy will trigger a chain of development and help sustain infant industries. That means more revenue for the people.
The Agribusiness Hub:
Interestingly too, the office of the Special Adviser has also kicked started a new platform called the Agribusiness Hub, for training and mentoring of youths who have indicated interest to employ themselves and also employ others. Leveraging on past experiences, the Agribusiness Hub x-rays the reluctances and challenges of the Enugu youth to create a tailor-suited solution for them.
The Agribusiness Hub has trained lots of youth free of charge, and empowered them with knowledge that will make them do well in their respective fields of agriculture. These trainings which are hands-on-practical exercise encompass the spectrum of agribusiness from processing, branding, packaging and marketing.
With the above steps taken so far, one would easily forecast the state’s readiness to diversify its economy by developing a system whereby all rural areas have thriving local economies centered on agriculture.