Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have called on the Bayelsa State government to jettison politics if it wants its agricultural policies and programmes to succeed.
Governor Douye Diri had recently while speaking on the Central Bank of Nigerian Agricultural loans declared that his administration would not politicise assessment of the loans.
The stakeholders speaking during a research validation workshop on the impact of oil spills on livelihoods (sustainable livelihood assessment) organised by the FACE Initiative, a non-governmental organisation based in the Niger Delta, with support from CORDAID held at the state Ministry of Environment Conference Hall in Yenagoa urged the state government to stop the politicisation of agricultural policies and programmes in order for the state to benefit immensely from the sector.
According to them recent statistics have shown that Bayelsa was not on the map of agriculture driven states in Nigeria noting that unless the state government “separate agricultural development from politics”, it would be difficult for the state to maximise and harvest the economic value-chain and the opportunities offered by agriculture.
They raised concern that those they described as “political farmers” seemed to have accessed agricultural loans more than genuine farmers in the state even as some uninformed farmers believed that loans from agro-finance institutions were part of the national cake and did not require repayment.
Mr Inatimi Odio Executive Director of FACE Initiative who presented the research document titled: ‘Sustainable Livelihood Assessment in Bayelsa State: Effect of Oil Bunkering and Artisanal Refining on Livelihoods’ pointed out that agric-related jobs had been gravely impacted by the twin-practice of oil bunkering and artisanal refining.
He disclosed that the research findings indicated that many people living in the communities could not cope with the impacts of oil spills.
Odio therefore advocate for a deliberate agricultural policy that would make the government “see agriculture as a commercial activity rather than a subsistence activity.”
He also recommended the strengthening and operationalisation of agriculture extension services to build the capacity of local farmers on local farming techniques.
Participants at that workshop included representatives from the state ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Women Affairs, Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), Cash Transfer Office and community-based groups