Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A United Kingdom-based international development organisation that promotes farming in Africa and Asia, Farmers Support Initiative (FSI), has visited Anambra State to start the eradication of extreme poverty in Africa through agriculture.
The group, which is partnering with the Anambra State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture and the Ministry of Agriculture, has inaugurated a steering committee to start the identification of peasant farmers and subsistence farmers in the state.
The international director of FSI, Mr. Ikenna Offor, said during the inauguration of the initiative in Aguleri, Anambra State, that the programme would kick off in Anambra East and West, from where it would move to other parts of the state within five years. It would later move to other states as well as other African countries, he said.
Offor said the group, through its international partners, has mapped out hundreds of millions of naira to fight extreme poverty in Nigeria and other African countries through agricultural grants.
He lamented that many Africans wallow in abject poverty in the midst of affluence, leading to gross migration to more developed countries.
“This project was supposed to start in Malawi, but I said that Nigeria was the largest economy in Africa but today also the poverty capital of the world. We believe that, for Africa to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Vision 2030, a country like Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in the world, must get its house in order.
“We are here to witness the official inauguration of FS Initiative eradication of extreme poverty in Africa project. Focusing on advocacy, information, training and logistical assistance where necessary, we promote farming as a viable means of livelihood and an avenue of sustainable socio-economic development in developing economies. We work in 14 countries, including Nigeria. As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria seems to have benefited from a number of our developmental projects more than many, given the country’s unique position in Africa.
“It is good to remind us that the socio-economic development of Africa is in Africans’ hands. So, we all need to start thinking out of the box in order to effect a positive change. As we plan to walk this path of collectively eradicating extreme poverty in Africa, we need to endeavour that all hands are on deck, given the magnitude of the problem.
“We call on the Anambra State government to assist in providing us project vehicles to aid movement of our team to enable us commence work instantly as planned in Anambra State.
“Why we are where we are is because the developed economies have developed their agricultural sector while the underdeveloped economies have not developed their agricultural sector. After identifying those in extreme poverty in their farm huts and what they can do to cultivate their farms, we are going to give them loans,” he said.
The Anambra State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanization and Food Processing, Mr. Afam Mbanefo, said the government has mapped out N300 million as grants to farmers in the state in the current fiscal year.
He stated that the Anambra State blueprint on agriculture has yielded positive results, adding that the state’s youth participation in agriculture has increased from 8 per cent in 2014 to 25 per cent, while female participation was at 65 per cent.
He urged farmers to form cooperative societies to benefit from the government’s largesse. Mbanefo said his ministry had workers in all 179 communities in the state and knew every genuine farmer personally.
The chairman of the Anambra State Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Humphrey Ngonadi, noted that the programme came at a time when the country’s economy was being diversified. He commended the initiator of the project, adding that poverty could be fought through intensive agricultural development programmes in the rural areas.
The former chairman Governor’s Committee for Anambra State Agricultural Development Blueprint and pioneer director-general, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Chukwuemeka Omaliko, also lauded the initiative.
Said the professor: “To eradicate poverty is very feasible, if we are determined. One government can provide the political will and show an interest for the next three years or thereabouts. In my group, we have much money to help, if you are determined. If, for instance, you are to grow a poultry, we have our design for a broiler house, we tell you how much it will cost you. You get a carpenter and mason, and we will be approving money at various stages and we will be paying them directly. When they finish, we will come and inspect. Then we will bring day-old chicks, feeds and veterinary people and be paying them for services they render. At the end, we will look at the gains after expenditure.
“We have the market for the birds. And you are expected to do it six times a year, after which you will know that your profit has increased. You keep on employing more people and they will keep on employing others. In the next three years, poverty would have been eradicated.”
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Fisheries, Prof. Lucy Nwuba, and chairman of the event, Chief Chika Okpala advised farmers to utilise the numerous opportunities offered by government and other groups.