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Experts Call For Increased Food Production Through Agric Enterprises

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector want the Akwa Ibom State Government to develop the industry through wealth creation

Iniobong Ekponta, Calabar

The Akwa Ibom Government has been urged to establish a sustainable development agency that would strengthen the private sector to boost economic activities in the state for wealth creation to thrive through independent initiatives. While speaking with The Union recently, a development expert, Emem Abasiattai said if the agency is established, it would contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Developments goals as it would create employment opportunities, reduce youth restiveness, boost food production and help in the development of agricultural enterprise in the state.

Maintaining that the agency will also facilitate manufacturing hubs for industrial estates, he said when established, it will boost housing development and community residential areas. Abasiattai added that “though the state government has made significant achievements in road infrastructure, education and health in the last couple of years, it should leverage on its competitive advantage of abundant natural resources , manpower potentials and land potentials to create wealth for its people”.

The agency which would be self-funding and accountable to the state government would also take advantage of the Nigerian oil and gas Industry Content Development Act, for the benefit of the state and its people. “The agency will be a coordinating authority for sustainable development which will operate under a legal framework,’’ he said. Abasiattai, an entrepreneur said the agency, if established would “engage with the Nigerian Content Monitoring Development Board in ensuring capacity building in specialized areas such as oil service. product manufacturing and logistics resources development, among others.

According to him, the agency would also champion the realisation of “fit-for-purpose sustainable and cost efficient energy solutions that will enhance quality of life , improve waste management and increase power availability”. In addition, Abasiattai said the agency would liaise with multinationals and major Nigerian private sector operators to “deliver in the discharge of corporate social responsibility through alignment with actual social and community needs”.

“The agency will be value driven, solution-driven and operate on well defined tasks and targets, Information Technology enabled for adequate accountability, communication and staffing resource optimization and providing coverage in all local government areas of the state,’’ he said. Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, has expressed worry over low investment in Africa’s livestock sector, saying such neglect has robbed the continent of vital gains in agricultural development. According to him, “since livestock does not get the attention it deserves, its potential to contribute to economic well-being of the continent is underexploited”.

Speaking during a lecture in his honour by the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, yesterday, Akinbamijo explained that the major challenges that livestock investors face in Africa bothers on what he described as low capacity for innovation. He added that “limited investment and inadequate attention paid to the sector; climate change; lack of information for policy analysis and formulation; under developed value chains, among others, are some of the issues plaguing livestock growth in Africa”. Akinbamijo, who spoke on the topic, “Biotechnology in livestock in developing countries,” noted that African countries are not awake to evolving requirements of livestock services and changing roles of actors involved. Besides, he listed other challenges as “Prevailing funding models provide short term support which does not allow businesses to grow and reach a stage where they sustain themselves.

“Limited capacity and expertise in agribusiness incubation in Africa; limited funding and support for scaling up proven models, and uncoordinated efforts towards agribusiness value chain development in Africa.” According to him, three quarters of Africa’s rural households, who possess livestock, employ about 50 per cent of agricultural labour force. He added that the trend accounts for about one third of agricultural Gross Domestic Product GDP (contributes about 10 per cent of GDP). He said that livestock which is the fastest growing agriculture subsector, provides food; employment and income; soil fertility improvement; traction (ploughing and transport) including capital accumulation to cope with food crises and major life events. He projected that by 2050, the meat and milk markets will increase 145 per cent and 155 per cent over 2005/2007 levels.

He said, “Over this period, Africa’s increase in volume of meat consumed will be on par with that of the developed world and Latin America. “Gains in the size of Africa’s milk markets will be stronger than in any other region except South Asia. Annual growth rates in both meat and milk consumption are projected to be higher in Africa than in any other regions, excepting meat in South Asia. “In both volume and value, beef, milk and poultry will provide business opportunities for Africa’s livestock producers, sellers and investors.” He, however, advised African investors in livestock to add value to their stock for greater markets outreach.

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