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Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Anambra Example: "Nigeria has everything it takes to change her economic narrative and change her history" - Obiano

According to Gov Willie Obiano of Anambra State, "we have a lot to gain from redirecting our gaze to Agriculture as one of the most attractive alternatives to our mono-economic status". Interestingly, that is exactly what the governor is doing in Anambra State today.

Presenting an address at the Third Adegboyega Awomolo & Associates Annual Colloquium in Abuja, Obiano said;

"We have a very interesting story in Anambra State. With only 4,844 square kilometres of land, Anambra is Nigeria’s second smallest state. It is just slightly bigger than Lagos. And with over 950 deep gully erosion sites, we are obviously smaller than Lagos in land mass. Thankfully, that is where the bad side ends. The good side to the Anambra story is that the state has 100% arable land. The second point also is that we do not only have the knowledge of what to do with our land we also have the needed human capital who have the resources and the know-how to do something with what we have.

"As some of you may be aware, Anambra is home to some of black Africa’s most illustrious men and women. We are pioneers and achievers in so many fields. God has blessed us with a large repository of gifted men and women who any focused leader can call upon to lend a hand in the effort to build a better state. And that was exactly what we did when I was sworn in as the governor of the state on March 17, 2014".

Our Story
"It is important to note that every purposeful journey ought to begin with a plan. A plan serves as a compass that guides us like the solitary star that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem to see Jesus. In appreciation of this, my team and I started with clear Vision and Mission Statements. I declared that my Vision is to make Anambra State the First Choice investment destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities while my Mission is to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities. I also crafted an Economic Blueprint known as the Four Pillars of Development which seeks to develop Anambra through Agriculture, Trade & Commerce, Industrialization and Oil & Gas.

"You can see that from the very beginning, I had clear Vision and Mission Statements. You can also see that I have an Economic Blueprint. And perhaps more importantly, you can see that Agriculture is the number one pillar of my Blueprint. So, we did not get to where we are by chance. That is why when people doubt some of the modest achievements we have recorded and seek ways to put them down, we do not pay them any mind at all because there is nothing that is happing in the agricultural sector in Anambra State today that we did not plan for. There is nothing we did not prefigure. And that, to my mind, is the way it should be. Agriculture should not be a subject of speculative or haphazard engagement. It should not be something we stumble onto by chance. It should be a deliberate and pragmatic choice. That is the only way we can extract value from it. That was the way our founding fathers made something of value out of it. For instance, a trip through the old Eastern Region would easily show all the farm settlements across the region set up by the former Premier, Dr. Michael Okpara that covers diverse crops from rice, cassava, plantain and pineapple to palm oil and cocoa. I am happy to say that we are travelling on the same trajectory in Anambra State today as we continue to follow a special blueprint put together by the 14-Man Committee on Agriculture that I set up shortly after my inauguration that was headed by the renowned Professor Chukwuemeka Omaliko, a well-known agronomist".

First Steps
"When we set out, my team and I were quick to realise that with only 4,844 square kilometres of land, we certainly do not have enough elbowroom for agriculture in Anambra State. Out of this lot, about 309,120 hectares of land, which is about 55% of the arable land, is already under cultivation. So, we figured that we had to be strategic in our management of land. As a result, the 14-Man Special Committee on Agriculture headed by Prof. Omaliko was mandated to carry out extensive tests on soil types and advise us on what crop should grow where. We figured that it was important to know where rice would grow best, where cassava would grow best and where maize would grow best based on soil type. We went a little further than that, actually. We also set up a Land Acquisition

Committee, headed by Dr. Tim Menakaya; a former Minister. The Land Acquisition Committee was vested with the mandate of negotiating with the different communities across the state to acquire land for large scale farming and other purposes. Today, as more and more Agro-investors come to make inquiries about the possibilities of mechanized farming in Anambra State, we welcome them with open arms and strong assurances that come from having done our homework well. I would advocate a similar strategic approach for Nigeria. We must conduct a thorough assessment of what we have in terms of land and crop suitability to specific soils as a precursor to intense agricultural production in the 21st Century. The era of guesswork and gut-feeling should be behind us"!

How we are structured
"One of the things that have given us a huge advantage in our quest to position Anambra State as a leader in Agriculture in Nigeria and beyond is what I choose to call Precision Agriculture. What this means is that we have effectively adapted technology to serve specific purposes in our agricultural programme in the state. And this is what we did – we set up a Situation Monitoring Room in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Exports where we carry out a smooth monitoring and evaluation of activities in all farms in Anambra State. We have a data bank of our farmers, their farms, the location of their farms and the crops they produce and we can effectively monitor progress on these farms from the Situation Room in Awka. By this also, our investors are more informed about the level of bankable investment that they require .We also put a call and SMS through to these farmers when necessary.

At the moment from our database, we have 93,000 validated farmers and 1850 validated cooperatives spread across 21 local government areas in our data bank. A breakdown of this figure shows that 11,425 farmers are involved in rice production, 36,245 farmers produce cassava while 4000 farmers are into maize production. We also have 649 cooperatives involved in cassava production, 621 cooperatives in rice production and 155 in maize production. While more farmers are being captured to update the data bank, a look at the farmers distribution chart shows the following –


Table 1

Table 2

"Similarly, the production targets that Anambra has achieved on account of our intervention on our three staple crops are as follows –

Farm Type

Table 3

"All these were achieved because of the training and other assistance that my administration provides to Anambra farmers." - Willie Obiano

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