Against the backdrop of dwindling revenue from crude oil, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has restated its resolve to boost agricultural production as a reliable economic base for the country. The contributions of the Commission to the agricultural sector were outlined on Monday at the flag off of a two-week Agricultural Entrepreneurial Training of Farmers at the Vika Farms in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Addressing the trainees, drawn from the nine states of the Niger Delta, the NDDC Managing Director, Sir (Barr) Bassey Dan-Abia, said that the Commission had always recognized agriculture as the way forward for Nigeria. He noted that the Federal Government did not wait for the crash in the price of crude oil before coming up with various agricultural programmes which had set the stage for Nigerians to go back to the farms.
The NDDC MD said that the Commission had keyed into the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan with respect to agriculture and was also partnering with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, to integrate rural dwellers into agricultural entrepreneurship. He further said that the NDDC had distributed 100 tractors to support various ministries of agriculture and cooperative societies in the nine states of the Niger Delta to boost food production and help tackle youth unemployment.
Sir Dan-Abia also said that the NDDC had set up a Credit and Entrepreneurial Development Scheme with a N1billion revolving loan for Niger Delta farmers in partnership with the Bank of Agriculture. He added that the180tonnes/day Rice Processing Plant at Elele Alimini in Rivers State would soon be revived through a private sector partnership arrangement.
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Godwin Afanghide, commended the NDDC for its commitment to promoting modern agricultural practices, noting that its drive to boost agriculture had made a tremendous impact on the rural population. He underscored the need to support agriculture from the foundation by providing training for young farmers.
The Country Director of IFAD, Lady Atsuko Toda, said that the NDDC had been a faithful partner in the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRMP), meant to empower at least 400,000 households in the rural communities through agriculture. She said that it was encouraging to see many women participating in the NDDC-sponsored training for farmers.
Dr. Asikpo Essien-Ibok, the Managing Director of Vika Farms Limited, gave kudos to the NDDC for its cooperation and commitment to the development of agriculture as the basis of national economic policy for the country’s food security.