Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia on Tuesday inaugurated the official commencement of the 2019 National Farming Season.
Speaking at the event at the International Conference Center, Umuahia, Ikpeazu underscored the relevance of agriculture in the nation’s economic development.
The event with the theme, “Agricultural Financing: A panacea for sustainable national development,” was organised by the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Abia government.
The governor said that agriculture had the capacity to provide solutions to the challenges facing the country, including unemployment and lack of industrialisation.
He further said that any state that was serious about developing its population and achieving sustainable growth must find a way to mainstream agriculture.
He said, “Our major problem in agriculture is that our practice is rustic, we lack the ability to comprehend the imperatives of agribusiness and we practice agriculture as a pastime.”
Ikpeazu charged stakeholders to enhance their interest in agriculture and take full advantage of the various governments platforms provided to reposition agriculture as a major foreign exchange earner.
In his address, Mr Kabir Adamu, the Managing Director of BOA, said that Federal Government was committed to reposition agriculture in order to diversify and grow the nation’s economy.
Adamu, who was represented by Prof. Gideon Okenwa, said that BOA had established channels to boost local production of food, revive rural economy and eliminate Nigeria’s dependence on food importation.
He said that Nigeria had huge agricultural potential with about 84 million hectares of land, abundant water ways, favourable weather and a variety of agro-economy suitable for agriculture.
“In its attempt to meet expectations, the bank has engaged a number of strategic alignments with local and foreign partners to kick start federal government’s transformation.
“Integrated Information Technology platforms have been introduced to make rural finance services easily accessible and eliminating drudgery throughout the transaction.
“The Bank is focused on encouraging the adoption of modern farming techniques among farmers through sensitisation workshops aimed at capacity building for farmers,” Adamu said.
In her address of welcome, Mrs Uzoamaka Ikonne, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture in Abia, said that the occasion provided an opportunity for farmers to be educated about government’s agricultural programmes and policies.
Ikonne said that she was confident that the outcome of the event would make positive impact on the agriculture sector and the nation’s economy.
Earlier, Christopher Emerole, a professor in agriculture at the Umuahia Campus of the Abia State University, Uturu and resource person at the event, said that “the growth potential of Agriculture can be best explored when government injects funds into the sector.”
Emerole said, “It is important to promote the inclusion of farmers in the process of formulating and executing agricultural programmes and policies at all levels of government.”
News Agency of Nigeria reports that major highlights of the event included lecture presentation, disbursement of loans to some farmers’ groups, display of agricultural products and planting of palm seedlings.