A draft policy on the transformation of the agricultural sector of Delta State would soon be tabled before stakeholders as part of measures to grow the economy beyond oil as well as empower the teeming unemployed youths in the State.
Besides, the move is to re-position the agricultural Sector to make Delta a front line state in agriculture in line with the federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).
The State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who disclosed Tuesday at a town hall meeting with stakeholders at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba said that the overall objective was to find the way forward and reposition the state beyond oil.
Uduaghan who presided over the meeting expressed concern over claims that Delta state is not doing very well in the Agricultural sector said the state can improve on its Agricultural programmes and give necessary assistance to farmers.
He explained that the meeting was held to know the challenges faced by farmers in the state, the strategies put in place by the Ministry of Agriculture to curb these challenges and to hear from the state Agricultural Consultants on how the existing roadmap have been implemented.
The Governor noted that his administration was committed to building a state beyond oil stating that the money realized from oil could be used to develop other sectors of which agriculture has been identified.
“The assessment of Delta State in Agriculture today is that we are not doing well and I agree. A lot of people believe we can do better and I also believe that. This is the reason why we have called for this meeting to know the way forward.
“This meeting is to see how we can engage our youths and women that are jobless. We have no reason not to be a frontline state in Agriculture, there is nothing we cannot produce in this state. I believe all we need is to review and implement our Agriculture roadmap.”
He said there are plans to assess all the farms set up under the Youth Empowerment Programme Through Agriculture (YETA) to enable the state government assist the surviving farms with funds and revive those that have become moribund.
Explaining further, he said the YETA program recorded only 25% success because so many of the beneficiaries were not interested in farming, while the committee in charge also had its fault.
Responding to questions asked by the farmers, Governor Uduaghan said the state government was brainstorming with banks and financial institutions on how to help reduce interest rates and prepare standard bankable documents to enable the farmers get loans from the banks.
He stated that his administration would provide the needed assistance to farmers especially in the area of providing them with agriculture inputs and subsidizing it.
While briefing the stakeholders on the action plan of the Ministry of Agriculture in achieving the vision, Barrister Misan Kubeinje said that they have identified seven areas of interest to assist farmers in the state.
He enumerated the areas to include Cassava production, Rice, Plantian, Rubber, Cocoa, Fishery, Oil palm and livestock, and explained that his ministry was keying into the Federal Government Agricultural Programmes to support farmers in the state through the provisions of fertilizers, land, funding of cassava projects of which N2 billion have been budgeted for this year.
The Commissioner also observed that his ministry would provide seedlings to farmers adding that approval have been given by the state government to purchase eighteen tractors for farmers.
“The Governor has approved money for the purchase of eighteen tractors for farmers in the state. This will be given out based on co-operative groups or Association and it will be subsidized”.
A state consultant in the Agricultural Sector Professor Ayoola explained that the state was not doing well in the sector because of poor implementation of the agricultural Roadmap of the state.
He suggested that measures should be taken to protect Agricultural programmes from external, political intervention and to address that issue of delay in funding the farmers.
Professor Ayola noted that measures should be taken to deal with the issue of maintenance of facilities and to follow up on farmers, suggesting that the Agricultural roadmap be reviewed to ensure progress in the sector.
Also speaking on behalf of the banks in the state Pastor Godwin Adolo advised that farmers need to form clusters and co-operative groups to enable them easily access bank loans.
He explained that Co-operative groups should be functional and committed to their projects adding that the re-payment period for banks loans was six months.
“It is possible for farms to access funds from the banks. It depends on the structures the farmers have on ground and the commitment of the farmers.”