ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION: FUNAI HOLDS SUMMIT ON AGRICULTURE
The Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi State has lent support to the economic diversification policy of the Federal Government as it held a 2-day conference on Agriculture in conjunction with the Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST) at the University.
The summit which drew prominent government officials, policy makers, researchers, academics and farmers from within and outside the country had the theme “Agricultural Resilience and Security in Nigeria” was geared towards proffering solutions to the economic malaise facing the country through Agriculture.
In his welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba stated that the University agreed to host the conference as part of its community service to the country and Ebonyi State in particular, noting that it was meant to galvanize governments at all levels and the Nigerian people to take advantage of the agro-rich soil of the country in tackling the economic challenges facing the nation through massive investment in Agriculture.
The Professor of Agricultural Economics added that the Conference was meant to harness experts’ opinion on how Ebonyi State can emerge as the hub of agro business in Nigeria taking into cognizance the agricultural business prospects of the state.
Professor Nwajiuba said ‘’ the theme of this conference is apt and timely for two reasons. Firstly, our University is hosting this type of international conference for the first time in its history. This thus provides us with the opportunity to contribute our quota to the growth and development of our dear country through innovative ideas and production-driven research.
‘’Secondly our country is in a period of economic recession, occasioned by the drastic depletion of crude price in the international market, leaving the nation in the state of economic uncertainty. Many watchers of the economy have advocated a shift in our revenue base, prompting the present Federal Government to embark on economic diversification through massive investment in Agricultures and solid minerals”
For their contribution to the economic diversification policy of Government, Prof. Nwajiuba on behalf of the NEST Board handed over a blueprint meant to tackle economic, infrastructural and environmental challenges to the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Umahi. This, he stated, was meant to help government make informed decisions in their policy issues.
He explained that Nigeria could no longer feed and employ most of its citizens, leaving behind tales of unemployment, hunger, anger and insecurity in the land, noting that these challenges could have been adequately tackled through Agriculture.
‘’It is our belief that continued investments in Agriculture by all tiers of government and reorientation of the Nigerian youths to see and take Agriculture as alternative to the fast diminishing while collar jobs would re-jig our ailing economy and jump-start a degree of development in the country in terms of employment, food security and foreign exchange earnings as well as enhance the manufacturing/ real sector of the economy’’, Professor Nwajiuba further stated.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State in his submission vowed to continue to invest massively in Agriculture in other to ensure food sufficiency for the state, create employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths and revenue for the government, adding that the government has directed all civil servants in the state to embark on Agriculture especially rice, cassava and yam cultivation. He further stated that all members of the state executive council have also been directed to cultivate at least one hectare of rice, even as Government was enhancing the production capacity of its rice mills situated in the three senatorial zones of the state.
Represented by the Commissioner of Education, Professor John Ekeh, the Governor assured the good people of the State that he had keyed into the economic diversification policy of the Federal Government by taking Agriculture seriously, promising to always support the efforts of the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Professor Nwajiuba whom he described as a man irrevocably committed to the development and transformation of the University, Ebonyi State and Nigeria at large.
In her keynote address, the guest lecturer, Professor Chinwe Ifejika Speranza of the Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland and the United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security, Bonn, Germany said Agricultural Resilience was the only way out of the economic quagmire the nation is trapped into. Professor Speranza said other countries of the world that got it right in terms of development show greater commitment and resilience in Agriculture and food security.
She decried the dearth of Agricultural Extension Officers in Nigeria, saying from the survey she conducted the ratio is one is to four thousand farmers, which she noted impedes the supply of new seedlings from research institutions to the farmers.
This trend she argued was at variance with Agricultural resilience and if continued unabated would defeat the nation’s quest for food security and economic diversification through Agriculture. She called on the Local, State and Federal Governments to prioritize agriculture and make the sector profitable through careful, well planned and sustained investment as its spill over effect would rub off positively on other sectors of the economy.
The high point of the conference was a tree planting campaign in support of the green initiative of the Vice Chancellor. The Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Umahi, Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Barrister Uchenna Orji, Chairman of the NEST Board, Professor David Okali and others planted trees at designated areas in the University during the event.