The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, says it is committed to transforming agriculture from its current rudimentary level to modern commercial business that would guarantee food security not just for residents of the Niger Delta region but for other Nigerians.
This was the view of the NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr Efiong Akwa, during a ceremony for the presentation of Honorary Awards organized by the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria, CAFFAN, at the Rivers State School to Land, in Port Harcourt.
According to the NDDC Director Corporate Affairs, Dr Ibitoye Abosede, the NDDC under the current Interim Administration and Management was focused and determined to promote modern agricultural practices in the country.
The NDDC boss was given an award by CAFFAN in recognition of his contribution to youth development, food security and economic development of the Niger Delta region.
Akwa, who was represented by the NDDC Director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Felix Amorue, noted: “Agriculture remains a key sector with enormous potential to create employment for our teeming unemployed youths.”
He remarked: “The NDDC has consciously embarked on implementation of our master plan on agriculture. The Commission through the Directorate of Agriculture and Fisheries has over the years carried out several programmes aimed at increasing the Agricultural/Fisheries productivity in the region.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that under the training and capacity building programme of the Commission, over 15,000 youths, women and practicing farmers had been trained on various agricultural businesses. He added that the Commission has concluded plans to train and empower additional 2,000 youths and women across the region.
Akwa said the NDDC in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture provided credit/grants to 120 co-operative groups of youths and women to carry out various agricultural enterprises in the Niger Delta region. In addition, he said: “The Commission had in the past empowered over 2,500 fisher folks with fishing gears, boats, outboard engines, hooks, nets, fish boxes, floater sinkers and other fishing accessories to increase the exploitation of offshore fishing in the riverine communities in the region.”
The Interim Administrator observed that the Commission had established two rice mills to boost the Federal Government initiative of home-grown and self-sustainable rice production. “The rice mills are: the 120 tons per-day Rice Mill at Elele-Alimini in Rivers State. This mill is currently being managed by Elephant Group for the Commission and the 10 tons per-day Rice Mill at Mbiabe Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State.”
Akwa said that NDDC in collaboration with the Federal Government and International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, was carrying out a Livelihood Improvement Enterprise programme in the Niger Delta Region to remove over 45,000 youths and women from poverty through various creative agricultural enterprises.
He said further: “The NDDC has proposed to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to upgrade and re-activate some fishing terminals in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Ondo and Delta States, to increase fish landing and quality of fish processing in the region.”
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of the Rivers State Chapter of Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria, Hon. Clapton Ogolo said that the association chose to focus on the theme: “Aquaculture, a true business opportunity, empowerment and economic development.”
He said that as an association, they would continue to contribute their quota in maintaining and sustaining food security in Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole, noting: “A fragile society is a society that cannot provide food for her citizenry. Its citizens will be prone to all sorts of negativities.
“Agriculture is pivotal to the development and sustenance of every society. This underscored the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 which focuses explicitly on food by seeking to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
In his own remarks, the chairman of the award ceremony and member representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro in the House of Representatives, Dr. Abiate Awaji-Inombek, stressed the need for farmers to be passionate about what they do. “When you are passionate, you will think differently and stand out. Agriculture has so much prospects and opportunities available to be tapped,” he said.
Abiate said the on-going campaign for the establishment of a Federal College of Fisheries in the South-South region would be sustained until the objective was realized.