Bassey Inyang in Calabar
The Cross River State Government has earmarked the sum of $7 million for the promotion of mechanised farming in the state.
The state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, made the disclosure on Wednesday during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Feed the Future Project between the state government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at the executive council chamber of the Governor’s Office, Calabar.
Speaking at the event, Ayade said: “Everyone of us must own a farm and for those of you who are in my cabinet, you know Cross River has just released $7 million to a US firm to provide tractorisation, mechanisation, earth moving equipment and deforestation equipment for land clearing in preparation for the expansion of the rice production in Cross River State.
“So, if you can assist us with a consultant that can articulate all that we have done based on your own experience going from one factory to another, seeing clearly what we have done, it will give you an insight that truly, this is the most serious state you must focus on.”
Ayade, who assured Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) of availability of land, said: “Cross River has 23,000 square kilometres of arable land, and if you encounter any challenge, technology can address that and I know America is good in irrigation.
“We believe that we are well positioned by our technology, share size of our land mass, character and decency of our people coupled with the exposure that we have, education and integrity and love for strangers. So, we provide a perfect environment for CNFA to prove indeed that you are the right contractor selected to drive this process.
“So look nowhere any more because Cross River is the right place in Nigeria for you to demonstrate your competency.”
The contractor and chief of party, USAID, Dr. Adams Shafer, gave thumbs up to Ayade’s agricultural revolution, saying that the state is on the verge of becoming the epicentre in rice value chain in Africa.
Shaffer, who is the Managing Director of CNFA, said the US agency was focused on seven key areas of projects financing, investment, agro-business and aqua-culture, among others.
He said that the state has distinguished itself in the areas of international best practice, transparency and the willingness to align with the vision of USAID.
Shaffer, who spoke about the essence of the MoU, said: “In the forthcoming Public Private Sector Partnership (PPSP) on rice value chain and opportunity, we intend to bring in investors and financiers not just within Nigeria, but around the world to invest in Cross River rice and other value chain.
“We will partner with you in bringing the best in terms of finance, intelligence, experience and broker relationship outside Nigeria for export potential.
“There are 16 countries that are part of the this programme, and Nigeria is one of them. Within Nigeria, there are 11 states that are the target of all our resources. Four in North-east, and with a focus on the remaining seven states, among which is Cross River, which is at the top of our list. We also plan to connect with other Feed the Future programmes relevant to the State.”
At the Ayade Industrial Park, where the USAID party was taken on a guided tour of the Rice Seedlings and Seeds Multiplication Factory and other facilities, Shaffer said: “I will tell you I have seen pictures of this before, pictures of the rice factory, but I thought it was outside of Africa, I never thought that this was in Nigeria, and then when I see it now, I believe it.
“I really have not seen such a consistency from the farm to the setup and I’m looking forward to seeing the Ogoja Rice Mill, but this seedling factory is state of the art, and it is very impressive, very unique, and I’m told it is one of a kind not only in Cross River, Nigeria, but Africa.
“This is a demonstration of the potential that Nigeria has to feed itself and to feed the region. We need to see five of this, we need to see the the entire value chain at this level of technology of digitalization. Digitized agriculture is the future, hand spreading of seeds is something of the past and it is difficult for farmers to change.
” I think the growth rate of both the quality and yield across the country would be five times and that is what we hope to do with the digital governor with support from us, and USAID this is truly an impressive site and I’m very pleased standing here.”
Also speaking at the park, Ayade said: “I and Adams have come together to serve humanity and to say yes, we need to feed the future and you cannot feed the future by waiting for a white man from America or waiting on your government, it is you and your contributions that can feed the future.
“And so, what Shaffer is here to tell you is that we are ready to support you through international best practices, assist you with grant.”
Ayade, who assured the audience of the state’s capacity to deliver on the goals of Cultivating New Frontiers for Agriculture (CNFA), an International body with the goal of designing and leading agricultural development and entrepreneurship initiatives to build a prosperous world without hunger, said: “With the calibre of persons we have around us, we have a huge capacity and practical experience to deliver because the quality of the people truly reflects the successes factor of whatever project that has been brought.”
The governor said that the Feed the Future Programme “is a reality and it is coming at the right time. The population of Nigeria grows in approximately three per cent per annum and the implication is that, Nigeria will in 30 years double her population which is very scary”.
“Today we are 200 million people and in 30 years it will be 400 million without a corresponding plan on how to feed your future,” he said.
Lamenting the prospect of Nigeria’s population exploding in the next 30 years, Ayade said: “As the poverty level increases, child birth increases. They have an inverse relationship, the higher the wealth the lesser the children, the higher the poverty, the more the children and so, you have a situation where Nigerian population is on the rise. So, the statistics of 2.5 – 3 per cent growth is perhaps even wrong. Sad enough, it is an American that has come to tell us about the need to feed the future.”