Representatives of Emerging Leaders platform with the Executive Director of Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA, Mr. Nyah Arira (middle).

• Secures 20 hectares for maize, cassava cultivation

Emerging Leaders platform, a group of young Akwa Ibom professionals drawn from all sectors of the State economy has partnered the Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA to commence large-scale cultivation of food crops including maize, cassava, rice, beans, vegetables and others.

Speaking during a brief ceremony in Uyo to signify the allocation of a-20 hectare plot of land located in Ikot Nsong in Nsit Ubium local government area on lease from CRBDA, Chairperson of Emerging Leaders platform, Mr. Rehoboth Umo Eno, stated that the group is undertaking the task of feeding Akwa Ibom and Nigerians living in the State, creating jobs and producing raw materials for agro-based industrialization in support of the ARISE agenda of Governor Umo Eno.

He thanked CRBDA for offering the group a major component to achieve its goals, disclosing that Emerging Leaders platform has as its core mandate to rally Akwa Ibom youths across career and vocational spectra both within Nigeria and in the diaspora to contribute their ideas, resources, and network toward economic growth, wealth creation, social welfare, healthy living, peace and security of the homeland.

Rehoboth, who was represented by the National Coordinator of the group, Engr. Bobby Ekanem, revealed that the group is not partisan, and understands that all youths are indispensable in the development and growth of Akwa Ibom State hence it has divided the platform into clusters reflecting various sectors of economy, “this is to ensure that we have a convergence of young professionals in related fields providing solutions to specific sectors of the State’s economy”. He said.

On the farm project, he enthused that “it is an initiative of the Emerging Leaders platform through our Agriculture Cluster aimed at mechanized cultivation of 310 hectares of food crops namely maize, cassava, rice, beans, vegetables and others to ensure full actualisation of the policy thrust to produce at least 80% of food eaten in Akwa Ibom State locally.

“Also, we intend to revamp moribund State-owned factories and mills to start producing raw materials for industries and add value to our produce. We thank our strategic partners for their support and call on government, relevant ministries, agencies, our people in diaspora and the private sector to support our initiatives to better Akwa Ibom State.”

Presenting the land allocation letter to Emerging Leaders platform, the Executive Director of Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA, Mr. Nyah Arira, said the Authority is pleased with the lofty and ambitious objectives of the group, noting that after assessing the group’s resource capacity, array of relevant field experts and network, the management of CRBDA mandated him to give the group an initial offer of 20 hectares to pursue their vision.

Arira assured that the Authority will be on hand to guide and provide extension services where needed to ensure the success of the project.

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Also speaking, Mr. Ukpong Ukpong, representing EL-Agriculture Cluster, said there are other crops Emerging Leaders platform will eventually cultivate, stating that the choice of maize and cassava as start up crops is intentionally aimed at crashing prices of these stables and sustaining affordability.

“These crops are easily grown here in our State hence they shouldn’t be so scarce and expensive. We are continuing from where previous initiatives stopped, but with a different approach, armed with experience and tremendous support from our strategic partners.

“We understand that Akwa Ibom is at the forefront of relatively peaceful States that have been entrusted with the responsibilities of feeding Nigerians considering security challenges in parts of the country which has greatly affected production in traditionally known food zones.

“In addition, we must support our livestock breeders especially poultry and fisheries, most of whom have gone out of business because of exorbitant cost of feed. Cassava and maize form major components of animal feed.

“Also, Nigeria has an annual demand-supply gap of not less than 500, 000 metric tonnes for each of these crops, presenting a huge market for us. So, while processing for food, we won’t ignore the fact that we can earn more through derivatives such starch, chips, flakes, peels, leaves, husks, chaff that are key raw materials from several industries”, Ukpong said.