Chairperson of Emerging Leaders Platform, Mr Rehoboth Eno, planting cassava cutting during the flag-off of cultivation of 20 hectare cassava/corn farm in Ikot Ntung, Nsit Ubium local government area.

CRBDA begs Governor Eno to stop sand dredging on its land in Nsit Ubium

Abasifreke Effiong

Emerging Leaders, a group of young professionals in Akwa Ibom State with interest in agriculture have flag-off cultivation of a-20 hectare demonstration farm in Ikot Ntung, Nsit Ubium local government area in collaboration with the Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA.

The group led by its chairperson, Mr Rehoboth Eno, commenced the cultivation of the farm on Friday 15th September during a brief ceremony.

The project focus is to plant cassava and corn to meet growing demand for domestic consumption and industrial use, create employment, enhance interests of Akwa Ibom youths in agriculture and support the agriculture revolution agenda of Governor Umo Eno-led administration.

The group said it has a long-term plan to cultivate 310 hectares of farm across the State.

Mr Rehoboth Eno, said the initiative was the first of its kind.

“The current administration is youth-centred. And the first item on the ARISE agenda is agriculture. We are embarking on this project because we feel the youths have a voice and a role to play in helping the government actualise one of its goals.”

“The youths are ready to work, ready to fern for themselves instead of just waiting for the government to bring money. Our Governor had said we should find something to do and we believe this is where we can start up.”

Eno thanked members of the group for driving the vision and working commitedly to ensure that the project commences.

National Coordinator of the group, Mr Bobby Ekanem, said Emerging Leaders is a collection of young skilled persons coming together to add value to society and the prime aim of the agriculture project is to return youths to the farm in line with the agenda of the State Government.

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“Agricultural revolution is the first item on the ARISE Agenda, and we have kicked start this revolution. Through this project, we seek to employ 200 youths for the cultivation of the 20 hectares. The pilot phase is to cultivate two hectares. We want to reduce the cost of basic staple food in Akwa Ibom.”

Mr Ekanem said the group was encouraged by the magnanimity of the Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA, that have donated 20 hectares of the land to the group to cultivate for a period of 20 years and called on federal and State governments to support the project.

The leader of Agric cluster of Emerging Leaders and technical adviser on the project, Mr Ukpong Ukpong, said two hectares have already been cleared for cultivation.

“What we flagged off today is a-2 hectare cassava and corn demonstration farm. We are going to do inter-cropping so that we can maximise the resources that would be put into the project. We are starting with two hectares out of the 20 hectares.”

Emerging Leaders flag-off 20 hectares cassava/corn farm in Akwa Ibom Mr Ukpong Ukpong, Leader, Agric cluster, Emerging Leaders Platform, (middle) explaining a point it the chairperson of the group, Mr Rehoboth Eno, during flag-off of cultivation.

“We will expand the farm when we are done planting the two hectares. I can assure you that if we have more buy-in, we will cover the 20 hectares and move to other locations. What we learn here will be replicated in other locations. We are projecting cultivating 10 hectares per local government area.”

“The farm will cultivate the land all-year-round on a rotational basis throughout the 20 years CRBDA has approved for us. We are making plans to have an irrigation system. There is a natural source of water here, so we will draw from there to water our crops during the dry season.”

Ukpong who has been at the forefront of large-scale vegetable farming in the State said the goals of the project are to provide food and create employment in the short-term while contributing to agro-based industrialization through value-chain development.

“We are doing this first and foremost to feed ourselves, then contribute to growing agro-based industrialization before going into the development of the value-chain”, he said.

Acting Secretary, CRDBA, Mr Ita Arira, said authority has moved its office in Uyo to Nsit Ubium as a way of providing moral support to the initiative of the youths.

He said already the authority has built an administrative block, police post and other facility at the farm and irrigation site.

Mr Arira called on the Akwa Ibom State government to help the Authority stop sand dredging going on within the CRDBA facility in Ikot Ntung, Nsit Ubium local government area, to forestall further environmental damages and destruction of facilities at the farm and irrigation site.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Offiong Offor, represented by a Director in the Ministry, Mr Solomon Joe, lauded the initiative saying that productivity will be higher when youths are involved in agriculture, promised that the ministry will provide technical support to the group.

The Manager, Development Finance at CBN, Uyo, Mr Desmond Ushie, said his office work around available interventions to support the project, tasked the progenitors to ensure its sustainability.

“We will work round the interventions that we have to see how we can help Emerging Leaders fund this project. I want to be assured that it is not just one of the things we have seen. This project must be sustained. Also consider the development of the value chain”, he said.

The flag-off was witnessed by the Managing Director, Akwa Savings and Loans Limited, Mr Ime Okon.

Okon said he was impressed by the project, which according to him shows that the “youths of Akwa Ibom are emerging.”