THEME: Agriculture as a Comparative Advantage for the Urhobo Nation – Now, Next and Beyond
Keynote Speaker: Professor Malachy Akoroda, Professor of Agriculture, University of Ibadan. Prof. Malachy is an expert in yam, cassava, banana, sweet potato and a dozen horticultural crops especially in the area of breeding and seed systems agronomy.
- Albert Akpomudje, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) – An experienced and astute litigator and has successfully represented clients in different sectors of the economy in several contentious landmark cases.
- Stella Erhuvwu Okotete, Executive Director, Business Development, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM). Her job includes providing operational leadership for the bank as well as conceptualizing and developing new products/services among others.
- Obaro Osah, Regional Manager, South East, Bank of Industry (BOI) Limited. His responsibilities include managing, growing and developing the MSME businesses profitably across the Region.
Moderator: Dr. Benson Uwheru, Global Consultant and Member, Governing Council of the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, MCIU.
The Webinar which had participants all over the world in attendance resolved as follows;
- The Urhobo Webinar Group as a Think-Thank of Urhobo intellectuals and professionals should constantly interrogate topical issues in Nigeria and across the globe which impinge on the Urhobo Nation; and through robust intellectual discourse make recommendations and evolve pathways and options to guide policy formulation and implementation.
- The timeliness of the theme of the webinar and the deliberations are very relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Urhobo Land.
- We are struggling against an invisible enemy which is dramatically changing our lives. While the first concern is related to public health, the impact this pandemic has had and will have on the economy of the Urhobo Nation is huge especially on the Agriculture sector of the economy.
- Urhobo Nation has lost sons and daughters to the Coronavirus and we extend our condolences, sympathies and solidarity to all families, businesses, communities that have suffered loss of revenue and loved ones. A minute silence is observed in honour of those we have lost. May their souls rest in peace. Amen
- Urhobo Sons and Daughters should protect themselves and others from infection by washing of hands or using an alcohol-based sanitizer frequently and not touching your face including wearing of face masks in public places.
- The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
AGRICULTURE AS A COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE FOR THE URHOBO NATION
- Urhobo Land has great potential to be an agriculture powerhouse. Urhobo Land is blessed with abundant agricultural resources. Urhobo Land has 52 major economic food crops ranging from:
- Sugar Crop (1): Sugarcane
- Cereals (2): Maize, Rice.
- Root & Tubers (6): Cassava, Yellow yam, water yam, Cocoyam, Sweetpotato.
- Oil Crops (9): Groundnut, Oil palm, Coconut, Melon.
- Pulses (1): Cowpea
- Fruits (17): Plantain, banana, Citrus (Orange, Utien),lemon, grapefruit, lime (utien-eni) tangerine, shaddock, pawpaw, Avocado, Pineapple, Guava, Mango, African Star apple (C. albidum), Ogbono (owe), Ube (D. edulis), soursop, Raphia, pepperfruit, oruru=otiti (Maesobotrya barteri)
- Leafy & Fruit Vegetables (15): Amaranth, pepper, ocimum, tomato, Telfairia (umee), bitter leaf, celosia, Corchorus, eggplant, pumpkin, carrot, watermelon, okra, cabbage, green beans, lettuce, cucumber
- There are at least one million fruit trees in Urhobo land. Urhobo sons and daughters are encouraged to plant at least one tree in their compound to encourage the commercial production of fruits. The opportunity to harvest tons of fruits that could be sold or exported across many regions should be considered. All the needed materials to setup and operate seedling and plantlet nurseries for three years across selected 10 locations is accessible and available in Urhobo Land
- In Urhobo Land, creeks and inland water can be used to farm fish and prawns. Artificial fish protection and production is a good industry to fish. Creeks and swamps can become highly productive and help diversify occupations for farmers and craftsmen in the community.
- The focus of Agriculture production should be to promote self-sufficiency in food production and increase foreign exchange earnings through agriculture exports. We call on all sons and daughters of the Urhobo Nation to consider strategic partnership with private investors across farmer groups and companies to develop end to end value chain solutions.
- This is understandably in line with government’s desire of encouraging private participation in the national economy through the provision of financial support to farmers as well as improving the supply of specialised fertilisers and high yielding seeds
Land Security and legal implication for Agriculture Investment in Urhobo Land
- Urhoboland is agricultural as 85% of the residents depend on agriculture for their livelihood. However, access to land is limited as families and community heads still manage to control land thereby determining access to land.
- We encourage land owners in our communities in collaboration with traditional rulers and the President Generals of the Kingdoms to consider organising Land trust schemes where Land is put in the community trust and managed on behalf of the owners with the objective of making landowners direct beneficiaries from Agricultural investment in their communities.
- Community leaders and traditional rulers are encouraged to promote a culture of transparency, peaceful co-existence, trust and cooperation to attract investors to set up industrial farms for mechanised Agriculture in Urhoboland thereby boosting the local economies of the communities.
- We call on all traditional rulers in Urhoboland, Presidents-General of different communities to as a matter of urgency move to check the activities of those who lease land to or sell same to strangers with questionable motives to be weary of such acts and desist accordingly. This will help curb the farmers and herdsmen crisis in our land.
Financing Agriculture in Urhobo Land
- The Webinar polled participants on the topmost challenges to Agricultural production in Urhobo land. The polling results identified the top three challenges to include lack of funding/access to finance, lack of awareness and insecurity. Urhobo’s all over the world are encouraged to collaborate to identify practical solutions to overcome the identified challenges.
- As part of the solution to funding/access to finance, there are several funding options available to the agriculture sector. These options include:
- the Cottage Agro Processing (CAP) Fund managed by Nigeria’s Bank of Industry (BoI) to support the establishment of cottage Agro-processing plants that will produce food products and raw materials;
- the N750bn Agriculture Intervention Fund provided by the FGN; and the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) scheme facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The NIRSAL scheme guarantees 75 per cent of loans provided by Deposit Money Banks (DPB) to farmers as part of efforts to transform the country’s agricultural sector.
- The Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) intervention fund for Agriculture
- Other sources of funds include the Bank of Agriculture which is supervised by the agriculture ministry and has a mandate to provide sustainable agricultural financing services; social entrepreneurship grants from notable philanthropic organisations and loans from commercial banks.
- There are certain conditions attached to securing funding from any of the above-mentioned institutions and potential investors will need to be guided by legal and commercial advisers on how best to meet the requirements and structure the loans to ensure the growth of the business.
- In view of the need to promote the growth and development of the Agriculture sector in Urhobo Land, a special purpose cooperative for Agriculture is proposed. The purpose of the agricultural cooperative is to help investors/farmers increase their yields and incomes by pooling their resources to support collective service provisions and economic empowerment.
- In a post Covid-19 era, it is clear that the agriculture sector holds the potential for more growth and presents a veritable opportunity for investors to take positions as the economy rebounds alongside an attitudinal adjustment among Nigerians as to the potentials of the sector. Potential investors in agriculture are called upon to focus on the opportunities in Urhobo land and invest in the agricultural potentials in our land.
Dr. Benson Uwheru
Convener, Urhobo Global Webinar Group