By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
In furtherance of his desire to make Cross River State the leading rice producing state in the country, the governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has signed a pact with the government of Israel to train 1,000 rice farmers on modern farming techniques.
Speaking at an orientation exercise for the farmers at the Ayade Industrial Park, Calabar, Ayade stated that the training was to create wealth for farmers through capacity building and access to modern farming techniques and equipment.
According to him, “today’s exercise is to announce to the world that Cross River is fully prepared to become number one rice producer in Nigeria with the training and equipping of over 1000 farmers with 21st century farming skills in the first phase of the training progamme”.
Ayade disclosed that the decision to bring Israeli experts to handle the training is to expose farmers in the state to modern farming methods and machines.
“I brought experts from Israel to train us and allow us to have the full benefit of our rice factory that we have set up here for maximal benefits to the citizenry”
He said the training programme is also part of his administration’s deliberate programme to industrialize the state with a view to decoupling it from over dependence on federal allocations.
“By the time we are done training the 12, 000 rice farmers so far identified, Cross River will become number one and self sufficient in rice production in Nigeria,” he assured.
While urging the beneficiaries to take advantage of the training seriously the governor explained “I come with all sincerity of purpose because it is not in my nature to play politics with anything I do for the people. My politics has ethics and in ethics, we have attitude and morality comes first.
“Today, as a state, we have the highest number of factories and industries set up in Nigeria since 2015. We don’t have the highest allocation, we are actually second to the last but we are number one in everything because we don’t mix politics with what we do here,” he stressed.
On access to finance, the Governor hinted that “we are setting up a micro finance bank that will give interest free loans to all farmers and all the instrumentality of the Bank of Agriculture will pass through our bank for easy access to facility”.
As a way of encouraging women to participate in the programme Ayade said: “I charge those responsible for distribution of the facility to allocate 60 percent to women, youths 30, while the men should be allocated 10 percent respectively”.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CSS Group of Companies, the firm facilitating the training programme, Dr. John Kennedy Opara extolled Ayade’s foresight by venture into agriculture.
“I am so proud of the Governor because like I said to him, whatever you can picture you can capture and His Excellency is picturing the future he wants to make sure he can capture for Cross River State and we are glad to partner the state”.
While offering advice to the trainees, Okpara said: “I want to encourage you as you come for your training in Abuja. It’s a very intensive two weeks training program, and I believe that you will come back as refined farmers, you will come back great farmers that will add value.
“We need to change the system in our country, we need to change our concept, and I believe that this is the opportunity that God is providing for us to do that. Thank God for the Bank of Agriculture in terms of finance. I believe if every Nigerian is comfortable, we don’t need to struggle for federal offices”.