By Mfonobong UKPONG
On Saturday 29th July, 2017, a group of about 40 Akwa Ibom youths who are desirous of seeing a better Akwa Ibom, and determined to hold government accountable to the people embarked on a six hour trip from Uyo to INI local government area, an area widely acknowledged as one of the food baskets of State.
Yesterday’s tour which was the second edition of the Akwa Ibom Citizens tour, took the adventurers to the much talked about cocoa farm and rice plantation in INI. The team departed Uyo at about past eleven shortly after the state wide environmental sanitation which held on Saturday. Not even the heavy rain which welcomed the team to INI could deter the ever determined team members from embarking on the exercise.
The first place visited was the hybrid cocoa nursery sited at Odoro Ikpe. Besides the cocoa nursery which was raised under the current administration in the state, is another fruit yielding cocoa plantation which had existed long ago. The team was informed that aside the cocoa farm at Odoro Ikpe, there exist another in Ukwok. The tour team could not proceed further to Ukwok owing to the bad road and coupled with torrential down pour.
As explained by the farm coordinator who conducted the team round the farm, it was revealed that 30,000 hectares of improved Cocoa plantation was being cultivated across the state in the following locations, Ibiono Ibom, Okobo, Mkpat Enin, Obot Akara, Ikot Ekpene, Nsit-Ubium, and Nsit Ibom among others. The cocoa nursery which is raised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, serves private cocoa farmers in the state, as they get the improved seedlings from the government facility.
The team later moved to the rice farm sited in Ekoi/Mbat communities. Journey to the farm wasn’t a smooth one, as it took about two hours to locate the swamp. Our experience at the rice farm has brought to the fore the need for urgent government intervention in the area.
Questions were asked as to how the company would be evacuating its produce to the market. The road leading to the farm is begging for attention and until the road is constructed, the rice may find it difficult to access market for its products which is expected to hit the market before the year runs out.
According to the Site Manager of the farm, Engr. Mohammed Fabringa, the rice which is planted on a 120 hectare capacity land, will be due for harvest by November. He explained that the choice of the location was informed by the fact that the area is best suitable for rice cultivation. Mohammed disclosed that the company currently has 20 staff who are from the host community working in the farm. He further disclosed that the farm would in due course employ 500.
The rice company is a public private partnership, PPP, investment between Akwa Ibom State government and a private investor who has been in the rice production business for years. The farm manager said the equipment that would process the rice has already been ordered from Japan, but regretted that the inability to install the equipment at the farm was caused by the unavailability of access road. He hoped that government would address the problem of road infrastructure in the area.