AN INTERVIEW SECTION WITH THE HON. COMMISSIONER FOR AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES CHIEF, HON. DR. LAMBERT ORISAKWE FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF EVERGREENNEWSOLINE, EDITOR IN CHIEF REV. EMMA NWAEZE, SECRETARY/SENIOR REPORTER & ADVERT EXECUTIVE OGADIMMA SUSAN AND ADVERT EXECUTIVE FAVOUR ANYANWU. ON TUESDAY 25TH AUGUST,2020. 16:43GMT
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Question 1: The Honorable Commissioner for agriculture can we meet you sir?
Answer: My name is chief, Hon. Dr. Lambert Orisakwe, The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Imo state. I was the state director contact and mobilization with Hope Uzodimma on why Hope Uzodimma should be the governor of Imo state.
Question 2: As a result of COVID-19, people find it difficult when it comes to farming, what is your office doing to help our rural farmers in procuring seedlings?
Answer: Nobody will find it difficult to go into farming because of COVID-19. In COVID-19, we are advising farmers to go into the farm because that is the only place you will maintain social distance. if you are holding your machete and I am holding mine, clearing the bush, I will not tell you to stay apart because if you come close you might get yourself in trouble, so that particular period is the period those who understand what farming is all about should be in the farm and work together. You don’t need to sit together, lie together, you don’t need to embrace yourself or kiss yourself; you have to work in the farm and within that period we made several announcements, and we gave palliatives that were related to agriculture. That was why even the Honorable minister visited Imo State purposely to distribute agricultural palliatives representing the south-east zone. The Governor has done a lot in making sure that the citizens of Imo state gain a lot in the distribution of agricultural palliatives, which involves distribution of improved varieties of crops like cocoa, yam, new varieties of potatoes, rice and so many others distributed to the farmers encouraging them to go to farm.
Question 3: Actually our dear Governor is the only APC (Action Progressive Congress) Governor in the South-east; don’t you think he can use that position to attract a lot of investment in the whole of the South-east?
Answer: We are not talking of being only the APC governor but we must thank God for giving us a man that has that wealth of knowledge and wisdom, so he knows how to play his card and he mixes up with the power that be, even when he was a senator from PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), he was doing a lot of things for our people because of his contacts. He is not only doing these things because he is the only Governor from APC, he has been doing it when he was a senator in this state and not even senator for Orlu zone alone because of the way he was distributing dividend of democracy. So that talent has been in him. He has been in that type of work before having the opportunity of becoming the Governor of this state; we should thank God for him. He has been in the National politics and he knows what he is doing, that is the type of Governor we are looking for, not a governor that is still being pampered by somebody, or a Governor who has a God-father that will re-dictate what he will do; he is completely different from that. We should thank God having him as governor because he has a lot to do for our people and he mean well for the Imolites.
Question 4: Sir, are there mechanisms in place for the preservation of our agricultural produce for export to attract scarce foreign exchange?
Answer: The word mechanism can be in other word called procedures. What we are talking about is that the Governor by wisdom has organized what we call off-takers because we realized from the ministry of agriculture that the problem of agriculture in the entire Nation is not even production but preservation. When we talk of production, when you produce some of the crops that cannot stay for a long time, you need to preserve them by having off-takers who will now go to the field or go to the farm and purchase from farmers, process them and market them, that is what we call off-takers. This is why the Governor has decided to create so many jobs from agricultural sector, he is targeting of creating not less than 75 thousand jobs from agricultural sector, in doing that we would go into what is called agricultural chain. So within that value chain when they produce, the off-takers will take them, process them, and as well market them respectively. Some of these products will go for export and some will be marketed locally, that is the aim of the Governor and he has all it takes to carry them out, both with contacts and otherwise.
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Question5: Most farmers were not able to secure bank loans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the commissioner for agriculture what are the way forward?
Answer: The governor is educating the farmers to take loan. Naturally, I want you to understand this fact; our people by origin are not borrowers. So many of our Igbo people are afraid of taking loan but the governor in his own wisdom is now making that contact and educating our people, like if you have been listening we have trained so many farmers, we trained from the ministry of commerce, ministry of entrepreneur, training farmers preparing them for the loan you are talking about is not that they are unable, but, the issue is that many people have been trained within the state on the instruction and directives of the governor and they are being prepared to get such loan. We know that the COVID-19 stopped so many things; within that period there was no movement, no contacts, there was nothing anybody could do, but immediately after that the governor moved into negotiation, having several meetings with CBN, Anchor borrowers. So it’s going on and governor has said it and he will make sure that many of our farmers will get such loans.
Question 6: Sir, what is your ministry doing about inculcating agricultural values in our wards like the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions?
Answer: We have a plan, and we call it school farming. There is a committee that is led by the Deputy Governor and my humble self the secretary, we go by the instructions and directives of the governor. We have planned on how to start school farming and that of women in agriculture, there is a program like that the governor is preparing to carry out and sponsor it.
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Question7: As the commissioner for agriculture, and also the incubator of food production, what is your advice to Imolites at this period of economic hardship?
Answer: Not only I am the commissioner for agriculture, I am also an agriculturist. I studied agriculture from NCE, 1st Degree, masters and PhD. I did my PhD in Agric. Extension, so anything as regards to agriculture has been my own advice to the people and to the youths. If an agriculturist can be a commissioner for agriculture, then it is not a dirty job. On the day the minister visited our state, my attire was complete white, I dressed that way to let the youths know that agriculture is not a dirty job. If you look to the foreign countries, the richest people in Europe are the agriculturists. This is what we should let our young ones know and emulate, that the best thing for us to do is to go into agriculture. We have different sections in agriculture. One can participate in crop productions, livestock such as poultry, piggery etc. Therefore this does not mean that when you are an agriculturist, you go to the farm and lie down there and mixed with sand. These things are being organized in a way that is why our Governor wants to move into it to educate our people to make them understand that agriculture is even more important and more lucrative than the crude oil business where our people have been killing their selves. For instance, a liter of palm oil is sold at #300 which is more expensive that a liter of fuel. Therefore if youths actually understand these facts and move into agriculture especially now, they will do better and the Governor has promised to mechanize agriculture in our state. He has negotiated with the captains in agricultural industry to bring in equipment for mechanize agriculture. In my earlier statement, I had stated that we cannot have food security if we still depend on cutlass and hoes as our implements for food production. If we must move a step forward in having abundances of food production then we must step into mechanized agriculture that is where we are now. Therefore my advice to our people is that they should see agriculture as the best means for livelihood.
Question 8: Sir, most of our youths today are into internet fraudulent activities (Yahoo business) instead of going into productive ventures like agriculture, what is your advice as the commissioner for agriculture?
Answer: I don’t know much about what you call “yahoo”, but I know quite well that this is computer age, even at the moment I am still learning the computer skills. I know I can do a little on the internet, but my children know deeper than me and as well put me through in those things I lack in computer knowledge. Hence they penetrate the computer or internet to explore more and through this, they may storm over other things related to the internet. But what I am saying is that they should forget about unprofitable exploration of the internet, which is not most important, compared to the positive use of the computer. Rather, it should be used to make contact with developed countries especially in agricultural developments. For instance I have a computer here which I use to know more about agriculture in developed world. Do you know that Israel are now practicing agriculture on the air? They know how best they do it as they different kind of crops with it. My major work as an agricultural extension officer is to transfer technology from the research station to the farmers. These farmers may be rural or urban dwellers. Then how do you educate these farmers to make use of these technologies so as to achieve food security? And there is no way we can achieve food security if we do not increase our production level in agriculture through the use of technology. So my advice to our youths is to concentrate on agricultural activities.
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Question 9: Are there plants in Imo state to encourage food production through irrigation, so that during the dry seasons we can as well practice agriculture?
Answer: That was why in early August this year, the federal ministry of agriculture visited the state and shared palliatives, and gave us yam seedlings. If you are from the south-east, you will know that August is a period of harvest and not for cultivation, but they brought yam seedlings for us to plant them in August in order to have productions in and out of seasons of the year. For instance we can plant yam in February or March, harvest them in July and plant another in August. This morning I planted yam sets. In yam production there is what will call a mini set. A mini set is the cutting of a yam tuber into smaller pieces and planting them in the soil. This will produce a sizable yam which will be used in the next planting season. This is the reason why they visited in August to share palliatives. So when you are referring to irrigation, it is not only the act of channeling water from the river to the farm. You can as well use your watering can to distribute water in your garden or around the place where you had planted your crops. This is also part of practicing irrigation. If also you can create a part or channel water from the tap or the stream to your farm, you are also practicing irrigation farming. It therefore does not mean that we must live close to the river before we can practice irrigation. In our state there is a plan for irrigational farming, where the governor is clearing over 500 hectares of land now to transfer palm seedlings. We have about 35 thousand palm seedlings that will are to transplant somewhere. We had already decided to sink boreholes in order to use them to practice irrigation during the dry season. Like in Ideato north and south there are hectares of land where we are cultivating rice. This rice cultivation is based on irrigational practice. There are so many other places like our SMU (Small Holders Unit) where we are producing over 250 thousand palm seedlings. We have drilled the necessary boreholes, and through the help of the plumber, we have connected them to the farm to supply water for irrigational farming. Indeed, the Governor should be applauded to that effect.
Question 10: what are your advices regarding the security of farmers?
Answer: Long before now, there have been series of kidnapping in the state, but since our government assumed power, have you heard about kidnapping? The Governor has distributed security vehicles and as well deployed the police and the army to different local government areas which is not different from the security you are talking about. This is one of the priorities of the Governor as the chief security officer of the state to ensure safety of lives and property both in the rural and urban areas. Therefore I do not know what the oppositions are brawling for, it could be that some of them have not recovered from the shock of what happened, and that is why they are complaining, hence, they are spewing jargons.
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Finally, majority of the Imolites will tell them to sit down and follow this God made Governor