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Food Security: Need to embrace active farming in Igboland

by Ikenna Orioha
4 minutes read

Effective farming enhances food sufficiency and security in any society that embraces it. This is why it is imperative that every healthy person tills the soil.
The hand that works feeds well, no doubt. Hence societies, communities, villages and individuals that indulge in active farming have been feeding properly, being economically rich with food abundantly secured.

Across the world, a lot of money has been invested in agriculture for surplus food. In fact, farming has been domesticated and mechanized in America, Europe and other advanced countries with their economies being diversified. Many countries in Africa largely depend on crude oil and other natural resources hence their snail- speed economy. Bad governance is a major contributory factor debilitating Africa economy, healthcare system, quality academic and infrastructure.
In Igbo land, farming has been a valued custom, tradition and activity hence festivals are held in veneration of the gods of fertility and ancestors of the land, celebrate core farmers in a view to encouraging farming and resourcefulness among its people.

Little wonder, in the olden days in Igbo land, a man could only marry a wife of his fancy if he knew how to climb the palm tree, palm wine tree, being a core yam farmer, a skillful hunter or a warrior. All these attributes are used to measure wealthy men. The core yam farmer married numerous wives who produced many children who support the man in his farms. The size or quantity of his yams in the barn equally measured his status in his community.
Igbo people ought to revamp agriculture in order to wade off every insult from aliens who supply them food. The people should look beyond festivities, but indulge in subsistence farming just as they establish cottage industries as they did prior to colonialism.

During the colonial era, Igbos were not lazy as majority of them are today because of white- collar jobs, importation of food which beclouded their sense of agriculture.
Before independence, there was much competition in the production of cash crops such as palm oil, cocoa (in the East and West), groundnut and cotton (in the North) in Nigeria even though the regions were faced with paucity of funds as the central government refused to fund agriculture through the regions.
In spite of this challenge, there was a boom in agriculture as the Oliver Littleton Constitution of 1954 granted regions autonomy to harness their agricultural resources who paid rent to the central government based on derivation sharing formula.

Although the grant followed intense argument in London and Lagos Conferences. Reverse is the case today. Federal government’s grants to enhance agricultural production are majorly given to the North with the South particularly South East getting 2% or none.
Unfortunately, the discovery of crude oil also caused the neglect of agriculture. This has hampered the economy with many feeding from hand to mouth. The terror activities of Fulani herders, the fear of cultists, bandits are also militating factors that scare subsistent farmers from farming as many of them farm at distant places where these bandits hide. Effective support from government will go a long way to spurring people to serious farming. But this seems a mirage, as corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of government officials who have jettisoned the positive legacies of the founding fathers of Nigeria.

Past Igbo leaders especially Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, Premier of Eastern Region and Barr Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, first civilian governor of Imo State, made an inroad to agricultural revolution in Eastern Region with abundance of food for consumption and export.
Okpara was a strong advocate of “Pragmatic Socialism” who believed that “agricultural reform was crucial to the ultimate success of the East”. Hence, he established Farm Settlements and Plantations which boosted the economy of Eastern Region.

Okpara was thoughtful to have established Adapalm, Imo Rubber Estates (at Assa, Amafo, Umunwaku, Agwa Obitti Ohaji, Oguta and Umuokpo, Emeabiam, Owerri West), RisomPalm (in Ubima, Omerelu) Rivers State among other legacies. Those have been abandoned by ill politicians who are bent on enriching their pockets at the expense of the people who have continued to wallow in abject poverty, hardship and suffering.
Okpara, who became Premier of Eastern Region in First October 1959 and left in January 1966, having been preceded by Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, used tax from agricultural produce to fund people- oriented projects like: Trans Amadi Industrial Complex in Portharcourt, Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort, Cross River State, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation among others.

According to findings, “Okpara made it a priority to build infrastructure and businesses in each of the nine states of the former Eastern Region- when fiscal federalism was in play”.
Since Okpara and Mbakwe legacies have been thrown overboard by today’s leaders, Igbo people should go back to agriculture. Growing food such as cash crops, livestock are encouraging. They should look beyond government giving them grants or loans or lands. Youths should embrace active farming and stop depending on white- collar jobs that never come. Use your youthful energy to cultivate on the lands which are fertile. Food grows on Igbo land even without fertilizer which is a blessing to the race. By so doing people would feed well and become financially rich and independent.

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