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NIAE Demands Mechanization, Digitalization Of Agriculture To Unlock Nation's Economy

The Nigeria Institution of Agricultural Engineers (NIAE) has called for the implementation of mechanization and digitalization of agriculture to serve as a key to unlocking the nation's economy and that of Akwa Ibom. The Association, in a ninepoint communiqua, at the close of its first State Conference, Exhibition and the NIAE Week, noted that for Akwa Ibom to compete favourable with contemporaries in the drive to mechanize agriculture, a Directorate of Engineering Services must be created in the Ministry of Agriculture. The communiqua noted that the creation of the Directorate would enable Agricultural Engineers to function optimally by directly coordinating engineering-based functions particularly in the areas of machinery development; development of sustainable post-harvest system; development of farm and rural structures; as well as soil and environmental engineering concern in the state. The group also called on the Federal and State Governments to encourage local production of food to mitigate the effect of possible food crisis by the first quarter of 2021. It also emphasized the need for government to encourage entrepreneurial drive in the area of machinery production to ensure pre-to post-harvest operations, in addition to providing grants to local fabricators and other capacity development opportunities to enhance high productivity in agriculture. The communiqua noted that inconsistencies in policies and poor implementation has impaired development of the agricultural sector in the state and country. It maintained that increased rate of food importation was not a sustainable option based on the present economic realities, noting that the ugly development has plunged the country into a second recession in five years. The communiqua also called for the adoption of innovation and entrepreneurial development in the agricultural value chain to serve as bridge between poverty and high rate of unemployment. On the proposed $1.2 billion loan sought by the Federal Government from Brazil, the communiqua noted that it should be properly deployed to help solve local problems with local solutions. It noted that the idea of reinvesting about 80 percent of the credit facility from Brazil for machinery production should be reviewed for the empowerment of a research centres, like the Nigeria Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM) and others, to produce some of the machines, using local materials and technology that suits the same purpose. The communiqua noted with delight the numerous initiatives adopted by the Akwa Ibom government to boost food production, pointing out that the establishment of the St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory, Ibom Agricon Rice Factory, Kings Flour Mills and The Greenhouse, among others, have great potentials of creating jobs for thousands of unemployed youths. It described as timely and commendable the steps taken by the Akwa Ibom government in partnering the World Bank to tackle gully erosion devastating parts of Urua Udofia and Etim Okon Usanga Streets in Uyo, the state capital. The communiqua noted that COVID-19 pandemic has presented a realistic opportunity for Nigeria to find creative solutions to our food security challenges and recommended that a strategic roadmap and policy framework should be developed on a short-mediumlong term basis for mechanization of agriculture in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria.

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