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Food Security: Umo Eno unlocking Agric potentials in Akwa Ibom State

Food Security: Umo Eno unlocking Agric potentials in Akwa Ibom State

Food Security: Umo Eno unlocking Agric potentials in Akwa Ibom State

By Emmanuel Ndon 

Last week, Governor Umo Eno followed through with another concrete step to achieving one of the lofty dreams in his ARISE Agenda - food sufficiency. It was another bold step, and the pronouncement as significant as the event it came through. 

It was Labour Day(1 May)  and the governor chose the auspicious occasion to declare first and third Fridays of every month as "Farm Days". Under this arrangement, all public and civil servants in the state are exempted from work, and are expected to go to their farms. However, teachers will still be in their schools to cultivate the school farms in addition to academic activities. 

This initiative aims to give more bite to the governor's desire to increase food production through massive cultivation of staple foods and ensure food sufficiency in the state. 

Food sufficiency (or food security), is a subset in the "A" component of the ARISE Agenda, which begins with "Agricultural Revolution". Another aspect in the subset is the food voucher programme intended to cater for the vulnerable and needy persons in the state. 

As already enunciated in an earlier piece, three elements define food sufficiency - availability, affordability and accessibility - all these are the hallmarks of the food voucher programme. 

According to the World Bank, food security is defined when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. 

"Physical availability" addresses the "supply  side" of food security and is determined by the level of food production, stock levels and net trade. 

From the foregoing, it is difficult or impossible to fault Governor Umo Eno's decisions. Two things define his policies. Sustainability and workability. These attributes are basically what makes a programme or any effort to be counted. They are the hallmarks of success and determines the implementation or success rate of any laudable endeavor. 

How do these features define Umo Eno's policies? Let me begin with workability. Workability means the ease with which something can be done or worked. One striking event underlines this. As I was putting up this piece, my phone beeped and alerted me to a message. I was hesitant due to my tight schedule for the day. Out of curiosity, I opened the message and you wouldn't guess what I found. "Happening Now", was the title on the chat. The summary of the information was about another batch of food voucher distribution across the three senatorial districts of the state. 

Beyond rhetorics, that information demonstrates the seamlessness with which this programme is going about meeting needs and achieving its purpose in a little over   six weeks. 

Again, workability is demonstrated by the lack of difficulty and disparity in identifying the "vulnerable" and "needy". From the outset, it was spelt out, those who wear this badge (no denigration intended), are captured in the state's social register. Thus, there is no contradiction about who is qualified for free food or not. This clearly tells you about a well thought-out policy with a seamless fusion of desirability and implementation. 

Assuming the managers experience challenges (as is often the case with new projects), it doesn't in any way reduce the effect it has yielded socially and economically. 

The second aspect is sustainability. In the broadest sense, according to Investopedia, sustainability refers to the ability to maintain or support a process continuously over time. In business and policy contexts, sustainability seeks to prevent the depletion of natural or  physical resources, so that they will remain available for the long term. Thus, sensible administrators will emphasize the future effect of any given policy on the people and the economy. 

Viewed from this perspective, sustainability forms the big picture of the entire food sufficiency programme along with its allied food voucher. 

As already established that "physical availability", which means that food availability addresses the "supply side" of food security, we can glean from here that the only cardinal point connecting availability and affordability is constant or regular supply and this can only be achieved by the concept of "Back to Farm".

Recall that from inception, Governor Umo Eno did emphasize that the food voucher is only but a stop-gap measure to ameliorate the effect of the fuel subsidy removal. With his foresight and vision of sustainability, massive cultivation of arable land across our state remains the permanent solution to food security. 

Following from this, if we were to develop a model from this theory, it would look somewhat like : Constant yield ➡Constant harvest ↔Regular supply ➡Availability ↔High supply ➡Low price. 

Thus, the declaration of the farm days goes a long way not only to demonstrate the seriousness of the administration in agricultural production, but its readiness to implement it to the letter. The two "farm days" has provided extra incentive for workers  to plough their farmland maximally. For every first and third week of the farm days, the worker's weekend now begins on Thursdays culminating in extra manhours in the farm. 

The benefits of this project cannot be overemphasized. On one side, citizens of the state stands to gain socially and economically, while on the other hand, the state also derives its own benefit. 

Constant supply has the capacity to make food available and affordable in the markets. Good food increases the nutrient value in diets. A nutritious family produces a healthy population and increases productivity. 

Come to think of it, good feeding promotes good health and the less hungry people are, the more cordial relationships. 

To cap it off, the establishment of the Bulk Purchase Agency (BPA) will eliminate the ghosts of inconsistency and policy somersault associated with most government programmes. This explains why the governor waited for the law to be made before flagging off the food voucher. 

The BPA are the managers of the food voucher programme. It was established by an Act of parliament that can sue and be sued. One important aspect of BPA is that during and even after Governor Umo Eno, no administration can wish it away so long as the enacting legislation subsists. This is what is meant by sustainability. Here, sustainability means continuity because, as the Bible says, we will always have the poor with us. 

As it is now, we have a governor who matches words with action in every aspect of his life. We have a governor who exemplifies vision and cares about the well-being of everyone. Shouldn't we support such a man?

Emmanuel Ndon is the Founder / BoT Chairman, bọ enọ and  Transition Secretary, Itu Local Government

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