They promised to extend what they learnt to their colleagues.
Mr Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, says there is the need for Nigerians to accord agriculture its prime position a good replacement for the dwindling crude oil.
Nanono gave the advice on Owerri at a one-day workshop organised for maize growers and processors by the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPMAN).
Noble Reporters Media (NoRM) reports that the programme, with theme: “Post-Harvest Management of Maize Stakeholders Conference- under the CBN Maize Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP)” , had many farmers, especially maize growers in attendance.
The minister, who was represented by Mr Chris Iwuchukwu, the State Director in the ministry, said that crude oil was failing the country and a reason why agriculture should be given more priority in the nation’s affairs.
He said the ministry was making efforts to see that farmers were encouraged and that maize would become “self sustaining and available for export”.
“Crude oil is failing the country, so we need to give agriculture its prime place in the country. Since 2011 till date the Federal Government has been doing its necessary best to boost agriculture.
“There is need to make agriculture have a face by making the rural community comfortable for the youth to farm.
“There is need for the South East and South South to begin to export maize. There is need for the farmers to manage the crop well in order not to suffer losses,” he said.
Dr Edwin Uche, the National President of the association, urged the people to embrace agriculture, especially the cultivation of maize to ensure food security.
“We need to embrace agriculture as a people. We need to strengthen its value chain in our communities, environment and society.
“We need to accept the fact that technology in agriculture has come to stay and that agriculture is the sector that can boost our economy and make life more meaningful to the people,” he said.
Uche said the workshop addressed issues that bordered on agriculture not only in Nigeria, but across nations.
“It opened our eyes to the realities in maize cultivation and broadened our hearts to it as a commodity we must all grow and support.
“The farmers must not look at the challenges and gabs, but on the opportunities that exist in the cultivation of maize,” Uche said.
Mr Ikongbe Iya, a Deputy Manager, Development Finance Office of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Owerri, who represented the Maize Champion Development Finance Department, CBN, said Nigerian population was increasing day by day with a lot of concern on natural resources and the environment.
He said there was need for sustainable agriculture, hence the workshop, to build maize growers capacity to reduce losses on agricultural products and not necessarily maize.
“There is need to develop low cost technology to grow the agricultural products. The machines for today’s demonstration was locally produced,” he said.
Iya said that the Anchor Borrowers Scheme was necessitated by the need to curtail importation of goods from outside the country, adding that it was also to supply agricultural raw materials to farmers and companies.
“The workshop is also to address some issues bothering farmers in the southern part of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Olisa Mokelu, Branch Manager, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, Ebonyi State, said that agriculture engendered employment and development and urged people to embrace it.
He said that the company had been re-positioned to serve the people better and deliver the benefits of insurance.
Mokelu said the company was also working directly with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and CBN to serve the people better.
Mrs Blessing Amenze of the state Ministry of Agriculture, who represented the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said people should embark on agriculture for growth and sustainability as “oil has failed.”
She pledged the continued support of the ministry to farmers in the state to succeed.
Dr Godwin Chukwu of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia in a paper on “Enhancing Post Harvest Management of Maize in Southern Nigeria” described agriculture as a major player in the socio-economic development of southern Nigeria.
He described maize as the most important cereal crop widely grown in southern Nigeria.
Chukwu said that although major part of the region had been categorised low in maize production potential, however, effective utilisation of available opportunities could scale up maize production in the region.
Some of the participants commended the association for putting up the programme, which they said, had added a lot to their knowledge of maize cultivation and preservation.
A participant, Mr George Okeke, the Chief Agroforestry Officer, Imo State Agric Development Programme, Owerri, an extension of the state ministry of agriculture, described the programme as laudable.
He harped on the need to make farming easier for farmers by ensuring that fertilisers, other farming inputs and funds were made available to farmers on time.
Mrs Mary Okoro from Okwuabala in Orlu, Imo, said she had applied for her own Anchors Borrowers’ fund to start farming and was happy for the programme.
NoRM reports that the highlight of the programme was the demonstration of a way of removing corn from the cob using locally produced machine.