By Omolola Pedro
To further build youths capacity on innovative agricultural practices, over 160 students of the Faculty of Agriculture, Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), Obio Akpa campus, have received training on agripreneurship, oil palm management and horticulture. The training exercise, which was held at the university premises, was organised by an International Civil Society Organisation. Addressing students of the institution during the training, the Programme Manager, Solidaridad, Oil Palm Nigeria, Kenechukwu Onukwube, said the programme was designed to support AKSU to become a centre of excellence in innovative and sustainable agriculture in Nigeria.
Onukwube noted that oil palm business was more profitable than crude oil business, however, regretted that Nigerian leaders pay less attention to the agriculture sector of the economy. “We are here to support Akwa Ibom State University, to become a centre of excellence in innovative and sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. We want to make AKSU a hub for empowering the next generation of youths. So, you are being trained to go and make a difference in agriculture. There is joy in being a farmer. At the end of the training, you will discover that building your capacity is a lot better than giving you any amount of money. The truth is that the richest farmers should be oil palm farmers. If we can enhance the production of palm oil, our local farmers will be very rich and will not need run after politicians”, he said.
Onukwube disclosed that Solidaridad West Africa was implementing the National Initiative on Sustainable and Climate Smart Oil Palm Smallholders (NISCOPS) project in Akwa Ibom, Calabar, Kogi and Enugu states, aimed at improving the yield and income of smallholder oil palm farmers. He added that they were working with vegetable farmers on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) project in Kano and Kaduna states, fish farmers in Ogun State, potato farmers in Plateau State and cassava farmers in Oyo state. Speaking with newsmen, the Head, Department of Crop Science of AKSU, Dr. Akata Ofonime described the partnership with Solidaridad as a laudable and welcoming idea. “Before the management of AKSU could agree to this partnership, they had seen the need and the impact it will have on the students and the institution. It is something of great joy that the students are being trained on how to cultivate oil palm from nursery”, he stated.