By Kingsley Maduforo
The governor of Abia State, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, has shown that there are great opportunities for structural change within the agricultural sector and that increasing agricultural productivity through diversification also exists. With the rising rural and urban incomes and rapid urbanization, many agricultural products have moved from being solely used for subsistence to marketed crops. The rapid growth in agro-business in the State, has increased the demand for agro-products by domestic consumers and has also offered market opportunities for developing various high value crops that will support diversification in agriculture which would cause more income to accrue to farmers in the state.               
Gov. Ikpeazu has laid a solid foundation by creating an enabling environment, implemented appropriate policies that support agro-business in the state and has help attract both foreign and private investors to develop these agro-products along the value chains both in manufacturing and in agriculture. Indeed, majority of Nigerians are gainfully employed in the agricultural sector, which is one of the keys to driving sustainable and equitable growth across the nation. The exciting thing remains agriculture today in Nigeria represents both an incredible development and a lucrative business opportunity for Nigerian citizens.
In Abia State today, Gov. Ikpeazu made it crystal clear that agriculture remains one of the critical keys to his government’s Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) and the wider economic growth and development of the state. Abia farmers and agrio-business operators in the state are experiencing a boost in entrepreneurial success, and this reflects the tremendous potential in agriculture as an economic drive in the state and the effort of Gov. Ikpeazu to sustain it. The support and expertise provided by the Gov. Ikpeazu-led administration to develop agro-business in the state by involving the private sector, is therefore highly commendable.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, now the Head, African Development Bank(ADB) became an evangelist for turning Nigerian smallholder farmers most of whose food production occur on farms that are less than a hectare on size into business that generate growth at all income levels. And that is why agriculture is such an important development opportunity because growth in agricultural sector is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector. For the records, according to the government’s annual economic report 2012, Malawi’s economy grow on average by 7.5 percent between 2005 and 2011 largely propelled by the good performance in the agricultural sector.
This is a call once again for us to focus and redirect our mindset towards improving more on agriculture for a sustainable development. Today, Monday 16th October, 2017 has been mapped out for World Food Day, with the theme ‘Change the Future of Migration, Invest in Food Security and Rural Development.’ The venue of this event is Abia Hotels in Umuahia. This is geared towards the improvement of agriculture and agro-business in the state. Abia State Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture is putting all hands on deck to join the rest of the world to celebrate the World Food Day in Abia State.
Finally, agricultural growth has played a key role in poverty reduction. Agricultural crop production is the most important activity for the majority of rural households both as income-generating  activity and as a means of subsistence. Investing in agriculture will not only increase our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), it will also accelerate development in our rural communities. The success stories of the fast developing countries of the world suggest that agricultural development ought to be broad-based. Therefore, broad-based agricultural development is a key for the transformation of Abia State. Moreover, due to the important role agriculture plays in developing an economy and in increasing a people’s income, accelerating agricultural growth and development is therefore, very paramount.
Kingsley Maduforo, a Media Analyst, writes from Umuahia.