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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Awba-Ofemili: Christians vs Pagans, 20 critically injured


News reaching us shows that there was blood letting in the sleeping town of Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North Local Government Area of Anambra State, following a clash between Christians and touts who claimed to be pagans in the town reputed for its ‘Awba-Ofemili rice.’

NaijaAgroNet gathered that not less than 20 Christians were heavily injured with matchet cuts during a Christian vigil crusade held inside St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Awba-Ofemili, even as this may not be unconnected to 2012 flood largesse, which petition is before the Anambra State government and was jointly signed by Rev. Fr. Emma Ezenwata and Rev. Patrick Odinanwa.

Also, St. Paul’s Catholic Church was not left out as its roof was said to have been perforated with gun bullets by these touts who claim to be pagans as well as the Parish House recently completed by the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO), while the Rice Mill, also owned by CWO was burnt down alongside some bags of rice awaiting milling.

Another source in the town told NaijaAgroNet that a day before, that is Sunday night, there was some skirmishes of threats in the town, culminating in the attack of St. Paul’s Anglican Church by same group of people, who claimed that they were observing ‘Obia-na-uchichi’ that is night masquerade season.

It was gathered in good authority that these hoodlums carted away the generating set that supplied electricity to the church, venue of the vigil on Sunday night.

Further sources from the town pointed accusing figures to the leadership of the town, under a regent Chief 
Benard Nwanelo and vigilante group, who up till the time of this report has not made any arrest. Efforts to get the side of Chief Nwanelo at the time of filing this report was not successful as his mobile phone was said to be switched off.

According to the Parish Priest of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Awba-Ofemili, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel  Ezenwata, who was out of town at the time of this incident, the pagans in the town burnt church building, blustered the roofs and ceilings of new Fathers’ House and destroyed building of some Christians in the town.

A source, who pleaded for anonymity said that the wind of the crisis was very evident during last weekend, leading to summon of the church leaders and those claiming traditionalists in preparation for the annual ceremony which last for about a week, and which forbids women from being outside from about 6pm and restricts movement likewise, except for the initiates.

“Despite the insistence of both parties to shed their swords, the town regent did not involve the Police, knowingly fully well that the security of the town was under threat,” our source alleged.

The catechist of St. Paul’s Anglican Church Awba-Ofemili, was said to be the most injured with several matchet cuts among 20 members of the Christendom attending the vigil, while the priest in-charge, Rev. Patrick Odinanwa, escaped through the nearby bush.

Unfortunately, the two medical centres in the town were reported to have since stopped working and the nearest is located at Ebenebe, near Amansea with poor road network.

“This could lead in deaths due to uncontrolled bleeding by the injured,” our source lamented.
Confirming this to NaijaAgroNet, President General, Awba-Ofemili Development Union (ADU), Mr. Chukwuma Nwabufo told correspondent, he was on his way to the town, decrying the incident, adding that the town has been very accommodative to any religion and did not understand why there should be a fracas this time around, even as he appealed for calm.

He has also reached out to the Divisional Police Officer in Ugbene, a neighbouring town on the matter, among the state apparatus.

Meanwhile, NaijaAgroNet recalls that a few weeks ago, both priests, Rev. Fr. Ezenwata and Rev. Odinanwa jointed petitioned the Anambra State government over the misappropriation of the N3 million meant for flood victims in the town last year.

The petition addressed to the Secretary to the Anambra State Government and Chairman, Committee on Flooding Anambra State, indicted some key members of the town union in collaboration with the town’s Regent, the Onosolu Eze, Chief Nwanelo, for allegedly connived with each other to divert the said fund.

NaijaAgroNet further learnt that following the intervention of one of its sons, Mr. Sabastine Okoye, who is the current Commissioner for Environment, the matter was withdrawn to be settled at home.

The joint petition which was also sent to the Governor Anambra State, had the Catholic Bishop of Awka and his Anglican counterpart, as well as the Transition Chairman, Awka – North L.G.A, the Regent and ADU president general, all in copy.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Food security index ranks Nigeria 86 out of 107

Breaking News

Nigeria has been ranked 86 in the latest Global Food Security Index (GFSI) reports made available to NaijaAgroNet.

The indexing which cut across three core categories, namely the affordability, availability, quality and safety.

The GFSI published by Intelligence Unit of The Economist, also ranked Nigeria 84 in the quality and safety index.

The ranking, NaijaAgroNet gathered showed that Nigeria scored 38.7 per cent  in category scores to emerge 84 in ranking, while within the availability scores, Nigeria was ranked 62, scoring 47.8 category score, even as in the affordability ranking category, Nigeria got 105 with 15.1 score.

All these brought about total ranking of Nigeria at 86, among the 107 countries indexed within the latest review with 33 scores.

According to The Economist, Nigeria's strength was defined as any indicator score above 75.0; in the prevalence of undernourishment, intensity of food deprivation and volatility of agricultural production.

Whereas the challenges where found in presence of food safety net programmes, public expenditure on agricultural research and development (R&D) in addition to corruption.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that currently Nigeria's Gross Domestic Products (GDP) stood at 283.3 billion; population at 170.1 million; Land Area at 910,770 sq km; prevalence of undernourishment 8.5  per cent.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

FMARD inaugurates Oversight Committee on Cassava Bread Fund


The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has inaugurated a 16-man Oversight Committee on Cassava Bread Fund, following an earlier presidential approval for the fund.

At the inaugural meeting, held at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, met with representatives of Master Bakers’ Association of Nigeria, Cassava Growers’ Association of Nigeria, National Cassava Processors and Millers Association of Nigeria, Dutch Agricultural Development and Trading Company (DADTCO), Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, C:AVA, Budget Office of the Federation and officials of the ministry.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that in his remarks, Dr. Adesina noted that the approval of the fund will reduce the huge expenses incurred by the federal government on importation of wheat, estimated at N635 billion annually. He stressed that research by Lake Chad Research Institute has resulted in the release of three tropical high-yielding wheat varieties with yield record of 5.0 to 6.2 tons per hectare. 

The minister, stressed the need to be transparent and accountable in judicious use of the fund by the committee, which had the tasks of building robust fresh roots supply chains for cassava processing plants; supporting large/medium High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) mills, SMEs producing HQCF and masters bakers on 20 per cent HQCF cassava bread production; social marketing of 20 per cent cassavas bread and pre-emptive measures against cassava brown streak disease.

At the meeting, it was decided that a total of 5,000 bakers will be trained and supported at six bakers per local government area across the 774 LGAs.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that the inaugural meeting witnessed an agreement that Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) and National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) be co-opted into the committee and that the initiative will operate as a revolving fund facility to support both cassava bread and local wheat production.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

‘Women influential in rise of Christianity’

A band of forgotten women were hugely influential in the rise of Christianity, a five-year study has found, NaijaAgroNet can authoritatively report.

Professor Kate Cooper of The University of Manchester, told NaijaAgroNet, their contribution has been neglected by the mainstream churches in her new book released this August.

NaijaAgroNet gather that the study identified dozens of forgotten Christian women who were influential in the first and second centuries, during a period when Christianity was - in some respects - more progressive towards women than today.

According to Professor Cooper, women played a central role in spreading the new Christian faith through informal friendship and family networks.

Their authority within Christian communities was earned through their role as parents, community organizers, and small business owners.

One, Lydia the Purple-seller of Philippi remembered in the Bible’s Book of Acts, was the first person to sponsor St Paul.

Another woman, Perpetua, who lived in Carthage at the end of the second century, was famous at the time for refusing to denounce her faith, choosing martyrdom against her father’s wishes.

Her diary, written while she awaited execution in prison, was a radical document which would be seen in today’s world as extreme and very unlike the official Christian views of what the Christian woman should be, says Professor Cooper.

One of the most important, she says, is Thecla of Iconium, believed by second century Christians to have been one of St Paul’s disciples.

Referring to the ‘Acts of Paul and Thecla’, an anonymous second century text, Professor Cooper shows how Thekla rebelled against her family to refuse marriage - an unthinkable act at the time.

“Though there is no certain evidence that Thecla existed, her story was hugely influential in the first few hundred years of early Christianity,” said Professor Cooper.

“The influence of her story was far-reaching, in that it became the root of the Catholic theology of chastity and virginity.

“Every major Christian male writer in the fourth century had a sister, and these young women were encouraged to follow Thecla’s example. Rather than criticizing her for disobeying her mother, the early Church celebrated her courage.

“Christianity was quite revolutionary in the way it treated its women, especially when you realise how sexist the ancient world was.

“So it’s sad that Thecla and her contemporaries are not properly remembered and honoured today. They should be an inspiration: for example to the people campaigning for women bishops and priests.”

Women, says Professor Cooper, regularly preached the gospel in the first two centuries of Christianity, and in some communities women carried out baptisms.

It wasn’t until the Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, in around 313 AD, the religion became institutionalised: male bishops were now government officials and women came to be seen as players in the background rather than public figures.

Professor Cooper added: “These women – saints who had a radical and powerful presence in the early church – have been hidden in plain sight.

“Many Gospel stories, for example – such as the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospel of Luke – can tell us far more about women’s role if we stop to pay close attention – something male writers have not done.

“The ancient sources mention the women, but over time less and less attention was given to their role. Really, they have been airbrushed out of history.

“It is quite sad that a religion which began with a mother and her wonderful baby should still have so much difficulty with remembering to honour the contribution of its women.”

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tomato, PineApple: We’re largest producers in Africa –Odusote

NaijaAgroNet/Remmy Nweke:

THE Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, has disclosed that Nigeria is the largest producer of Tomatoes and PineApples out of the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

She made this disclosure to NaijaAgroNet, during the 2013 international conference of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) in Iloko, Osun State, citing the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) an arm of the United Nations as making this pronouncement.

FOA Statistics confirmed to NaijaAgroNet that Nigeria is the biggest tomato producer in Sub-Saharan Africa and the 14th largest tomato producer globally, while on PineApple, Nigeria was also ranked largest producer on the continent and the 8th globally.

Nigeria, she said, has these fruits, especially PineApples in several varieties which are grown in locally.
“The sweet cayenne variety is common in Nigeria and well suited,” she declared.

Dwelling on “Opportunities for Investments in Nigeria’s Agriculture” in her presentation, Mrs. Odusote said that there are new and attractive investment opportunities in Nigeria, especially in the juice processing industry.

“Nigeria has a comparative advantage in fruit production relative to other African nations” she asserted, pointing out that Nigeria is the largest producer of pineapples in Africa and the 8th largest producer in the world with different varieties.

Using the 2011 favourable production comparison, she said that Nigeria produces 920,000 tonnes in PineApple, 795,000 Mangoes and 139,223 Watermelon within the period under review. This was against Kenya and South Africa which ranked second and third with Kenya recording 371,310 in PineApple production, 636,585 mangoes and 66,196 watermelon, whereas South Africa recorded 108,636 of PineApple, 52,318 of Mangoes and 77,993 of Watermelon.

For Tomatoes, she revealed that Nigeria produced 1,500 tonnes within the period under review with Cameroon coming close with 880, South Africa 507, Kenya 407, Ghana 340, Tanzania 250 and Benin 180.

However, she underscored the fact that tomatoes are not processed locally, leading to increasing import dependency of tomato paste in Nigeria despite the ranking in production.

“In the tomato value chain, processing is where an investor can capture the greatest economic value,” she said, adding that economics of the Tomato value chain in Nigeria which cuts across production, aggregation and logistics, processing of both paste and concentrate and finally retail, noting that concentrate could be an intermediate product of tomato paste with less water content, concentrate is generally produced for industrial use while paste is for domestic use.

She cited Dansa Foods for instance, disclosing that the firm invested $30 million in Tomato farming and processing in Kano State.

Also, she highlighted Beef processing as another investable option within the domestic market, saying opportunity for beef is large and growing and has today, about 310 metric tonnes of overall demands for consumption per capita and is expected to grow to 650 tonnes by 2020.

Some of the existing resource endowment, currently, she said, involves 19 million heads of cattle, adding that there are 15 states with about 500,000 heads of cattle each.

About 85 million hectares of uncultivated arable land with grassland resources was placed at 54 per cent of total land area under pasture, yet, there is supplementary feed available in forest areas

He emphasised that existing cattle production knowledge and capabilities are inherent Nigeria with the traditional Fulani livelihood, informal industry players from cattle rearers, traders to transporters and butchers.
In particular, she noted that the market for premium segments is rapidly developing including the growing quality conscious segment for the middle class segment which demands more high quality beef in hygienic conditions.

She highlighted type of beef demanded moving from unsophisticated raw cuts; types in open-air markets to prime cuts and mince to name a few. While the market has estimated size of $300million, increasing in the number of formal retail outlets and rapid expansion of outlets by supermarkets serving the middleclass over past 5 years with plans underway to at least double number of outlets by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government (FG) has added a total of 1,070,364 metric tonnes of food in 2013, says the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).

Odusote disclosed to NaijaAgroNet, noting that this figure is one-third of the total paddy needed to be self-sufficient by 2015.

She attributed this to the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA)-based Dry Season Rice Transformation supported 268,000 farmers on 264,000 hectares in 10 northern states.

Also, she said the Dry Season farming added a total of 1 million metric tonnes (MT) to the domestic production.

She explained that this year alone, and for first time ever, Nigeria launched Dry Season farming of rice to take advantage of irrigation capacity in the North of Nigeria, stressing that Federal Government provided massive support for dry season rice cultivation in 10 states.

A total of 267,491 farmers, she said, received 50 kilogrammes (kg) of seeds, two bags of 15-15 NPK and one bag Urea.

“This has added an additional 1,070,364 MT of food in 2013. This is one-third of total paddy needed to be self-sufficient by 2015,” she declared.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

2015: FG eyes north for wheat bumper harvests

Despite the insecurity insurgency in northern Nigeria, the Federal Government has reiterated its resolve to have a wheat bumper harvest by 2015, thereby halving imports through local production.

This follows the discovery of two improved varieties of wheat expected to position Nigeria well in local wheat production, sufficient to reduce national wheat import by half in 2015.

Special Assistant on Media & Strategy to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye disclosed this to NaijaAgroNet, quoting the executive director, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Dr. Oluwasina Gbenga Olabanji, as saying in Abuja, while presenting 100 per cent Nigerian wheat bread to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in his office.

Dr. Olabanji said these varieties, due to be released in 2014 are capable of producing an "average yield of 5 to 6 tons per hectare” stressing that the varieties, named Norman Borlaug and Reyne 28, are expected to position Nigeria to produce what it requires as it expands its land holdings allocated to wheat production, and would boost the economy of the north.

The reality of the improved varieties, Dr. Olabanji noted, “was achieved through collaboration with CIMMYT in Mexico and ICARDA in Tunisia.” 

The director referred to the earlier work done on wheat in Nigeria, saying that, “for wheat research in LRCI, we have done a lot of work on the genetic improvement of wheat in Nigeria. As at 1976, the average yield was 1.2 tons per hectare. But, with the launching of the wheat transformation agenda by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the federal government of Nigeria, we have been able to develop some improved varieties that can give us an average yield of 5 to 6 tons per hectare.”

The efforts will ensure that, by 2015, the quantity of wheat imported into Nigeria is reduced by half. This is to be achieved through aggressive production in 10 states of the north as disclosed this week during the official presentation of Abuja. Dr. Olabanji also projected that, “between now and 2015, we should be able to produce half of our demand in this country.”

He observed that “our demand for wheat is 3.7 metric tons, expressing optimism that, “by 2015, we should be able to achieve 50 per cent of this national demand. And that will reduce the cost of importation by 50 per cent. Presently, Nigeria is spending N635 billion every year for wheat importation.”

 As part of the effort toward achieving the laudable goal, the executive director talked about strategies to harness the comparative advantage for wheat production in the north. “We have the potentials to produce our own wheat. We have 600,000 hectares of land in this country that is suitable for wheat production, out of which only 10 per cent of land this area is utilised for wheat production. But, within this agricultural transformation agenda, we have proposed, for 2013 to 2014, to cultivate 150,000 hectares of land in the wheat-growing areas. These are 10 states in the northern parts of the country.”

On the varieties that would do well in Nigeria, he said, “we have rain-fed wheat in Nigeria. And this rain-fed wheat is cultivated in Nigerian highlands. These Nigerian highlands are in Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, Jos in Plateau State, and Obudu in Cross River State. These are potential areas for rain-fed wheat production. We have about 80,000 hectares area of land in these areas that are suitable for rain-fed wheat production.”

Dr. Olabanji explained that the work on wheat goes beyond mere field cultivation. “With ATA, we emphasise value chain, not just producing the wheat. We have gone into processing our Nigerian wheat into flour. We also have recipes that are made from this wheat flour, like the bread. We have 100 per cent Nigerian made bread. Our wheat flour is comparable, if not superior, to imported flour that we are clamouring for in Nigeria.”

Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development commended the efforts of Dr. Olabanji and his institute, LCRI, pointing out that LCRI is the first among other agricultural research institutes to bring up products of research to his office. “What Dr. Olabanji has just shown was that Nigeria’s comparative advantage is not to be in consumption but that we can produce even the things we are importing,” the minister stated. To Dr. Olabanji, he said: “We will hold you up as an example for all the others, about how our agencies should work and help Mr. President.”

Expressing the hope that, Nigeria will soon be self-sufficient in wheat production, Dr. Adesina said, “all the way in the north; Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto states: in all those areas, we can produce wheat.” He lamented, however, that “we have not been doing that well.” Rather, he noted, “we spend N635million annually in importing wheat.”

Excited, the minister expressed the belief that, “with all the wheat value chain that we have, we will be able, over a four-year period. …Just imagine what the northern states will look like. We did dry season rice in 10 states in the north. You saw what happened. You can imagine if wheat expansion of those varieties under those mechanised conditions happened all over the place.”

Dr. Adesina promised to support, the research institute and wheat transformation agenda. 

He said “Nigeria will not be a consumption centre. Nigeria must be self-sufficient in producing what we actually eat, so that we can reduce our dependency on others,” adding that “any nation that does not free itself from food import is a danger to its own very self.”

The minister observed that “the quality of our wheat in terms of consumer acceptance is excellent,” but sympathized that “our local research institutes are not well funded.” He said, “with the little amount that they have, (you can) imagine what they have done.” 

He enthused that “these are the moments that make me enormously very happy and more confident that our future as a country in agriculture is very bright.”

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Gender issues: NEPAD v. GIZ mark women day with football match

Two women’s soccer teams from the African Union’s NEPAD Agency and the German Development Agency (GIZ), would clash this afternoon in a special soccer tournmanment aimed at raising awareness of Gender issues.
NaijaAgroNet gathered that former Banyana Banyana star, Keneilwe Mathibela would be at hand to give the women support, in the amateur game which kicks off at 14:00 at the CSIR sports field in Pretoria.
NaijaAgroNet recalls that this is the second time the two teams will meet in a match that was first played last August 9, to mark National Women’s month.
NEPAD says the aim of the tournament in addition to enhancing the partnership between GIZ and NEPAD is to highlight the important work the two organisations are doing to promote women’s empowerment.
Among the several interventions and programmes NEPAD’s involved in, is support through the Gender Spanish Fund which promotes women’s empowerment via partner-led projects in west and southern African regional economic groups, ECOWAS and COMESA regional groups.
On behalf of the German Government, GIZ has been supporting the NEPAD in implementing its agricultural programme CAADP, since 2007. The emphasis of GIZ’s support is on policy advice, agricultural training and on adapting agriculture to the consequences of climate change. Other support to NEPAD is for infrastructure, both development aspects that have a bearing on women’s uplifting

The two teams will compete for a trophy in a match that will be attended by staff from organisations, friends and family as well as the media.
Staff Correspondent/NaijaAgroNet
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Monday, August 5, 2013

Expert says lab grown meat is good

Assorted pieces of meat
A bioethicist, Dr Iain Brassington of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, University of Manchester has declared that lab grown meat is a good.

Dr Brassington, told NaijaAgroNet that while the sight of someone eating a very expensive burger is clearly something of a publicity stunt, the underlying idea behind laboratory-grown meat is sound. The research is highly laudable, because what it promises is so desirable.
“Meat-eating is morally problematic, and many people are or think they should be vegetarian as a result,” he said, stressing that for one thing, the welfare of the animals we eat is seen by many as a concern. Noting that not only might it be problematic for some that an animal is killed for our benefit at all – but it’s undeniable that the quality of life of many of those animals is abysmal. Carnivores often have blood on their hands in more than the literal sense.

For another, he pointed out that conventional meat-rearing is phenomenally environmentally destructive, because it takes many kilos of grain and many litres of water to produce one kilo of beef.
This, he said, pits hungry humans and cattle in direct competition, meaning that the cost of survival for the poorest is higher than it would be in a vegetarian world. But, in addition, all that livestock has to live somewhere, and this contributes to massive deforestation. And it’s hard to forget the sheer amount of methane that ruminants produce.

“Lab-grown meat offers to solve both these problems. Welfare concerns can be eliminated simply by virtue of there being no real animal to suffer and die. At the same time, the signs are that lab-grown meat would be much less resource-intensive. It would still probably not be as efficient a means of getting protein as vegetarianism, but it would represent a great improvement,” he explained.

Hence there is good reason to welcome the advent of lab-grown meat, and to hope for the day when it’s in the supermarkets.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Anambra: Distribution of pro-vitamin 'A' yellow cassava commences

The Anambra State has commenced distribution of high pro-vitamin “A” yellow cassava cuttings to farmers. 

Governor Peter Obi made this disclosure to NaijaAgroNet at the flagging off the exercise at the compound of Anambra State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) in Awka, the state capital last weekend.

He also presented new utility vehicle and 21 computers to boost implementation of the programme in Anambra.

According to him, the vehicles should be solely used for the execution of the project while the computers were for monitoring and evaluation of the outcome of the new cassava variety Statewide. 

He assured that the State government would provide all logistics to ensure success of the programme as cassava had multi values including being raw material for beer.

He also said that agriculture has fundamental role in turning around the State and national economies with huge employment potentials. Stressing that Anambra State was now on course for sustainable development, reiterating that no future administration could take the people for granted again.

Responding, a representative of the development partner, Dr. Paul Ilona said Governor Obi has demonstrated more commitment to development of agriculture than any other government in the country, including logistics.

Ilona elucidated that the new cassava variety was not only for food security but also for promotion of health by supplementing nutritional intake of the people and assured that the State would receive more supply.

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Ndubisi Menakaya, during his speech, said the intervention became necessary to solve the increased rate of micro-nutrients deficiency among children under five years and pregnant women which he noted had risen to about thirty percent. 

Menakaya also urged Anambra farmers to take advantage of the programme to reap its huge benefits.

The programme manager of Anamrba State Agricultural Development Programme, Comrade Leo Imoka said the programme became a reality in the State because of regular and timely payment of counter-part contributions by Governor Obi administration.

The Comrade further revealed that cassava production in the State has increased remarkably which placed the State as the highest producer of cassava in the country.

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