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Frank Nneji, Victor Mbalewe, Others, Recommend Rethinking Mbaise Agro-Economic Rebuild Strategy At MPR Forum Discussion

The Mbaise Policy Roundtable (MPR), a non-governmental organization with offices in Owerri Imo State, Nigeria and New York, USA, recently held an open forum discussion on the viability of an Agriculture strategy in resurging and revitalizing the economy of Mbaise. The organization in a thought provoking comment stated, “The Mbaise most of us grew up in and remember with nostalgia, appears futuristic today, even when it was over 40 years ago. Although there was relative poverty, but not hunger and decent quality of life was sustained through commonwealth. We had world class well managed schools, healthcare and religious institutions. The social space was fun and vibrant with all sort of entertainment, inter and intra schools competition, and display of culture at its best. All these were powered by a commonsense subsistence Agrobased economy. Sadly most of us who were products of that era, migrated to the urban areas in search of white collar jobs, thus abandoning Agriculture our source of shared “prosperity”, to an increasingly aging and unsophisticated population.”
“Consequently, our insatiable drive for personal wealth jettisoned our shared prosperity or commonwealth economic doctrine. Even as we accumulated more personal wealth than our forebears can only dream of, we have, like prodigal children, been unable to add to or maintain the gorgeous “estates”, they bequeathed us. The question is, how do we retrace our steps to our Agro based economic resurgence?”

Mr Frank Nneji, a former Imo State gubernatorial aspirant and founder of ABC Transport, weighed in with some ideas for digging Mbaise and indeed Imo State out of her current economic doldrums. He posited that, in dealing with it, “…. we need to distinguish between the subsistence agriculture which our parents practiced and modern commercial agriculture. Commercial agriculture is usually a major investment in which we would consider risks and returns. Agricultural investments however offer good opportunity in creating many jobs. I will therefore advice that members of this forum consider doing some studies back home focused on identifying suitable agricultural investments bearing in mind that we have limited land space, not just in Mbaise but in Imo State generally. It’s time we started funding investments as against consumption back home”

On how Mbaise got to their recent economic prostrate position, Sir Nick Nwuda credited our forebears with character and values lacking in their offspring. He said, “ Our forefathers though illiterates had sense of community. They believed in “Igwe bu Ike”. The first few people that went overseas for further education was sponsored through village efforts, by ikuchi nkwu. Our parents readily gave their lands for church, school and community development construction. Today we want to build fence to encroach and block the roads our fathers built. Oha was the strength of our people 40 to 60 years ago. Today there are more rich and educated people in every village in Mbaise yet every village is still very poor, and more people go to bed hungry today. When it comes to agriculture those who didn’t have yam seeds will go and work for those who have abundant yam seed and get rewarded with yam seed for them to plant in their own farms. At least I witnessed many who used to come and help my grand father during planting season. Each of them will go home with abor ji with them to plant in their own. During harvest people who helps in harvest will go home with enough yam and farm products to last them months. We weren’t too rich back then, but nobody go to bed hungry as we have today”

Dr Chika Okoro agrees, “that the generation you referred to here had something that this generation lacks- selflessness. Then, people were more interested in being remembered for their contributions to their communities rather than the number of hotels they built or the mass of real estate they developed. First, the Mbaise man must realize that God gives us more than we need so that we can give out to our society. Actually, there is no life without giving.”
Prince Victor Mbalewe, former Imo State Senior Special Adviser points at greed and disrespect for commonwealth as bane of the economic woes of Mbaise. He urged that we “perish selfishness, build synergy through investing in Clusters, Cooperatives, and other group models.” He further said, “Let every man, every woman develop interest in just one agricultural commodity, learn it, nurture it, till it becomes a passion, with some commercial value. By integrating appropriate technologies and exerting reasonable control over such investment, we would gradually and sustainably transform our rural Mbaise landscape and its economy.”

Also commenting with some sense of nostalgia and regrets Mr Patrick Keke said, “ I could remember very well back in those days my parents were fully engaged in agriculture (Palm Plantation). I see my self today as disappointing them by not modernizing it yet. We were 12 in the family and we never lacked because my parents were hardworking only depending on agriculture. But today a family with 2 kids without a white collar job can hardly feed. It is high time we had a rethink.”

Mr Rowland Obom attributed our declining socio-economic situation to lack of motivation to farm, he said, “Honestly, it is quite disturbing that our forefathers, arguably, were more daring, agriculture-wise, than us. Obvious reasons for this painful reality is a decline in interest, added to the discouraging crude ways of practicing agriculture which leaves farmers with regrettable yields”

Aligning with Mr Nneji on how to turn things around, Dr Okoro said that, ”We have the resources to start mechanised agriculture in Mbaise. If we do not have enough lands in Mbaise, we can acquire lands from other areas and engage in serious agriculture and feed our people. In this era of crowd funding, we can come together and crowd fund agriculture in Mbaise. We have the expertise in Mbaise to do this. Everyone doesn’t have to be involved in managing it but everyone can be involved in funding it. As always, I will be willing to get involved.” Mr Keke gives Dr Okoro thubs up, that ”I would suggest we look into palm plantation….we can crowd fund it to achieve a bigger result.”

Mr Longinus Obasi made an observation of what is missing in our landscape today and proffered tree planting solution. He said that, “…we do not have land in Mbaise. According to Obasianahuanya, we have roads, streets and avenues we can restructure with trees like orange. For instance, from Eke Amuzi to Nkwogwu we can plant on both sides of the road orange trees. From Itu to Ibeku we can plant Palm trees etc.”

For the younger farmers who are a major constituency for the MPR Agriculture strategy Mr Solomon Abiakalam proposed, “A simple app that enables sourcing or aggregation of products, raising of capital, finding markets or buyers, smart fertilizing, hubbing, etc can make a world of difference. Modernizing Agriculture, through smart farming, may be the only way to sell it to today’s youth. We can also consider that, especially as fintechs seem to be the most attractive buzz in Nigeria today”

In response to an inquiry, the Chairman of MPR, Professor Eddie Oparaoji said, “The palpable passion expressed at this forum discussion may have justified our decision to collaborate with the CSS Group of Companies, one of the largest mechanized Agribusiness in Africa, majoring in Agriculture, food processing and packaging, construction, aviation and renewable energy, to revive and surpass all time contributions of Agriculture to the economic development of Mbaise. It is our goal to remake Mbaise into the food basket of Imo State, using knowledge of modern Agriculture science, innovations, techniques and business. In support of this goal, preliminary understanding has been reached for the CSS Group to;
1. Train free of charge 20 out of the strategically required 100 Mbaise youths, in modern Agriculture techniques and business, as the foundational building blocks for this Agriculture rebuild strategy
2. Strengthen MPR and adopt it as an outlet for Corporate Social Responsibility in Mbaise,
3. Designate dedicated in-house navigators at CSS and locally at MPR to handle Agriculture development inquiries and consultations from Mbaise
4. Establish a customized Agriculture training center or institute in Mbaise,
5. Partner MPR in the ongoing establishment of an Agriculture University in Mbaise,
6. Establish a Food Reserve Center, Warehouse and distribution infrastructure in Mbaise

Professor Oparaoji further revealed that, “these are not abstract initiatives, most are already at different implementation stages, and will need all hands on deck. As proposed during the forum discussion, with some bold ideas, risks and sacrifices, Mbaise has more than more than enough to resurge into an Agrobased economic powerhouse.”
MPR is the premier pre-eminent Mbaise Public Policy and Business Advisory Council in the World, focused entirely on the development of Mbaise and Imo State, through the facilitation of financial and in-kind resources, private investments and private public partnerships.

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