UK firm signs N1b pact with Arochukwu on agriculture project
Guardian | (no date)

From Gordi Udeajah, Umuahia

A UNITED Kingdom-based agricultural company, VTransformation Agric-Tech Limited, has signed a 30-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ndi Okereke Abam, a rural community in Arochukwu Council area of Abia state for an agricultural project.

This is considered in the state as a move that could boost food production and thus check the unfolding world wide food scarcity that increased by about 40 per cent in 2007, as well as, reduce unemployment.

Signatories to the MOU were Dr. Stephen Liney and Dr. Sample Ibemerum for the UK Investors, Mr. Ijeoma Nkele and others signed for the host Community, while Mr. Ukoha O. Ukoha represented the Abia State government.

Under the MOU, the UK Investors will deploy 30 per cent of the profits from the project to the development of the community and partner with the Vietnamese government to provide the necessary equipment, expertise, which costs together shall be above one billion naira.

The project, which is expected to take-off in June this year, will initially commence on a 10,000 hectare-parcel of land already donated by the Ndi Okereke-Abam community.

While one portion of the already provided land is to be used for rice cultivation, another will be for cassava with the other going for fish farming.

The project, which is slated to be an integrated one, will have individual plants to process Rice and Cassava for both domestic consumption and export.

Under the terms of the project too, specialist farmers and experts in different agricultural production areas from Viatnam will also reside within the Ndi Okereke-Abam Community to train the rural farmers on the various skills involved in mechanised farming and commercial agricultural production.

Indication from the Investors showed that the minimum yield per hectare for Rice will be 4 tones per hectare, which will later increase to between six and seven metric tons while that of cassava will be in excess of the current but production figure.

Obviously happy with the development, the community in the address, read on their behalf by Chief S.K Kalu during the signing ceremony that took place at the village square and witnessed by them, they expressed willingness to provide more land saying that they have enough arable and virgin forests.

They consequently urged the UK Investors to exploit these resources towards achieving the desired goals of the project listing creating avenues for employment, growth of the economic-base of every village, provision of social amenities for them, among others even as they prayed that the MOU should be adhered to the letter.

Representatives of Transformation Agric-Tech Ltd, U.K, Mr. Stephen Liney, managing director and Dr. Sample A. Ibemerum, Operations director disclosed that their company's decision to invest in commercial food production was informed by the recent global food shortage especially, in Africa beside its being part of their contributions to directly empower the rural communities in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).

Liney, who also said that the objective of the programme is to bring development to the community and enhance the economic-base of every family in Ndi Okereke added.

"Our primary objective is, from the terms of MOU, to produce prolific Rice, cassava, fish and other associated produce, not only for Abians, but for the whole world at this time of food crisis.

"Apart from food production, our efforts will also be channelled into improving the lives of the people of this community. We will include facilities such as medical clinic, provide classroom blocks to enhance education, provide Housing, portable drinking water, electricity, proper sanitation and make this community the bride of Abia State I will work in co-operation with Abia State government to ensure the realisation of this project."

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. (Mrs.) Ori Obasi represented at the ceremony by Ukoha pledged the commitment of Abia State Government to the Ndi Okereke-Abam Agric project under the public-Private-sector-participation- initiative PPP-I arrangement, assuring that the government will co-operate with the investors to ensure the realisation of the project.

The commissioner however urged the community to give their total support to the project objective realisation assuring that Abia State government will provide all the infrastructures needed for the project to thrive.

In his brief remark, a retired American Naval officer and chairman of the Ndi Okereke Abam Board of Trustees, Mr. Ijeoma Nkele re-assured the Investors that his community would fulfil their own part of the bargain and wished them quick return on their investment.

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