From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin

An All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial aspirant for the forthcoming Edo State governorship election, Dr Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, has said that a vibrant agricultural sector in Edo State would attract the needed investment, guarantee food sufficiency and create jobs across the sector’s value chain if given the needed attention by the government, noting that this would form the focal point of his administration if elected as governor.

Umakhihe also promised to leverage the Federal Government’s Green Initiative Programme which is aimed at strengthening food security, creating massive jobs, transfer of technology, establishment of Agricultural Machinery Assembly Plants that will lead to the emergence of the value-added agriculture.

The former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture subsequently added that, he will make Edo State one of the major centres of the 632 Mechanisation Service Centres proposed by the Federal Government to support primary production and assembly of tractors and other agricultural implements across states and local government areas in the country.

Dr Ernest Umakhihe’s proposals towards revamping the state’s agricultural sector are contained in his strategic action plan titled “HOPE 24,” which captures the policies and programmes that would guarantee an accelerated development of the state under his watch.

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The recently retired Federal Permanent Secretary, whose footprint in the Ministry’s sand of time would be difficult to erase, due to his innovativeness and numerous accomplishments also promised to work to reverse the trend where lack of sufficient technological inputs adversely affects the agricultural sector.

On Farmer’s Cooperatives, Dr Umakhihe said he will encourage local farmers to form voluntary Cooperatives and where they already exist, they will be supported to pull their resources together so that they will be able to buy or lease modern farming equipment, fertilizers and other necessities that will help in the increase of food production in the state.

He pointed out that his administration will leverage the Infrastructure Support Fund to States by the Federal Government and that through it, he intends to fix farm-to-market roads as well as freight network which will bring improvement to rural access and evacuation of farm produce to markets, adding that, this will make the government more competitive and on a stronger financial footing to deliver economic prosperity to the people.

While counting on the support of the APC members and Edo indigenes towards securing the party’s nod to fly its flag at the 2024 guber contest as well as emerging victorious at the elections, Umakhihe urged the Edo people not to despair but have FRESH HOPE as the state will be great again and be the hub of food production as well as taking its rightful place as the food basket of the nation.