By Wilson Okereke, Afikpo


•Participants at the seminar

As economic hardship bites harder across the country, academic scholars from South East zone have advocated for sustainable agro-economy in the region.

The scholars are of the view that sustainable agro-economy would ensure that every Igbo man has food to eat and sell to the society to boost the economy of the zone, which is an integral part of the Igbo traits of resilience and hard work.

The scholars, who teach at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI) in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, last week, gathered at the Rock Gallery of the university during their quarterly public lecture titled “Taa bu gboo” to proffer solutions to the growing hunger in the land.

•The scholars

The public lecture was organized by the Center for the Study of the Future of the Igbo, known as Iruka Center, in the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo.

Speaking on the theme, “Charting the Sustainable Agro-economy for the South East: The Pathway to Igbo Resilience”, the guest lecturer, Professor Jonny Ogunji, of the Faculty of Agriculture in the university, noted that countries that have adopted sustainable agro-economy have grown and become countries to reckon with in food production.

He regretted that Ndigbo have lost the resilient spirit, hard work and moral rectitude they were known for in the past, and implored them to bring them back for the survival of the Igbo nation.

He described it as sinful if a man is not able to have food for himself, and urged the Igbo to deplore their entrepreneurial skills and chart a sustainable agro-economy for the South East.

“In  the time of our forefathers, Ndigbo were known for their hard work and moral rectitude. We must task ourselves and step up to chart a sustainable agro-economy for the South East. This is an integral part of Igbo resilience.

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“The Igbo man is very resilient, the Igbo man is very hardworking, the Igbo man is dogged, the Igbo man is entrepreneurial and the Igbo man is also ethical and, therefore, we cannot as a people not have food to eat because it’s sinful if a man is not able to have food for himself,” he stated.

Ogunji regretted that most of the foods the Igbo are known for were no longer being cultivated and urged the people to do everything possible to begin to cultivate them.

He said: “We have so many foods we cultivated in large quantities, which we are no longer cultivated and these foods are natural foods that prolong life. Why can’t we begin to cultivate them and boost our economy? There is no other time to do this than now.”

Director of the Iruka Center for the Study of the Future of the Igbo, Dr. Ann Nwankwo, expressed dismay on the growing hunger in the region.

She observed that people no longer afford three square meals a day ,and implored the people to go back to agriculture for food sufficiency. She noted that agriculture will not only ensure availability of food but will also boost the economy of the region.

“This is farming period and from the events happening around the country, we can attest to the fact that people are hungry, the masses are hungry. It is not about who is working what, or who is doing what or who is actually saying what.

“Today, it is worse because, even among the masses, the less privileged cannot even have for themselves what can sustain their immediate families let alone what they can give out.

“I had some interactions with some people and I understood that, before, the used to have what they called 1-1-1 as a meal. That is, three square meals. But all of a sudden, they reduced to  0-1-1 or 1-0-1.

“I even ran into people who even claimed that it was difficult to have one meal and it dawned on me that we needed to do something fast to revive our farming culture in Igboland.

“This is not just about reviving farming in Igboland but also about improving our economy. If I am hungry and you are hungry, the society is hungry. If I am able to feed myself and you are able to feed yourself and another is able to feed himself within his or her household, I think the economy will no longer be about food, it will no longer be about stomach infrastructure, it will no longer be about ‘we need food’, it will now be about developing the necessary aspects of our lives that can sustain us, help us to earn money.

“We need to go and look for our local foods that are no more available wherever they are, bring them back and start cultivating them in large quantity for commercial purposes,” she said.

Professor Olisaemeka Ezeonu of the Faculty of Medicine, and from the Faculty of Education, Rosemary Igbo, and her Language counterpart, Professor Nnenna Nwosu, called for practical agriculture in universities to get it right for sustainable agro-economy.

They called on people of South East to always take issues of the Igbo seriously and contribute their ideas on how to bring back the lost glory of Ndigbo. They opined that the youths have taken to ‘yahoo-yahoo’ to get rich quick.

Vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Sunday Elom, who was represented by the Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Dr.  Benedict Onuora Nweke, said if what was discussed during the lecture were implemented, the South East would grow its economy and boost food production.

He identified lack of political will as the problem facing the zone.