In order to boost agricultural production, Imo state in Nigeria came up with an idea of obligatory "farming days" for state officials.
IMO is a state in Nigeria that was created in 1976 and named after the Imo river. It is one of Nigeria’s 36 states and is found in the south east of the country. The state chiefly depends on commerce and most notably agriculture, with the vast majority of its populace working in the farming industry. Their biggest cash crops include palm oil, rice, cotton, cocoa and maize.
The states climate in conjunction with extensive over farming, due to the areas high population density, has resulted in serious soil degradation and as a result predictably significant deforestation. This is in turn leading to serious soil erosion, making the area prone to landslides during periods of high rainfall, over recent years this has resulted in the destruction of a number of roads and houses.
In March 2015 the governor of the state was accused by Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, the chairman of the IMO state council of traditional rulers, of allowing the state’s economy to become a shambles. “The pensioners are paid with dud checks. Our local governments have been paralyzed and their allocations diverted.”, “The judiciary, civil service and Imo economy is comatose, while people are dying daily of hunger. In fact, I weep for Imo State. We are finished.” he said.
The “Back to Land for Agriculture” policy.
The continuing serious decline in the state’s economy has resulted in the creation of the new “Back to Land for Agriculture” policy. This policy came into effect, initially for a 12-month trial, on Monday August 1st, 2016. It is intended to ensure that the state can quickly once again become capable of self-sustenance, by increasing both the level of engagement and the level of investment in the states vital agricultural industry.
Since coming into effect, all public state workers are now expected to spend every Thursday and Friday working on farms, reducing their attendance at their current place of employment to three days. This includes everyone other than those considered to hold positions deemed essential, such as doctors, nurses, teachers and politicians. Whilst no salaries have been cut as part of this new policy, all leave has been cancelled.
Governor Okorocha confirmed that funds, equivalent to over 6 million US dollars, have been set aside to ensure everyone can be involved in rescuing the states crucial agricultural sector without losing any of their income. “We shall try this program for the period of one year, starting from 1st of August 2016 and hopefully this will help. This does not in any way affect the salaries of the workers. Workers will get their full salaries, as is the practice. So the policy does not mean that there will be a cut in salary rather let us now find a way for our workers to supplement their salaries”.
Sam Onwuemeodo, the governor’s chief press security recently released a statement saying, “Everything that has to do with agriculture no matter what shape it comes, government will support it. So many countries are going through economic crisis because of the fall in oil. Our nation is also going through very difficult moment. We have taken responsibility as leaders and we are not blaming anyone. Wise nations and leaders save for the rainy days. There were periods the oil price was in our favor. But those in charge then blew the money. They made no savings. Today the oil price globally has crashed and here we are. And we must fall back to agriculture as the panacea.”.
Many have shown support for what they have described as the Governor’s ambitious initiative, however others have said that an investment in better seeds and fertilizers, much needed essential mechanization, and improvements in the areas infrastructure, would be a much better use of the ring fenced funds.