Ebonyi to tackle cattle rustling, bird flu attack

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THE Ebonyi State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Uchenna Orji has disclosed that it would tackle the menace posed by cattlemen to farmers during the 2016 farming season during an interactive forum with agricultural stakeholders in Abakaliki, which was organised to sensitise the stakeholders on the programmes and policies of the state government on agriculture.

Orji, who was reacting to a question on the menace of cattlemen on farm crops, said that the matter would be seriously addressed by the government, adding that the most disturbing aspect is that the cattle destroy farms owned by individuals and government on regular basis.

The Commissioner, who further pointed out that, the cattlemen constitute the greatest threat to us and solving the problem will assist government to achieve its agricultural objectives in 2016, reiterated that the modalities to check the menace have been put in place by the government and as the decision on it will be made public soon.

The commissioner remarked that the government had secured a N2 billion loan facility to develop its rice production and called on rice farmers to take advantage of opportunities of the credit facility.

He further revealed that the government target to have 200 cooperative societies in each local government area with an average of 15 farmers in each society, thus having in all, 39,000 farmers to drive the rice production agenda. “About 774 cooperative societies have registered with the ministry in order to benefit from the facility,” Orji said.

He urged local council chairmen in the state to liaise with coordinators of development centres and community leaders, to ensure the success of the rice programme as they have been mandated to prepare lands for the programme between January and March.

Orji directed that they should liaise with his ministry to ensure that secured lands are mapped and allocated to the benefiting cooperative societies, adding that the government will provide farm machinery and inputs among others. “Emphasis will also be placed on production of other crops, poultry and fisheries,” he said.

The Caretaker Chairman of Ohaozara Local government Area, Mr Justice Ogbonna who spoke on behalf of other chairmen, said that they were ready to actualise the government’s objectives in agriculture, noting that they have surpassed the 2,500 hectares of land per local government as directed by the state government.

Also speaking, Mr Cyrain Udechukwu, the Director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Ebonyi, said that 600 farmers from the state would benefit from the credit facility initiated by the Federal Government this year.

In the same vein, the commissioner announced that the State has recorded its first case of Avian Influenza infection, at a poultry farm in Ugwuachara area of Abakaliki this week.

Orji said the attention of his ministry was drawn to the development, following massive death of birds at the farm, adding that officials of the state veterinary services took the sample of a bird’s carcass to a research institute in Jos, where it was confirmed that the birds died from the H5NI strains of the Avian Influenza.

The Commissioner said he has directed the veterinary department of the ministry to isolate the farm and take inventory of all poultry and ancillary farms in the state.

He added that the ministry has also ensured sustained enlightenment on the influenza to educate the public on precautionary measures to take.

The Director of Veterinary Services and Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Ibiam Okoro, reacting to the attack, said that efforts had been intensified to contain the possible spread of the virus, adding that the strain detected in the farm was only transmissible from animal to animal. Okoro warned poultry farmers and the people against the sale or consumption of sick or dead chicken.

One of the Supervisors of the farm, Miss Victoria Chukwu, pointed out that the sudden massive death of the birds aroused suspicion as they failed to respond to all treatment given to them. She advised fellow poultry farmers to exercise caution while the people should ensure that chicken and other poultry products are properly cooked before consumption.