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Lack of access roads hampering the agric potentials of my people – Monarch

by UDOKA AGWU

September 3, 2017 | 12:02 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

HRM Eze Linus Mbah is the traditional ruler of Ata Igboukwu Umuzomgbo Ihechiowa, Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State. He is an international businessman of repute whose business interests cut across oil and gas, stock fish, farming and importation of varieties of goods. In this interview with UDOKA AGWU, during the celebration of his 2017 new yam festival, he spoke on the significance of new yam festival, the need to go back to farm and his efforts in complementing the efforts of Federal Government in diversifying into agriculture, among other issues. Excerpts:

May we know the meaning of new yam festival as it is being celebrated in your domain?

Today, (26th day of August, 2017) is the final ceremony for the AtaIgbo-Ukwu Umuzomgbo Ihechiowa Autonomous Community new yam festival which started about three weeks ago. We invited our friends, well-wishers and in-laws to come and join us to thank God for His mercy that we were able to plant the yam few months ago and we are alive to celebrate and eat it.

This ceremony started a long time ago, you may not understand what we call Eba Mai (cutting of old yam tubers and sharing them among friends and relations), Afor Aria Ahu (a day set aside for evacuating from the farm harvested yam tubers), Afor Nkuma ufie, among others; all these ceremonies have gone; so today we invited people to celebrate with us and give God the Glory.

This festival is not a bad thing; the revered fathers and pastors do come to chair the occasion, we don’t celebrate anything evil, it is our culture and tradition that we are trying to maintain and we can’t keep our culture away; the new yam festival is one of the most important culture in Igboland, because after few months of planting and God keeps you alive to harvest it, it calls for celebration.

What is the significance of new yam celebration in Igboland?

The significance of the new yam celebration are many; first of all, one must understand that in the olden days when there was no white collar job, everybody was into farming to feed themselves; for instance in this village, this year, every man has a farm where he cultivates crops to feed his family. When you want genuine crops that are not fertilizer-induced, it is from our area you will get it, even if one does not have any other thing doing, farming can help in taking care of the family. In the past we used to cultivate palm fruits; it is also part of the festival, coco yam and the rest of them. So the festival is of great significant to us.

In the past, agriculture was the main stay of the country until the discovery of oil. Now government appears to be pushing for diversification from oil and calling people to go back to the farm. What is your take on this?

It is very important that we should go back to the farm. Here in our area we have a lot of food crops but we have no roads to take the food to nearby towns; we urge the Federal Government to come and fix our road from Umuahia to Arochukwu. We have fertile land here that can grow crops without fertilizer, but our weak point is that we cannot take cash crops to market because of bad roads. Sometime this year I personally hired caterpillars to grade our farm road that had not been touched for thousands of years, it has not been passable to enable our people have easy access to the farm.

How rich was your harvest this year and what is the level of mechanised farming practised in Arochukwu?

The type of Agriculture we do here is mechanised enough. Like I said earlier, our food is the best you can think of, our garri is well known in the whole Abia State as the best, because we use pure organic system and it is very healthy. I have what they call modern farm, it is pure organic farm that covers over 100 hectares of land. Last year, we cultivated about 20 hectares of cassava and this year we added about 25 hectares of cassava and  potatoes even International Institute for Tropical Agriculture right from Ibadan came to do demonstration farming in my farm because we  have a fertile land here. Our problem remains that we don’t have good road, it takes us up to four hours to go to Umuahia, a journey of one hour in the past. We are investing money to make sure that my people in Ihechiowa and Arochukwu will not go hungry.

Are you satisfied with the level of attention Igbo people pay to their culture?   

I’m satisfied with our culture, but it is shameful that some of our children born outside here do not speak Igbo; we have been shouting on the radio and everywhere, telling our people to learn to speak our dialect. It is very important, if you don’t know how to speak your dialect something can happen to you somewhere. How will one identify you, when you can’t speak your dialect? How can somebody be sure that you are an Igbo man? Some of them don’t even know their villages; when such children are asked where they come from, they will say my mother said we are from Abia; where in Abia?  They don’t know. It is a very bad thing. So we advise parents to teach their children the Igbo Language; it is very important.

You spoke about bad road limiting the potentials of your people in agriculture; how do you think the challenge can be addressed?

We are begging the Federal Government to come to our recue. This road {Ohafia- Arochukwu}  has been in a deplorable state for over 40  years, after the road that Michael Okpara built collapsed nothing has been done to repair it; each year they tell us that the road is in the budget and thereafter nothing will happen. Please help us tell government to come and fix this road, mostly from Ohafia to Arochukwu. I also want to beg the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to come to our rescue and help fix our ring road from Obinto/Umuzomgbo/Okpo/ Umuchiakuma which is in a deplorable situation. If the road is fixed, we can evacuate a lot of foods from here to the city for our people to eat.


by UDOKA AGWU

September 3, 2017 | 12:02 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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