Catholic Diocese of Enugu has gifted 13 graduate-farmers a total sum of N6.5 million as part of its empowerment programme.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the beneficiaries, who were trainees of the Mary Agro Farm Institute, were presented with the sum of N500,000 each.
NAN also reports that the presentation of the cash gifts was held on Sunday at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Udi, during the inauguration of the farm and graduation ceremony of the graduate-trainees.
Speaking at the event, the Director of Mary Agro Farm and Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu diocese, Rev. Ernest Obodo, said that the money was part of the empowerment package for the trained farmers to enable them stand on their own.
Obodo noted that the farm would be monitoring the beneficiaries to ensure that the money was used for the purpose it was meant for.
He urged them to utilise the opportunity to become useful to themselves and their families.
While noting that the farm project was divinely inspired for the uplift of humanity, the auxiliary bishop said it was targeted at empowering youths to be self-reliant as well as reduce poverty and unemployment.
According to the prelate, the farm is also to encourage the young generation on the need to be hardworking and change their mindsets toward making quick money.
“Mary Agro Farm embarked on training of interested individuals in modern agriculture through the help of our sponsor, HELP-TRANS-FAIR AUSTRIA.
“It is a six-month intensive programme where the trainees undergo rigorous training in integrated farming methods.
“Today, we are proudly celebrating the graduation of 13 successful foundation students.
“We have on ground three poultry houses, two piggery houses, 20 fish ponds, one classroom block.
“The farm has proved wrong many people, who erroneously believe that many crops could only grow in the Western and Northern parts of Nigeria.
“Here in Udi, we have successfully cultivated onions, sweet potatoes, green beans, shombe and tatasi pepper, tiger nut, cabbage, carrot, ginger, turmeric, lettuce, beetroot, cocoa and tomatoes,” he said.
The cleric hinted that the diocese had invested more than N200m in the farm’s pilot phase, which would be completed in the next five years.
He expressed optimism that the farm would go a long way in solving the problem of food security in the state.
In his remarks, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi said that the state had approved 500 hectares of land to be used as the farm’s permanent site.
Ugwuanyi commended Catholic Church for showing strong interest in the agriculture business and agric value chain which, he said, was the core agenda of his administration.
He said that the trained farmers would add to the growing number of manpower in agriculture, urging them to deploy the skills learnt during the training in ensuring food security in the state.
Ugwuanyi pledged his administration’s support to the farm to make it become a centre for the training of future farmers in the state.
NAN reports that the event was attended by many dignitaries from within and outside the state, including the Bishop of Sam Mali Diocese in Mali, Most Rev. Hassan Kone.