Agriculture, Forestry and Other Basic Activities: Agriculture is a major industry in Ebonyi State. An estimated eightyfive per cent of the population earn their living from one form of agricultural activity or another. If the phrase ‘Salt of the Nation’ had not been adopted to describe the uniqueness of Ebonyi State among other states in Nigeria, another choice would have been:
‘Food basket of the Nation’.
This is because Ebonyi State’s agricultural productivity is one of the highest in Nigeria. The popular Abakaliki brand of rice is cultivated throughout the state.
Other food crops grown in large quantities include yam, cassava, maize, cocoyam, cowpea and groundnut. Cash crops such as oil palm, cashew, cocoa and rubber are also vigorously cultivated. The presence of large arable land, rivers and streams has made farming very attractive.
Fishing is also carried out on commercial scale, particularly along the Aboine River which crosses the northcentral parts of the state and the Cross River which passes the southern part of the state.
Livestock farming is also popular in Ebonyi State. This includes the traditional rearing of animals such as goats, pigs, chicken, cows, horses and pets. There is cattle ranching in Onicha, Ohaozara and Ishielu LGAs.
Ebonyi State government’s agricultural development programme is three pronged:
Direct public participation through the establishment of agrobased indus tries, tree crop plantations, irrigation and the provision of fertilizers and seeds;
Public participation in commercial private agricultural production, operated as joint ventures in large scale crop, livestock and fish farming with farmers and other private entrepreneurs, both local and foreign; and c. Smallholder agricultural production, in which government seeks to emphasise the role of the smallholder.
Ebonyi State has eleven officially gazetted forest reserves and many sacred grooves which protect the rich biodiversity in the state. The Akanto game reserve (with an area of about 450 hectares) is a protected area where endemic wildlife species are conserved.
The Ebonyi State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has planted over 2,000 seedlings of teak at Effrum and Ovuum Ozizza reserve. The state is also participating in the forest reserve study of the Federal Government of Nigeria aimed at the development of a forestry management plan.
The agricultural lands in Ebonyi State offer enormous potentials for profitable investment by local and foreign interests especially in the area of food processing.