Although Bayelsa State has traditionally been dependent on revenue deriving from oil extraction, Gov. Douye Diri has a programme for a diversified economy harnessing the state’s tremendous agricultural potential

Growing Money: Gov. Douye Diri reinvents the Bayelsa State economy

Where others saw obstacles, Gov. Diri sees dollar signs.

6 April 2021

Chidi Nwobodo

Chidi Nwobodo

State development correspondent

YENAGOA — Every farmer knows that sun and water constitute two of the keys for agricultural success. Bayelsa State has both in abundance. In terms of water, some had thought it was actually too much. Swampy conditions and floods have presented challenges.

Above, tractors provided by the Diri administration through the Bayelsa State Ministry of Agriculture & Natural Resources.  Gov. Diri recognizes that mechanization and modern agricultural techniques constitute keys to elevating production, in view of feeding Nigeria and lifting farmers out of chronic poverty. Click on any photo to enlarge. Images provided by Samuel Monovie of Bayelsa State.

However, Gov. Douye Diri’s vision for agricultural development in the state presupposes that water represents a lucrative asset to be harnessed and managed, not feared. 

Diri emphasizes, “The whole of our ecology is money waiting to be tapped,” underlining the tremendous potential of the state for crops and agroforestry suited to its conditions.

While previous administrations sought to live exclusively off the proceeds of oil extraction, using a paradigm wherein the natural environment constituted an obstacle, Gov. Diri is leading the way toward a diversified economy where agriculture plays a central role and nature must be protected at any cost.

Palm oil, Elaeis guineensis, constitutes one of many crops that the Diri administration sees as a perfect fit for the conditions that prevail in Bayelsa State

Aquaculture (fish farming) is a no-brainer for a state overflowing with water and the Diri administration has already made great strides in this sector. The state recently completed one project that re-stocked lakes and creeks, as well as another that equipped the capital Yenagoa with its own fish processing plant.

Nigeria already constitutes the leader in Africa in aquaculture, but production remains less than half of demand. Diri insists Bayelsa State will help fill that gap to ensure the country no longer needs to import fish from places like Vietnam, Norway, Thailand, and Chile.

Farmers in many regions of the world lose sleep worrying about adequate water.  Bayelsa State has plenty, but needs leadership with a vision of how to manage it.

Boosting domestic production in this and other sectors means harnessing mechanization and evidence-based best practices, while eliminating red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Positive outcomes include holding on to precious currency and uplifting employment.

The Diri administration is also quick to point to the state’s good fortune of being ideal for the production of palm oil, Elaeis oleifera, a tree indigenous to West Africa. Its use in agriculture in this region goes back 5,000 years.

However, today, Malaysia and Indonesia produce 80% of the world’s supply of palm oil. Gov. Diri refuses to accept this status quo.

The Bayelsa State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has become a center of coordination for the exploitation of this crop, and for the evangelization of its benefits.

Indeed, palm oil, one of the most consumed oils in the world, has a multitude of health benefits, such as protecting brain function, reducing heart disease, and increasing vitamin A levels.

In a world increasingly concerned about global warming, palm oil could represent one solution. Per acre, its productivity is nine times that of soybean oil and six times that of sunflower oil. This means less deforestation and destruction of habitat — and less CO2 released into the atmosphere.

A plantain plantation in Bayelsa State

But Gov. Diri is more than vision and innovation. This governor has already proven himself as a skillful politician with the heart of a true democrat. For example, during the recent “#EndSARS” protests, he adroitly defused tensions and promoted unity by speaking with the protesters, immediately addressing some of their concerns, and actually marching with them through the streets.

Gov. Douye Diri expertly defuses tensions and addresses citizens’ concerns at an “#EndSARS” protest

One can only imagine how many arrogant leaders would have scorned such a hands-on, democratic approach; or eschewed decisive action in favor of endless meetings with advisors to discuss alternatives.

The Abuja Times will keep a close eye on the exciting developments occurring in Bayelsa State under Gov. Diri.

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