By Aplefe Ojong
A multi-million naira fish hatchery constructed by the West African Agricultural Productivity Program, University of Calabar (WAAPP-UNICAL) has been commissioned by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor James Epoke.
Performing the commissioning ceremony recently at the Institute of Oceanography, UNICAL, the VC Professor Epoke, disclosed that government is doing something a bit differently but in a very positive way as shown by the WAAPP project which is aggressively transforming the agricultural sector of the country and placing food in the tables of Nigerians at a cheaper rate.
The UNICAL VC said that in the past, we have had programs such as the Operation Feed the Nation, the Green Revolution among others, but that WAAPP was cut out in a special way involving the Universities and other tertiary institutions, as according to Prof. Epoke, the Universities should be the areas to approach when there is a problem and it is the universities that should address such problems.
Prof. Epoke explained that today the protein derivable from the consumption of fish is the most recommended in Nigeria and globally and that the importance of enough fish protein and less or completely absence of red meat protein in diets is now better appreciated especially as one grows older, adding that when people are doing the right thing they should be give an unimpeded opportunity to operate stressing that there was no need to bring in unnecessarily bureaucratic bottlenecks to frustrate the work of a team you have put in place when you expect them to achieve success, hence the free access he gave the WAAPP-UNICAL team headed by Professor Emmanuel Agiang.
He commended the visionary leadership of the Coordinator, WAAPP-UNICAL, Professor Emmanuel Agiang and his team for mid-wifing and driving the process to this successful stage of the first phase of commissioning the hatchery.
WAAPP-UNICAL Coordinator, Professor Agiang, in his remarks disclosed that UNICAL got enlisted into WAAPP in 2013 in the areas of Aqua-cultural/Fingerlings multiplication, Cassava multiplication and Technology Dissemination and presently operates a six and half hectares of cassava inside UNICAL and a 19 hectares in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of the state, and 22 earthen ponds with the ultra-modern hatchery.
He explained that WAAPP-UNICAL has done modestly well that it is now being described as the baby of WAAPP in Nigeria, and this has attracted a Hilux van, a cooling van to them and recently a motorbike for the field officers at Akpabuyo, stating that the intention of WAAPP-UNICAL is to in the interim produce about six million fingerlings for sale to fish farmers at a very negligible rate as well as produce table size fishes and sell to Nigerians at cheap rate to boost the fish protein consumption of our people, while on the long term, it is expected that 40-50 million fingerlings would be produce annually to flood the Nigerian market with sufficient seeds.
Professor Agiang thanked the VC of UNICAL, Professor Epoke for giving him and his team free hands to operate without the usual unnecessarily bureaucratic bottlenecks, and members of the WAAPP-UNICAL team for working in complete harmony to have recorded this modest achievement, and promised that his team is committed towards working to fully complement and realize the federal Government vision of ensuring food security for the citizenry, especially the vital fish protein.
In his opening remarks, Director, Institute of Oceanography, UNICAL Professor Francis Asuquo traced the history of how the University got connected and enlisted to WAAPP, and said that it is the vision of WAAPP-UNICAL to become the Nigerian hub of fingerlings production and distribution as well as the table size fishes for consumption, while lauding the VC for given them free hands to operate, he equally appreciated the WAAPP-UNICAL Coordinator, Professor Agiang for being the driving force behind the success of the program in UNICAL.
The Farm Manager, Professor A. Ekanem thanked all who have contributed towards the success of WAAPP-UNICAL and disclosed that at the approval of fish multiplication for UNICAL and the authority granted by the administration of the University for them to use the facilities of the Institute of Oceanography, the fish ponds at the Institute were rehabilitated and reconstructed, and that presently the old hatchery with some ponds are being managed by Jones and Stokes Nigeria Limited.
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