By Chikezie Ogbonna
In a remarkable Mass of Thanksgiving held in Omughu/Obunofia, Ezeagu Local Government Area, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, delivered a stirring homily commemorating the ground-breaking ceremony as well as blessing of land for the Mary Agro Farm on 9th January, 2024. The event symbolizes a significant leap towards modernizing agriculture and fostering community development.
Tracing the history of agriculture in the Diocese, Bishop Obodo expressed gratitude to Bishops Godfrey Okoye and Michael Ugwuja Eneje of blessed memory for pioneering the then Bishop’s Farm at Ugwuomu. He particularly highlighted Monsignor Ike’s transformative effort when the farm site transited to the establishment of Godfrey Okoye University.
His Lordship further highlighted the very visionary approach of Bishop Callistus Onaga in the advancement of both the faith of the people and the general well-being. He noted that, with a focus on human development and agriculture, Bishop Onaga’s incredible leadership has seen to the actualization of various impactful projects including schools, hospitals, and more within the Enugu Diocese.
It is good to recall that on May 13, 2019, the Auxiliary Bishop officially inaugurated Mary Agro Farm as a Pilot scheme at Udi. The farm encompasses three key elements: Animal Husbandry, Crop Science, and Management, the latter featuring a retirement home for priests and elderly individuals. The overarching vision of Mary Agro Farm is to empower the community, Enugu state in particular and South East in General by providing sustenance through shared talents and services.
Bishop Obodo extended gratitude to Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State for supporting the initiative with the construction of a road leading to the Farm at Omughu. Emphasizing alignment with Pope Francis’s call to care for the earth, the Enugu Diocese is dedicated to preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable living.
With the establishment of schools within the Mary Agro Farm, Enugu Diocese aims to provide comprehensive education, from primary to university levels, to harness the potential of the youth. The church seeks to emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ, offering not only spiritual guidance but also tangible solutions to combat social vices such as fraud and idol worship prevalent among the youth.
Bishop Obodo expressed heartfelt gratitude to the President Generals of the three communities that owns the farm site, the Igwes, Prof. Christian Nwachukwu Okeke, and other key contributors. Special recognition was given to Fr. Michael Onoh, Fr. Leonard Ozougwu for their invaluable support. Professor Anthony Bende was specially recognised for testing the soil of the farm site. The homily concluded with prayers for divine grace and strength to ensure the successful continuation of the Mary Agro farm project at Omughu/Obunofia, Ezeagu L.G.A.
A New Frontier of Development
Reacting to the development, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Enugu State representing His Excellency, Governor Peter Mbah, conveyed a message emphasizing the pivotal role of agriculture in the state’s journey towards sustainability and zero hunger.
In an atmosphere filled with gratitude, the Commissioner extended heartfelt greetings to the 3 communities on behalf of Governor Peter Mbah. Recognizing the divine role of agriculture in sustaining life, the Commissioner acknowledged the Creator’s design, attributing the successful occasion to the Lord’s benevolence and the foresight of the Church, her bishops, and priests who championed the cause of farming.
Underscoring the critical importance of agriculture in human endeavors, the Commissioner likened it to oxygen, emphasizing its indispensable nature for human survival. The communities were lauded for their generosity in providing the land for Mary Agro Farm, marking a collective commitment to the agricultural journey.
Reflecting on Nigeria’s agricultural history, the Commissioner harked back to the 1960s when the nation was renowned for its agricultural exploits and productivity. A nod of appreciation was extended to the Bishop for rekindling this practice, offering employment opportunities for youths and women as a means to reduce insecurity and enhance food security.
According to him, Governor Mbah’s vision for Enugu State includes achieving zero hunger by 2031, a goal that resonates with the Church’s mission and the establishment of Mary Agro Farm. The Commissioner expressed confidence that, with the bold steps taken by the Bishop, the state is on track to realize this target.
To further support the initiative, the state plans to deploy extension service workers and procure modern farming implements for the six farming regions before the upcoming farming season.
Highlighting the state’s commitment to agricultural sustainability, the Commissioner announced the construction of an industrial park that will facilitate the procurement of farm produce from local farmers. This strategic move aims to curb wastage and was exemplified with the recent introduction of Enugu rice into the market on December 8th. The farmers, in turn, expressed their appreciation for the governor’s visionary initiatives.
Assuring continued support, the Commissioner pledged the unwavering commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture and its staff to ensure the success of Mary Agro Farm. With plans to enhance productivity levels by 2024 and beyond, the state remains steadfast in its support, fostering an environment conducive to agricultural growth.
This certainly is also marking a new frontier in the state as Mary Agro Farm embarks on its journey. It stands as a beacon of hope, symbolizing the synergy between faith, agriculture, and community development.
Governor Mbah’s vision for a hunger-free Enugu State is one step closer to fruition, with Mary Agro Fa
rm playing a pivotal role in the realization of this ambitious goal.
From Tragedy to Triumph
In a momentous address, Monsignor Prof. Obiora Ike, delved into the historical significance of the event and urged attendees to draw inspiration from the hard work invested.
Acknowledging the simplified homily delivered by Bishop Ernest Aniezichukwu, the auxiliary Bishop of Enugu State, Msgr. Obiora extended a warm welcome to the various organizations present, commending their support for Bishop Ernest’s vision in establishing the groundbreaking Mary Agro Farm.
Delving into history, Msgr. Obiora recounted the humbling tale of Bishop Godfrey Okoye, who, in 1974, witnessed the tragic drowning of twins in the river by Ugwuomu villagers. In response, Bishop Okoye sought reconciliation by acquiring the land and river for the Church, envisioning future development. Despite his untimely death two years later, the dream has now materialized in 2024, as the once dense forest of Ugwuomu has transformed into Godfrey Okoye University. The university stands as a testament to Bishop Okoye’s foresight, with learning and development thriving in what was once a forest.
Expressing gratitude, Msgr. Obiora extended blessings to all individuals and organizations whose names were mentioned in connection to the establishment of Mary Agro Farm. He offered prayers for their continued commitment to the church’s mission and called upon them to work in good faith.
Highlighting Bishop Ernest’s charge to the priests, Msgr. Obiora emphasized the responsibility placed on them to surpass current achievements and ensure that every individual within their reach has something substantial to contribute. The call to action resonates with the broader mission of Mary Agro Farm – to empower and uplift the community.
Taking a moment to appreciate everyone who contributed to the success of the grand opening, Msgr. Obiora expressed gratitude and invoked blessings for continued divine favor.
Msgr. Obiora extended wishes for peace to all present, encapsulating the spirit of unity and purpose that characterized the grand opening of Mary Agro Farm.
A Divine Synergy of Leadership
The Diocesan Chancellor/Secretary, Very Rev. Fr. Wilfred Chidi Agubuchie harped on the beautiful synergy between the two Bishops of the Diocese leading to astronomical level of development in both the faith and socio economic well-being of the faithful. He expressed his gratitude to them and prayed for unlimited blessings on them as they witness to Christ in the lives of the people.
In an exclusive interview, Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian Anieke, Vice Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University, shared insights into the profound importance of the groundbreaking ceremony for Mary Agro Farm, emphasizing its significance for the Catholic diocese, the Bishop, Enugu State, and the global community.
Fr. Anieke underscored the gravity of the groundbreaking ceremony, describing it as the initiation of a project of paramount importance. He emphasized the project’s significance not only to the Catholic diocese but also to Enugu State, the global community, and personally to himself.
Highlighting the centrality of agriculture to human existence, Fr. Prof. Anieke praised the Bishop’s unwavering dedication to the project, rooted in a lifelong motivation that began in his formative years as a young boy and continued through his time as a seminarian to his current role as the Bishop. The Vice Chancellor expressed his prayers for the Bishop’s continued good health, recognizing the pivotal role he will play in steering the course of agriculture.
Fr. Anieke affirmed the Church’s commitment to sustainability and its tradition of passing down projects from one generation to the next. He emphasized the aim of institutionalizing agriculture through Mary Agro Farm, envisioning it as a hub where young people can learn. This educational endeavor will be seamlessly connected with Godfrey Okoye University, allowing for expansion and growth under the discerning guidance of the Bishop.
Drawing parallels with the inception of Godfrey Okoye University, Fr. Prof. Anieke recalled the university’s humble beginnings when the land was in its raw state. The current groundbreaking ceremony evoked memories of that transformative journey, and the Vice Chancellor expressed a personal challenge to replicate the success achieved with the university. Unfazed by the task ahead, he expressed confidence in the Bishop’s ability to overcome challenges, drawing parallels with his own experience when initiating the university project.
Contrary to any apprehension, Fr. Prof. Anieke affirmed that the Bishop is undaunted by the challenges ahead. He expressed faith in the Bishop’s determination to overcome obstacles and drive the success of Mary Agro Farm, just as he fearlessly undertook the establishment of Godfrey Okoye University.
The establishment of Mary Agro Farm stands as a testament to the Enugu Diocese’s commitment to Faith and integral human/community development, offering a beacon of hope for a future where communities can sustain itself through shared resources and efforts.
In an exclusive interview with Choice Flame Newspaper, the Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo, expressed his profound fulfillment following the successful ground-breaking ceremony. His Lordship revealed that after nearly five years of persistent efforts, which involved numerous meetings, collaborations, and the drafting of memoranda of understanding, today marked a significant milestone. The collective efforts of the State, the Church, and the traditional leadership of Omughu Obelagu Umana, Umuonaga, Obunofia Ndiuno, and Obunofia Ndiagu had finally come together to give their approval for the development of the land.
Most Rev. Obodo extended his gratitude to Bishop Callistus Onaga and the supporting priests who had consistently stood by the project. He emphasized that their collaborative endeavors had now materialized into the groundbreaking event.
“We are already in motion; we will commence development as one hectare out of the total 499 hectares has been cleared. By the grace of God, before the end of the year, the entire area will be thoroughly cleaned and cultivated, paving the way for further productivity,” affirmed His Lordship.
Taking possession of the land, the Diocese of Enugu is poised for its developmental endeavors. Most Rev. Obodo expressed optimism about the positive impact on the local community, foreseeing improvements in economic well-being through job creation and overall economic support.
“The people expect a change in their economic well-being through the creation of job opportunities, bringing total economic succor to them,” assured His Lordship. The groundbreaking ceremony not only marked the beginning of a transformative project but also symbolized the unity and collaboration of various stakeholders in the pursuit of communal development.
As the groundbreaking ceremony marks the commencement of Mary Agro Farm on a new scale of productivity, it also signifies the continuation of a legacy deeply rooted in faith, dedication, and a shared commitment to fostering sustainable development in our society.