By Peter Duru
MAKURDI—Following the country’s relapse into recession, Country Programme Manager of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, Atsuko Toda, has advocated resort to massive food production in the country as a panacea to the current economic crisis.
Toda, who spoke at Benue VCDP Consultative Meeting with major off-takers/stakeholders in Makurdi, however, cautioned that persistent herdsmen/farmers clashes in parts of the country would continue to pose a challenge to government’s efforts at attaining food sufficiency.
She said: “Due to the clashes between farmers and herdsmen, engaging in extension farming has become challenging, which calls for deliberate actions on the part of government to end the menace.
“It is on that premise that we commend the assurances and determination of Benue State government to end such persistent clashes in the state in order to guarantee the safety of extension farmers.”
Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. James Anbua, and his finance counterpart, David Olofu, assured of the state government’s commitment to the VCDP, noting that a strategic growth in the nation’s agricultural sector would quicken the country’s recovery.
Targeting cluster farmers
The Benue State Project Coordinator of VCDP, Emmanuel Igbaukum, said the programme was working towards increasing cluster group farmers in the state from over 5,000 to over 10,000 in 2017 to further boost food production in the state.
In his speech, the National Programme Coordinator, NPC, of the IFAD-VCDP, Dr. Ameh Onoja, said: “The programme is the first of its kind in Nigeria with the goal to eradicate poverty in the rural communities through people-driven mechanised farming.”
On his part, the paramount ruler of Otupka, Chief Oche Ekele, called for an expansion of the programme from the current six to all 23 councils of the state to enable more farmers benefit from it.