BY PETER DURU
MAKURDI – The National Programme Coordinator, NPC, of the International Fund for Agricultural Development-Value Chain Development Programme, IFAD-VCDP, Dr. Ameh Onoja, Friday stated that the programme has increased productivity and income levels among Rice and Cassava producers, processors and marketers in all its participating states.
Speaking at the opening of the Trade Promotion and Knowledge Fair organized by the world body in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, Dr. Onoja commended the Benue state government for supporting and ensuring the success of the programme in the state.
He noted that the government’s political will to support the programme had gone a long way to boost rice and cassava production in the state.
He stressed that aside supporting farmers, the programme had provided and constructed feeder roads leading to its clusters in the state to create accessibility for farmers of rice and cassava farmers coupled with the construction of modern rice mils in the state.
According to Dr. Onoja, “the Value Chain Development Programme has been operational in the six participate states of Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun and Taraba for the last three years working with Rice and Cassava farmers, processors and Marketers to develop sustainable Value~ Chains for the two commodities.
“The objective of the programme is therefore to enhance on a sustainable basis the income and food security of poor rural households engaged in the production, processing and marketing of Rice and Cassava in the targeted local government areas in all the participating states.
“The intervention of the programme has significantly contributed to increased production, productivity and income levels, enhanced value addition and market opportunities, as well as access to quality seed and planting materials among Rice and Cassava producers, processors and marketers in all the six participating states.
“Today we are producing over 5.5 metric tonnes of rice per hectare as against the 2.5 metric tonnes while cassava yield has hit an average of 20 metric tonnes per hectare as against the 12 metric tonnes recorded in the past. This goes to show the level of success the programme has recorded in the last three years.”
Continuing, Dr. Onoja said “the programme has also improved the knowledge and skills and innovativeness of all the operators along the Rice and Cassava value-chains such that today the programme can boast of having a critical mass of enlightened, skillfull and innovative programme beneficiaries that are supporting federal and concerned states governments in their efforts to achieve national food security, jobs creation and empowerment of communities.
“Hence the impressive giant strides and achievements of the programme is what informed and encouraged us to provide a forum such as this Trade Promotion and Knowledge Fair to share our experiences and contributions.
“The objective of the Fair therefore is to showcase the achievements
and innovative outcomes of VCDP in the last three years in Benue State.
“Let me therefore use this opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous support and encouragement, the programme has been receiving from IFAD and Benue State government in the last three years without which we would not have recorded the achievements you are witnessing today.
“I want to urge the State Government to take special interest in the Fair and exhibition with a view to further taking then up for replication and scaling up.
On his part, the State Programme Coordinator of IFAD-VCDP, Mr. Emmanuel Igbaukum, noted that the programme had opened floodgates of opportunities for rice and cassava farmers in the state as well as improved their livelihood.
“Today small-scale farmers who formed cluster groups to key into the programme have enjoyed sustained growth and yields in their annual returns from their investments and testimonies abound in the selected local government areas.” Igbaukum stated.
Declaring the Fair open, Governor Samuel Ortom who lauded the impact the programme had recorded in the state said his government had paid the sum of N166milion counterpart fund to the programme assuring that another tranche of over N90.8million would soon be released for the 2017 activities of the programme in the state.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof. Tony Ijohor, the Governor reiterated the commitment of his administration to the programme “because it has proven to be a veritable means of improving the lot of farmers in the state.
“We are seeing the benefit of this programme in the state which was made possible and attained through improved agronomy practices introduced by the programme.
“I can assure you that as a government we will remain committed to ensure that our people maximize the benefits from the programme in Benue state.”
Benue state Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. James Ambua said despite the lean resources available to the government there had been sustain payments of the state’s counterpart fund to the programme.
According to Ambua, “before the advent of this administration, our yields in cassava and rice was abysmally low but today the story is different and because of the import of this programme we will continue to support the IFAD-VCDP in Benue state.
In his remark, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh represented by his Technical Assistant, Mr. Apeh Auta said with programmes like IFAD-VCDP the country would in no distant time achieve sufficiency in food production.
“It is a thing of joy that our farmers have been doing well in our efforts to meet the food needs.
Chief Ogbeh canvassed that attention should now paid to efforts to meet the food needs of the country, earn more foreign exchange from exports and to diversify the economy of the country.
“Undoubtedly, the economic progress of our country is in the hands of farmers who must deploy their acumen to improve their wellbeing and place our economy on the part of sustainable growth and development.” The Minister said.