BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
The International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, intervention in Benue state has pulled in over N2.48billion or $8.13million to the state’s economy.
The feat was reportedly achieved in conjunction with Olam Nigeria through supports to rice farmers and purchase of rice paddy from farmers in the five local governments enjoying the IFAD-VCDP intervention in the state.
This was made known by the State Programme Coordinator, SPC, IFAD-VCDP, Mr. Emmanuel Igbaukum while presenting the Mid Term Review, MTR, Progress Report in the state to the IFAD visitation team lead by Dr. Samuel Eremie in Makurdi.
Igbaukum in his report stated that “the Benue IFAD-VCDP’s intervention pulled in over N2.48billion or $8.13m into the Benue state economy between September 2017 and February 2018, through Benue VCDP’s partnership with Olam.
“Olam was able to off take 22,599 metric tonnes of paddy from Benue farmers under the VCDP intervention programme. This development has pulled so much money into the Benue State local communities’ economy
“With Olam paying N11, 000 per ton, that is N110 per kilogramme which is above the prevailing market price, the Benue farmers’ livelihood, has improved a great deal.”
Recounting other achievements of the programme in the state, the SPC maintained that the intervention had transformed the livelihood of the rural farmers and dwellers in the state which accounted for the call for the extension of the duration of the programme in the state by benefiting farmers and communities in the state.
Igbaukum said the programme was obviously making steady progress in the state stressing that efforts were on top gear to attain the same feat in cassava production in the state.
Responding, the team leader, Dr. Eremie expressed delight at the off taking capacity of Olam Nigeria in Benue state stressing that the performance of the firm was commendable
Dr. Eremie who commended the Benue state office of IFAD-VCDP, Olam and farmers for the feat achieved in the state in the area of rice product urged others to emulate the Benue example.
The team thereafter embarked on field inspection, at Ikpayonge, Gwer East local government area, where they met and interacted with the farmer organizations under the cluster.
From there they proceeded to Aliade also in Gwer East LGA where they further interacted with farmer organisations in the cluster and also commissioned the Aliade Rice Mill and Ashina road constructed by the Programne.
From Aliade the team headed to Taraku also in Gwer East LGA where they interacted with farmer organizations and also commissioned the Onmbadaa farm access road and Akpu market stall.
During the separate interactions, leaders and chairmen of the various cluster groups in their separate speeches, including Jonathan Akuto and Joseph Akya, all recounted the immense benefits farmers were enjoying under the IFAD-VCDP intervention and appealed to the relevant authorizes to extend the life span of the programme given the impact it had made on the lives of the rural dwellers in the state.
Responding the Team Leader, Dr. Eremie urged the beneficiaries to continue to work tirelessly to sustain the gains already recorded by the IFAD-VCDP in their personal life’s and the various communities.
At the Benue government house where the team paid a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom, Dr. Eremie commended the state government for keeping its own side of the bargain of paying counterpart funds for the programme.
He explained that the team was in the state to carry out the mid term review of the performance of the programme in order to consolidate on its achievements and also address any shortcomings.
Dr. Eremie said “The mid term review gives us the opportunity to take a look back at what has been achieved or left undone under the Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, supported by the federal government, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, and the respective state governments.
“It also gives us the opportunity to draw lessons which can guide the implementation of the project in the second term. Incidentally we have only two years to go, We have already spent three years in implementing the VCDP.
“We were out in the field, we’ve had discussions with members of the State Programme Management Unit and what is coming out clearly is that in Benue state VCDP has impacted considerably on the lives of the beneficiaries.
“They told us there in the field, and we were there with the Benue state Commissioner of Agriculture, that they have witnessed tremendous yields especially of paddy, growing from an average of 2.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes.
“They also indicated that they have had increased incomes which means a lot to the government of Benue state, the federal government and to IFAD. With the increased income they are able to send their children to school, they have been able to put up structures, buy motorcycles, cars and other valuables.
“And very important for us is what we heard from the youths, that VCDP has created job opportunities and in a country like Nigeria, the creation of job opportunities for our youths has quite a lot of benefits.
“We also noticed in Benue state that the collaboration between the farmers and the off takers is very exemplary. This had drawn the attention of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to present an award for Impact Investment to Olam who is your major collaborating off taker for rice. Next month a team from Benue, the federal government and Olam will be in New York to receive the award.
“This is a global recognition of what Olam is doing and it reflects the wisdom of Benue state to welcome Olam back to the state.
“We also noticed that there is quite some innovation going on, like some young people who are into fabrication. Why are we saying this. It’s because as we went round, we found that the three major areas that the farmers and other participants will like to focus attention on in the remaining two years are: land clearing, mechanization and assess to credit.
“I know that Nigeria hasn’t been too good in high tech, so if we have indigenous capacity to fabricate some of the equipment that the farmers need, it is worth encouraging.
“So this is the message we want to take back to the rest of the team. Six states are covered, we are covering Benue and Taraba. Others have gone to Anambra and Ebonyi and another team has gone to Niger and Ogun states?
“These are the finding from Benue state, but before I end my speech I really want to express the gratitude of this team, the gratitude of IFAD and the Federal government to the state government for the approval of the counterpart funding for Benue VCDP for 2017 and 2018.
“I remember the last time I was here the Governor did promised that the counterpart fund that was trapped in one of the banks would be released. That has taken place and Benue is one of the states that has been very faithful in meeting its counterpart obligations. I guess that’s an indication of how dearly the Governor, the Commissioner and the rest of the government of Benue state holds the VCDP Programme.”
Dr. Eremie who also decried the lingering herdsmen/farmers crisis in Benue state prayed that the crisis came to an end stressing “we cannot continue this way. I’m saying this not just because I am a Nigeria but I know that what is happening in Benue state also affects the project that brought us here.”
Receiving the Team, Governor Samuel Ortom lauded IFAD VCDP for collaborating with the state.
Ortom said “It is a worthy collaboration and we can count the benefits. It is a testimony that you have actually added value to agricultural development in Benue state, and the impact especially in the rural areas is clear for everyone see.
“Like you rightly observed, increased production of agricultural products, increased income and more jobs created have been created. And I think it’s in line with the policy of our government to try to look outside the box of government especially trying to encourage individuals and groups to sustain themselves by getting involved in agriculture and creating jobs for not just themselves but for others.
“It is a known fact that along the value chain you have these opportunities that have been created by the collaboration we have with IFAD and the federal government. In fact there are several opportunities that have come up.
“Even the person involved in weeding the grass also has something to take home. The person cultivating also has something to take home and of course the person cultivating also has something to take home.
“Once you do two or more hectares you will realize that you cannot cope alone. And along the value chain you have transporters who are benefiting, even when you eventually take it to the market, the middlemen have something to take home. The person selling sacks have something to take. There are so many opportunities that have been created so this is deeply appreciated.
“We are recording these successes despite the challenge posed by herdsmen on our people and unfortunately the affected areas are places IFAD-VCDP presence are quite noticed.
“Despite that challenge some good tidings came of the programme in the state. We hope that the crisis will be put to an end because its becoming a very big challenge to the country and or national security.
“It has already impacted negatively on the food security of this nation, because the crisis started when people were harvesting.
“The invading herdsmen have turned the farm produce of our people to feeds for their cattle. This will not be accepted. And I think that with the collaboration of the Federal government we will stamp it out because it can ever be accepted because Benue state remains committed to the food security of this nation and cannot afford to lose it.
“So the other challenge is the massive investment in cassava and viability of off takers. This is not the first time it is happening to us. It happened about 15 years ago, Benue people were encouraged to cultivate cassava but at the end there were no viable off takers.
“I think this is were we need to do some collaborative effort not just between IFAD and government but even with other members of the private sector to see if they can come in and develop other means, especially of processing cassava to add value. I believe it will go a long way in helping.
“It’s food for thought, with IFAD International reach you can also be of help. And as a government, and as we keep getting investors, we can encourage them to do that.
“On the issue of counterpart funding, we are ready to always play our part because of the value addition that we have noticed and enjoyed in our collaboration and work with you.
“So we expect that the VCDP intervention will be increased to reach out to other local government areas and also upscale the land development provision. Like you observed rightly, the issue of land clearing, mechanization and access to finance, is vital. When you borrow money from the bank it is expected that you pay back. But you can only do this where you have mechanized farming. I cannot see that happening with peasant farmers, but if it happens it will be at a low level.
“But to add much value the issue of land clearing, mechanization must be considered and I think that these are areas we can look at to encourage our people and we will see massive job creation for our people and that is the way to create wealth.
“So we suggest that additional local government areas should be included in the programme. More accessible roads to link the production and processing clusters to markets be constructed. Upscaling of land development, additional crop enterprise like mangoes, yam, citrus and of course soya bean should be considered.
“These are products that do well in Benue state. If we give attention to them it will greatly support the process.
“And of course provision of tractors and other smaller farm mechanization equipment will also help depending on the level of involvement of an individual or group in the faming process.” Governor Ortom added.