By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA- AGRICULTURE, which is one of the four pillars on which Governor Willie Obiano’s administration is anchored, is getting the desired attention in most of the food production belts of the state, thanks to the support by the FADAMA III Additional Financing and the international donor agencies, including the World Bank, which introduced new irrigation method currently being enjoyed by farmers in the state.
Known as Center Pivot Irrigation System, the technology is capable of providing irrigation water to farmlands of about 100 hectares radius within minutes, with the result that rice production now takes place in Anambra State three times in a year including the dry season. Boreholes to service the new system have been sunk in Ogbaru, Ihiala and Ifite Ogwari, while the one at Ogboji would be serviced by surface flooding.
It is expected that the contractors that installed the irrigation systems would manage them for one year during which period they would train farmers to take ownership of the project and sustain them.
Eight local government areas where FADAMA is intervening with the new irrigation technology in rice and cassava production are Ogbaru, Ihiala, Anambra West, Anambra East, Orumba North, Orumba South, Ayamelum and Awka North.
In the eight local government areas, which are where rice is grown in large quantity, the expectation is that there would be increase in yield from the current 345,000 metric tons to 600,000 metric tons this year. To facilitate the envisaged increase in production, FADAMA is seriously improving infrastructure in the affected areas.
For instance, 11 roads are being constructed in the hard- to-reach areas where cluster farmers have been operating. The roads are located at Ogbakuba in Ogbaru, Aribo in Anambra West, Aguleri in Anambra East, Ihiala, Ogboji, Ezira and Ufuma all in Orumba, as well as in Omor, Anaku, Igbakwu/Ifite Ogwari all in Ayamelum. With the roads in place, evacuation of produce had become easy. The boost in agriculture became very visible in the past three years, especially in rice and cassava production, with yield tripling within the period.
Already, three aggregation centers for the storage of produce have been established at Ifite Ogwari, Amanuke and Atani. The state project coordinator of FADAMA III, Mr. Chukwuka Egbueh told South-East Voice that the idea was to ensure that produce would no longer waste as there would be proper storage all year round.
As part of the efforts to sustain increase in yield, FADAMA had also set up Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE), at Omor to enhance mechanised farming. According to Egbueh, the enterprise is being managed by farmers themselves, adding that so far, they had lived up to expectation.
He explained that to date, 6,160 farmers have benefitted directly from FADAMA in terms of land mechanisation, agro inputs, production and processing, as well as in capacity-building, just as 18 youth and women groups have been assisted through the provision of rice mills, tricycles, rice threshers, de-stoners, among others.
He also said that FADAMA had built drying slabs at Umumbo, Ogbaru, Amanuke and Ifite Ogwari to ensure faster drying of rice, adding that the 600,000 metric tons target would surely be met with the inputs made by the state government.
Egbueh said that following the success recorded in rice production, cassava had been added because of the comparative advantage Anambra State has in the growing of cassava. “Before now, FADAMA was intervening in rice production only, but we added cassava in 2017 and sorghum may be added this year because conducive environment for growing them has been provided,” he said.
The state governor, Chief Willie Obiano is expected to commission the irrigation projects this month. In the meantime, the governor has been inspecting the progress of work preparatory to the inauguration. At Egwe Agwa Ogbakuba in Ogbaru Local Government Area and Ubahuekwem Ihiala, the elated governor said with the plans being made, Anambra State would become net exporter of rice as its local demand would soon be surpassed.
“What is happening in the agricultural sector is good for us. When we came in, Anambra State was producing only 80 metric tons of rice, but today, the state is producing 345,000 metric tons annually. The success we made in rice production has encouraged us to go into cassava and sorghum,” he said. Obiano added that the Onitsha-based SabMillar Breweries was a ready market for the sorghum to be produced in the state.
According to the governor, the installation of the new irrigation system in four locations in the state was to ensure all year round rice production, with the attendant multiplier effect of empowering about 2500 farmers in the state.
He explained that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had agreed to provide funds to Anambra State government to buy off all the paddy rice produced in the state, while millers would buy all the paddy rice from government, adding that by so doing, the issue of unsold rice produced by the farmers would not arise.
He also said the state government would support the training of youth farmers to update their knowledge in modern agriculture and commended the people of the state for keying into the state government’s agricultural policy.
The joy of the farmers knew no bounds as they commended the state government and FADAMA for helping them enjoy modern farming. Mr. Christian Ogbodo, a farmer, said it was the first time help was coming from government since he started farming over 20 years ago
“I never believed that vehicles can drive to this location, but here we are seeing a motorable road constructed for us. Now we can take our crops to the cities with ease and sell, which is something we never dreamt of in the past,” Ogbodo said.