By Boluwaji Obahopo
The Agro Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support, APPEALS has commenced the free distribution of agro -allied incentives for rice farmers in Kogi State.
The state coordinator of the programme, Mr. Sani Ozomata who disclosed this during the flagoff scheme in communities in Lokoja, said, “697 rice farmers will benefit from the commenced incentives”.
He said that N633 million has been earmarked to benefits the women and rice farmers who are spread over a 1780 hectares of land across the state.
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According to him, this period is farming season and this is the right time to reach out to farmers but the convid-19 pandemic will make us to redouble our efforts to make sure our farmers are back to farm and ensure food security not just for our local government or the state, but the country at large.
“APPEALS project had development objectives of enhancing small and medium scale farmers and also support their value addition. We have identified the real farmers, mapped out their land and we want them to take the advantage of this grant to support their farming.
“APPEALS in Kogi state is taking the lead because we want to make sure that farm inputs get to the farmers at the right time. We are also avoiding lateness of the incentive.
We are starting the first phase with rice farmers because we are following farming calendar. We start with rice then cassava which will be followed by cashew.
For the rice farmers first, we have mapped out 1780 hectates of land for rice production this farming season alone in Kogi state, and a total of 633 million naira will be used to fund the ‘Value Chain Investment Plan’, VCIP, to be used by the farmers.
“Some of the input we are distributing includes certified improved rice seed obtained from national seed (faro 44) council. We have pre-emergence and post emergence chemicals, chemical sprayers and protective kit for farmers.
The farmers were able to start land preparation through our collaboration with ministry of agriculture for the use of tractors. So far, we have cleared and harrow over 500 hectares of land for rice cultivation and it is still on going. We have procured over 25,000 litres of chemicals ,50,000 kg of rice seedlings, 690 chemical sprayers which will be distributed to farmers in their farm and the items are branded not for sale.
The aim of the grant is to enable farmers grow so that they can be source of employment to others, since they are not paying back the money. We will continue to support them on production, processing and marketing. We will also continue to allien with the state government policy on agriculture.”
Ozomata eulogised the state government for not politicising the project.
“I want to categorically state here that no single rice farmer was suggested by the governor nor his deputy to benefit from this programme.”
The state deputy governor, who doubles as the State Steering Committee Chairman for the Project, Edward Onoja said that the state government refusal to lockdown the state over Covid-19 has given lee way to the farmers to prepare their land in advance for the seed incentives.
Onoja who said 70% of the state population are farmers, said, “soon the state will overtake Benue to become the ‘food basket’ of the nation. “Kogi state farmers have been on their farms preparing the land, planting their crops without restriction from the out break of Covid-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world since January.
“We must appreciate the initiative of Gov. Bello for not allowing Kogi to be lockdown like some states.
if we are lockdown and we allow our farmers to be lockdown, there could have been no incentive to farmers and there will be no farming activities this rainy season and the effect could have been imminent hunger in the state after the raining season.
“The APEALS project is a project that is at the centre of the governor Bello’ heart because agricultural revolution is among five thematic areas of the present administration.
“Agricultural has became a sustainable means for the diversification from oil and governor Bello have priotize agriculture in Kogi state inline with the federal government decision to improve on food production and diversifying the nation economy using agriculture and solid minerals.
“Through this input for rice farmers we will touch the life of many farmers across Kogi state as we expect high yield and massive rice production at the end of the season.
“The effort will encourage women and youth in the state to see agriculture as a veritable sector that can improve their living standard and give them hope in life. I urged the beneficiaries to ensure that the farm input are used according to the in tension to which it was given.”