By Boluwaji Obahopo – Lokoja
The Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement, and Livelihood Improvement Support APPEALS have 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 flag-off pilot scheme in Lokoja, Ajaokuta Native towns and Idah yesterday said 697 rice farmers will benefit from the rice farm incentives.
He said N633 million has been earmarked to benefit the women and rice farmers who are spread over a 1780 hectares of land across the state.
According to him, “This period is farming season and this is the right time to reach out to farmers but the convid19 pandemic will make us redouble our efforts to make sure our farmers are back to the farm and ensure food security not just for our Local Government or the state, but the country at large.
“The APPEALS project has 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 will want them to take advantage of this grant from us to support their farms.
“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 avoiding the lateness of the incentive.
“We are starting the first phase with rice farmers because we are following the farming calendar. We start with rice then cassava which will be followed by cashew.
“For the rice farmers that we are concentrating on at the first phase, we have mapped out 1780 hectares 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.
“The aim of the grant is to enable the farmers to grow so that they can be a source of employment to others since they are not paying back the money. We will continue to support them in production, processing, and marketing. We will also continue to align 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 or 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 the state government’s refusal to lock down the state over Covid19 has given leeway 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 has been on their farms preparing the land, planting their crops without restriction from the outbreak of Covid-19 that has ravaged the world since January.
“The APEALS project is a project that is at the centre of the governor Bello’s heart because the agricultural revolution is among five thematic areas of the present administration.
“Agricultural has become a sustainable means for the diversification from oil and governor Bello have to prioritize agriculture in Kogi state inline with the federal government decided to improve on food production and diversifying the national economy using agriculture and solid minerals.
“Through this input for rice farmers, we will touch the lives 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 inputs are used accordingly.”