By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As food production is expected to increase amidst high prices, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Thursday, boosted smallholder farmers in Edo State with 28,200 quality seeds and assorted equipment and chemicals.
The distribution of the seeds, equipment and chemicals were made by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, (FMARD), Dr Ernest Umakhihe, during flagging off another distribution of free ‘Agricultural Inputs and Quality Seeds Intervention’ for smallholder farmers in Edo State.
Umakhihe expressed optimism that with the distribution, food and nutrition security would be enhanced, economic growth and job creation in the post-COVqID-19 era
The quality seeds include; 3000 oil palm seedlings; 20,000 cocoa seedlings; 5,000 coconut seedlings; 200 yam seeds, and others.
Agricultural equipment distributed included; 20 Food Dehydrator; 50 Motorised oil palm; 5 Cashew crackers; 3 HP Water Pump 100, 625 Knapsack Sprayers; 1,000 litres of Cypermtetnine; 400 litres of Agrixyme; 1,239 litres of Glyphosate; 960 litres of Pathway ( liquid); 5 power tiller; and 200 honey bee clothing.
He said: ‘’The smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable in times of crisis, it become imperative for the Federal Government to support them with the much-needed inputs especially seeds, which is the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield in order to enable them to recover quickly from the set back of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the effect of the insecurity.”
“Meanwhile, 35 per cent of the inputs were targeted at women farmers and processors in line with the targets set in the National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women.
“Similarly, 10 per cent is targeted at persons with special needs and this has been communicated to the farmers’ associations to act accordingly”, he said.
He maintained that the Ministry remains committed and focused on addressing national and food security with strategic policies including the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan, AFJP, the Green Imperative, Agricultural Promotion Policy, NATIP, as well as the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, PFI, and others.
Meanwhile, he made it known that with passing and concern for smallholder farmers in the country, the Ministry has distributed different equipment, improved seeds and seedlings of various crops to farmers in Osun, Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba States, and that the next major input and equipment distribution will be in Katsina State.
Umakhihe tasked the beneficiaries to make judicious use of the inputs to produce food for the nation while calling on other stakeholders to provide similar support to farmers ‘’so that together, we can become self- sufficient in food production.”
Earlier, in an address of welcome, Edo State Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Security, Hon Stephen Idehenre, pointed that the initiatives were designed to provide critical support to smallholder farmers in the State, leverage land assets towards driving development and diversify the economy with a focus on sustaining food security.
Idehenre noted that through Independent Farmers Initiative, 2,050 smallholder farmers were provided with agricultural inputs to drive cassava, maize, rice and soybeans value chains, adding that under oil palm programme, 63,000 hectares of brown fields have been made available for investors for the development of oil palm plantation aimed at making Edo State, a leader in oil palm production in Africa.
Earlier, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Edo State Chapter, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Bako Dogo, commended the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for its progressive and pragmatic policies in the agriculture sector which geared towards diversification of the economy , increase in production and income for farmers in the country.