By Emma Una

FOUR thousand maize  and three thousand rice farmers have been profiled  and supplied high yield  farm inputs in the two states  of Cross River and Ebonyi to  boost annual harvests for the two staple crops.

The farmers are selected through the Sustainable Agriculture Programme for Rural Livelihood, SUPRAL, are given training, sensitisation, agrochemicals and high-yield inputs to aid them cultivate four thousand hectares of maize and three thousand hectares of rice farms in the two states.

Speaking in Calabar on Thursday during a state holders meeting comprising farmers, extension workers, land owners, traditional rulers, Dr Richard Ajah,  the Chairman of El-Kanis and Partners,  initiators of the project stated that agriculture is the heart of development of any nation and if Nigeria would navigate from developing to a developed country it must take agriculture seriously.

“Nigeria experienced   further decline in the already low output of its two major staple foods , rice and maize in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic which obstructed the farming supply  chain. This is  made worse by government’s total ban on the  importation of the two staple food items  leaving manufacturers and over 80 million consumers stranded and are  hoping for sucour during the  next harvest season”.

He said El-Kanis will deploy effective solutions and technology to upscale the average yield of maize and rice in the project area from an average of 1.8 metric tonnes per hectare to 3.6 metric tonnes for rice and an average of 2 metric tonnes per hectare to 3 metric tonnes.for maize

“The productivity of maize a d rice is significantly hampered by poor or lack of improved inputs, poor weather information dissemination , soil nutrients deficiencies,  pest damage, fertilizer needs, plant diseases, limited access to product offtake , credit and market access and  El-Kanis recognises these facts abdb would attempt to mitigate solutions through SUPRAL”.

“The agricultural sector is crucial for employment and economic growth and food supply is at the heart of this growth to combat food and nutrition insecurity , reducing poverty and creating decent jobs particularly in rural areas hence the need to bring stakeholders together”

Dr Ajah emphasised that to meet expected harvest targets, timely and delibrate agricultural practices , requisite fertilizer application, weeding, adequate water regime ,pest and diseases management and application of fertilizers would be adopted to enhance yields.

Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Professor Nyaudo Ndaeyo said reserving fifty percent of the project space  by El- Kanis for women is laudable and would go a long way in enhancing the success of the project.

“Along with specific traditional gender roles , women’s empowerment and control over resources are key factors that influence outcomes on stable food production and are likely to be better managers of resources than men,  therefore deserve better attention, support and equal access to both land and financial resources”.

Professor Nadaeyo also stressed the. need for youths to understand and take advantage of  the largely untapped pool of prospects in agriculture because it feeds people, creates wealth, employ people along the whole value  chain both on farm and off the farm.

“Successful on- farm outputs should drive off- farm activities and also create demands for increased  on- farm outputs. Both drive the emergence of an agro- industrial sector resulting in a structural shift in farming population and life styles”

He said rural transformation does not happen in isolation but as part of a broader process of structural transformation shaped by the inter linkages between agriculture, the rural non- farm economy, manufacturing services, and rural transformation must be made to happen through the use of agriculture.

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