THE Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe has flagged off yet another distribution of free Agricultural Inputs and Quality Seeds as Intervention for Smallholders Farmers in Edo State, stating that it would enhance food and nutrition security, economic growth and job creation, especially during the Post COVID-19 era.
The event which took place at the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Office in Benin City, Edo State featured the distribution of equipment such as Food Dehydrator, Motorised Oil Palm Harvester, Cashew Cracker, 3 HP water pump, Knapsack Sprayers, Agro chemicals, growth enhancers, Power Tillers, cassava stems, planters and cassava processing equipment among others.
Dr Umakhihe stated that ‘’the smallholders are the most vulnerable in times of crisis, it becomes 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’’.
He revealed that 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.’’
The Permanent Secretary emphasised the commitment of the Ministry to address national and Food security by mapping out strategic policies such as the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), the Green Imperative, Agricultural Promotion Policy, NATIP as well as the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) among others.
He stated that the Ministry in its effort to support smallholder farmers has distributed different equipment, and improved seeds and seedlings of various crops to farmers in Osun, Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba States. The next major input and equipment distribution will be in Katsina state.
Umakhihe tasked the beneficiaries to make judicious use of these 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’’.
In his welcome address, Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Security, Edo State, Hon. Stephen Idehenre stated that these initiatives were designed to provide critical support to smallholder farmers in the State, leverage land assets toward driving development and diversify the economy with a focus on sustaining food security.
Hon. Idehenre pointed out 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 the oil palm programme, 63,000 hectares of brownfields 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, in his goodwill message, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Edo 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.
One of the beneficiaries, a physically challenged farmer, Mr Efosa Baldwin thanked the Ministry for the free Agricultural Inputs and pledged to make judicious use of the Inputs.
The Agricultural Inputs/ equipment distributed included; Food Dehydrator 20, Motorised oil palm 50, Cashew cracker 5, 3 HP Water Pump 100, Knapsack Sprayer 625, Cypermtetnine 1,000 litres, Agrixyme 400 litres, Glyphosate 1,239 litres, Pathway ( liquid) 960 litres, power tiller 5 and honey bee clothing 200.
Quality seeds are as follows: oil palm seedlings 3,000, cocoa seedlings 20,000, coconut seedlings 5,000, yam seeds 200, among others.