Agriculture in the country which is a vital part of the economy provides employment for about 30% of the population. Researchers said that the sector is being transformed by commercialization at the small, medium and large- scale .
Little wonder the immediate-past administration of President Jonathan launched an Agricultural Transformation Agenda which was managed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In Southeast geo-political zone, various governments in the district including Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States have been working round the clock to sustain rapid production of agricultural produce in the area.
For instance, the Project Coordinator of FADAMA III Additional Financing project in Enugu State, Mr Ikechukwu Jude, said that farmers in the state have recorded appreciable increase in rice production.
Jude told newsmen in Enugu recently that the feat was recorded because of the provision of farm assets and irrigation facilities in the state.
He said that no fewer than 5,000 farmers in the state had been supported via the provision of irrigation facilities, threshers, pesticides, machetes and other inputs in the last two farming cycles.
“In the last 16 months, the project has been providing the enabling environment for farmers. As a result of this, we recorded an increase in rice production from 3.3 tones per hectare in the 2015 farming season to 4.4 tonnes per hectare in the 2016 farming season. We are now targeting to further increase rice production to 6.5 tonnes per hectare in the 2017 farming season”, he said.
Jude said that the project office was currently working on the construction of 46.89 km rural feeder roads while developing irrigation facilities in four communities in the state.
“Our aim is to make farming very interesting and impressive for people; we also want to encourage them to go into farming”, he said.
The project coordinator said that the state government was striving hard to encourage all year round cultivation of rice while improving its value chain.
Jude said that the state had the requisite capacity to produce rice in commercial quantities, adding that the state FADAMA office was planning to support no fewer than 5,000 farmers in the rice value chain.
“We have to support a minimum of 5,000 farmers in the state they have already formed cooperative societies and signed a tripartite agreement with farm inputs dealers”, he said.
Jude said that the state FADAMA project office had provided fertilisers, seedlings and pesticides for farmers at a discount rate of 50 per cent.
In Anambra and Ebonyi States, several thousands of land acreage are now being committed to boost rice production, while some farmers who ceased cultivation for over a decade, when importation held sway, have returned to the land.
It was gathered that production in the two states is getting an additional boost from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP). In Ebonyi, where 11,000 rice farmers have been captured into the ABP net, 3,000 have been certified for receipt of funds and input. Anambra’s figures have not been provided, but it is expected that the situation would not be different.
In Anambra, government officials report that the state has reached its target of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production. Its rice production for this year has been put at 236, 000 metric tonnes, surpassing the earlier projection of 210, 000 metric tonnes per annum.
The calculation is based on expected yields of 35 per cent of about 14,300 farmers and the activities of programmes such as the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) and FADAMA.
In Anambra, hitherto less popular as a rice-producing state, a lot of land being committed to rice cultivation. Apart from the thousands of smallholder farmers whose rice cultivation is being stepped up, large-scale farming is also taking off. One of these is Coscharis farms, which currently has 3,000 hectares of land for rice production, out of which about 2,200 has been cultivated on its fully-mechanised plantation.