The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (FMARD), has flagged off yet another distribution of free agricultural inputs and quality seeds as part of its intervention for smallholder farmers in Edo State, stating that it would enhance food and nutrition security, economic growth and job creation, especially in the post-COVID-19 era.
The event which took place at the Benin office of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) featured the distribution of equipment such as food dehydrator, motorised oil palm harvester, cashew cracker, 3 HP water pump, knapsack sprayers, agrochemicals, growth enhancers, power tillers, cassava stems, planters, cassava processing equipment, among others.
The permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, who oversaw the event in stead of the minister, said: “The smallholders are the most vulnerable in times of crisis. It became imperative for the Federal Government to support them with the much-needed inputs, especially seeds, the most important factor that determines farmers’ yield, to enable them recover quickly from the set back of the COVID-19 pandemic and 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.’’
Umakhihe emphasised the commitment of the ministry to addressing the national food security by mapping out strategic policies such as the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), the Green Imperative Agricultural Promotion Policy, NATIP, Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), among others.
He stated that, as part of efforts to support smallholder farmers, the ministry 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.
The permanent secretary 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, the state Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Security, 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.
Idehenre pointed out that, through the Independent Farmers Initiative, 2,050 smallholder farmers were provided with agricultural inputs to drive cassava, maize, rice and soybeans value chains. Also, he added that, under the 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, in his goodwill message, the chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Edo chapter, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Bako Dogo commended the Federal Government for its progressive and pragmatic policies in the agricultural sector geared towards the diversification of the economy, an increase in production and income for farmers in the country.
One of the beneficiaries and a person living with disability (PLWD), Mr. Efosa Baldwin thanked the ministry for the free agricultural inputs and pledged to make judicious use of them.
A statement by the ministry’s director of information signed by Ikemefuna Ezeaja said the agricultural inputs/ equipment distributed include: 20 food dehydrators, 50 motorised oil palm harvesters, 5 cashew crackers, 3 HP water pumps 100, 625 knapsack sprayers, 1000 litres of cypermtetnine, 400 litres of agrixyme, 1239 litres of glyphosate, 960 litres of pathway (liquid), 5 power tillers and 200 protective wears for bee farmers.
The quality seeds include 3000 oil palm seedlings, 20,000 cocoa seedlings, 5000 coconut seedlings, 200 yam seeds, among others.