Food Crisis: Enugu State Government Embarks On Mass Rice Farming, Distributes Equipment To Farmers

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As part of measures to address food shortages in the country resulting in current high cost of food items in the market, the Enugu State government has disbursed 102 solar powered water pumping machines to smallholder farmers for dry season rice farming in the state.

Distributing the multi-million naira farm implements to the farmers in five local government areas of Isi-Uzo, Uzo-Uwani, Ezeagu, Aninri and Nkanu East, with cooperative advantage in production of rice and maize, on Thursday, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Patrick Ubru, said the distribution was in preparation to the launching of the dry season farming for the first time in the state.

Ubru said that his ministry has been given a mandate by the governor to ensure that the state produced nothing less than one million metric tons of maize, sorghum and rice annually; and five million metric tons of cassava in annually, adding that to ensure the realisation of that mandate “we are starting dry season farming from this year.”

According to him, the distribution of solar powered water pumping machines and with many more farm implements coming, was to assist farmers to achieve greater yield of their products.

He said that Governor Peter Mbah has made agriculture a focal point of his administration. “He (Governor) has said in his manifesto over and over again that he want to take the GDP (gross domestic product) of Enugu State from 4.4 billion dollars to 30 billion dollars, and a whole lot of this activity will be hinged and anchored on agriculture.

He started by ensuring that he activate the relationship between our donor agencies – the World Bank and the likes of them and paid down all the counterpart funds that were needed even the once backdated for seven years.”

The Commissioner, however, noted that he work with most of the community interest group to create a baseline data for Enugu State in value chain by value chain, regretting that it is not encouraging that in Enugu State despite the vast expense of land “we can only identified 45,000 hectares of land cultivated with rice.”

“For us as a State that is not something that we should be proud of,” the commissioner said, adding that to change this scenario, “the governor is providing tractors for the farmers he mean business for agriculture and because of that we are looking at increasing our productivity, increasing the land cultivated to 67,000 hectares. Still it is not enough because the governor has given us a mandate to ensure that on annual bases we produce nothing less than one million metric tons of rice, one million metric tons of maize and five million metric tons of cassava.

“The reason is that Enugu State is the highest producer of cassava and every local government produces cassava, and it may also interest you to know that in all our value chains we have also instituted a model that whatever you cultivate, there are off takers to buy them off. So if you don’t want to utilize them we have off takers. We have off takers agreement that we are signing with big producers because no product of Enugu State leaves Enugu State unprocessed. Cassava, rice, maize will leave Enugu State unprocessed or soybeans. This is a mandate of our principal, governor Peter Mbah.”

“What happened today is a prelude of preliminary aspect of launching of the dry season farming. We have had the first rain and we are now trying to fast track our activities. His excellence approved the distribution of solar powered pumping machines for those smallholder farmers that have prepared their farms and have been verified for dry season farming in rice, maize and even cassava.

“So he approved the distribution of that. In the first instance we have just distributed a 102 solar powered pumping machines to smallholder farmers, carefully selected in areas where we have cooperative advantage in production of rice and maize and cassava. We know when we talk about cassava, cassava grows everywhere in Enugu State but basically for those who are producing rice and maize that have their farmlands large hectares of farmlands close to water bodies and also gave farmers who also have tube wells.

“So the solar pumping machines were distributed to them to help them irrigate their farms. You will ask yourself why solar, when we use solar one apart from conforming to the climate friendly, it also reduces the cost of production because you know the cost of fuel these days.

“So by using solar invariably the farm is spending nothing and the machines are giving free of charge to the farmers at no cost and those machines are very expensive. There’s no machine that is less than a million naira. The machines are imported from India and are the best qualities.”

On how the items were distributed, he said “they were carefully evenly distributed to four local governments that have cooperative advantage in production of rice. They are Isi-Uzo, Uzo-Uwani, Nkanu East, Aninri and Ezeagu local government areas benefited. If you go to Owoh, Amankanu, Idodo as a matter of fact we have our team there who is monitoring what they are doing, and also providing tube wells for them because we have decided with the help of the federal ministry of agricultural and food security to designate that place as another rice belt.

“Before now their rice farming does not confirmed with the modern way of farming even their seeds. So we are going to give to them improved seedlings through our relationship with Agricultural Transformation Agenda Projects.”