By Stanley Nwanosike
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says it is poised to make Enugu State a hub of two major daily consumed staple crops in the country.
Dr Edward Isiwu, Enugu State Programme Coordinator of IFAD’s Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), said this during a media parley in Enugu on Saturday.
Isiwu identified the two major crops as rice and vitamin-A rich cassava, adding that other value chain addition and derivatives from the two crops would also be made known to small-holder farmers.
He said that technically, the IFAD-VCDP programme would use transfer of best agronomy and processing practices, market visibility/reach, extension services intervention and financial inclusion for farmers to achieve the target.
According to him, IFAD-VCDP will first make the state sufficient in the crops and lift thousands of small-holder farmers out of hunger and poverty through best modern agricultural practices.
“Basically, IFAD-VCDP is targetting small-holder farmers belonging to farming organisations/cooperatives (mostly women and youths), having less than five hectares of farmlands for rice and cassava production.
“We are currently in nine states of the federation and Enugu State is among three states recently added to the programme.
“In Enugu State, we have selected five pilot council areas, based on established criteria, mapped out by the designers of IFAD-VCDP programme.
“The pilot council areas, producing these two crops, included: Aninri, Isi uzo and Nkanu East (for rice production and value chain addition) and, Enugu East and Udenu (for cassava production and value chain addition).
“We introduce and provide them with best agronomy practices, climate smart agriculture and other basic farm business knowledge at the group/organisational training or workshop level.
“Then we follow them to the farms by providing matching grant support for high-yielding and weather-friendly seedlings and agro-inputs that will increase the tonnes per hectare to about an additional 2.5 tonnes of any given rice or cassava farmland.
“Before going to the farmland proper, IFAD-VCDP has organised for committed off-takers and markets for these produce so that the farmers will get value for investment in good time and ensure continuous farming,” he said.
The coordinator said that the IFAD-VCDP programme kicked-off in the state in the last quarters of 2020, adding that it had been able to engage 104 small-holder farmers in the dry season between 2020/2021 farming period, especially in rice production.
According to him, the IFAD-VCDP dry season farming recorded huge success in the state.
“The yield of the small-holder farmers, who previously got 2.1 tonnes per hectare (a hectare is about the size of a football field), ended up harvesting between 4.5 and 4.7 tonnes per hectare of farmland.
“What is more astonishing is that some of these small-holder farmers have never engaged in dry season farming for rice before in their farming history.
“So, the magic was introduction to dry weather-resilient rice seedlings as well as other dry season favourable agro-inputs to enhance the yield per hectare,” he added.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that IFAD-VCDP is a tripartite programme of IFAD, an organ of the United Nations, the Federal Government and participating state governments.
The programme is meant to boost modern agronomy practice and crop yield of small-holder farmers, reduce rural poverty and achieve accelerated economic growth on a sustainable basis. (NAN)