No fewer than 2,000 rice farmers are being targeted for the commencement of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrower Programme in Abia.
Chief Israel Amanze, the Chairman, Project Management Team for the programme in Abia, made this known in an interview with Newsverge in Umuahia on Tuesday.
Amanze, a former Commissioner for Agriculture, said that no fewer than 500 people had so far been registered and sent to CBN by the committee.
According to him, farmers eligible for registration must own about one and five hectres of rice farmland.
He said that the CBN would create an enabling environment for the benefitting farmers to thrive.
According to him, farmers will get financial and material assistance from the point of cultivation to the harvest season.
“The farmers will be assisted and given enabling environment, including funds and materials to cultivate the farmland.
“Whatever they produce would be bought off from them at an agreed price by the person called the anchor company and thereafter the farmer returns to continue with his farming,’’ he said.
He said that the committee had carried out registration of potential beneficiaries across the 17 local government areas of the state.
“What we are doing now is sorting out all the farmers who own one hectres and above and who have opened an account with Sterling Bank, which is designated for the programme.
“We have also verified their Bank Verification Numbers,’’ he said, adding that those eligible would soon begin to enjoy the CBN intervention.
He said that more farmers were enrolling in the scheme, as a new list would soon be forwarded to CBN.
Amanze, who is a Special Adviser to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Agriculture, said that the committee had concluded plans to acquire more than 150 hectres of land at Idima-Abam in Bende Local Government Area.
He said that after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the community, the land would be partitioned and allotted to farmers.
According to him, the number will be added to the pool of farmers in the anchor borrower programme.
He said that the committee had opened up negotiation with the Seed Council of Nigeria to supply improved seedlings to the benefitting farmers.
“We are not going to use old seeds,’’ Amanze said.
He explained that every participant would enjoy insurance cover by the National Agricultural Insurance Company in case of any natural disaster.
Amanze said that the committee had embarked on the sensitisation of rice farmers in the state through the mass media and town hall meetings on the need for them to key into the programme.
He said that the state would engage in swamp and upland rice farming, adding that for the first season, the upland farming would be rain-fed and irrigation-driven in subsequent seasons.
Amanze expressed the hope that the state would benefit from the bilateral agreement between Nigeria and China for the supply of irrigation equipment.
He listed the rice plane for swamp farming to include Umuahia North, Ikwuano, Bende, Ohafia, Arochukwu and Isuikwuato Local Government Areas.
He said that most of the areas in the state had the potential for upland rice farming.
Amanze said that some of the challenges faced in the state was the land tenure system, which he said had led to the fragmentation of rice farmlands in the state.
“The problem we have is that most farmers do not have up to one hectre of land and most farms are fragmented because of our land tenure system.
“The other challenge is the lack of access roads to the farms,” he said, adding that many farmers were located in areas that the committee could not easily access.
Amanze gave an assurance that the benefitting farmers would be trained by the committee before the commencement of the scheme.