The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in collaboration with Africa Rice Nigeria has distributed 51 bags of improved rice seeds to 50 farmers in Anambra to boost production.
Mr Andrew Ikhadeunu, FAO National Project Coordinator, Rice Value Chain, told newsmen in Awka on Monday that the beneficiaries were earlier selected and trained in February.
“They were given demonstration plots for planting. Now they have harvested, we are following it up with the improved seeds of 51 bags of rice for them,’’ he said.
Ikhadeunu said that the aim was to support the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which is the facilitator of the programme to empower rice farmers in the state.
“There is need for us to come out of hunger. If we are to put an end to massive rice importation, there is need to empower some Nigerians with such intervention programme.
’’We look at it that there is need for us to support the farmers. We look at the states that have potentials, and Anambra state is one of them,’’ he said.
According to him, other benefiting states in the programme are Abia, Ekiti, Edo, Nassarawa and Jigawa.
He urged the beneficiaries to resist the temptation of selling the rice seeds, adding, “what you have is the best and with your cooperation, we can achieve food sufficiency in the country.
“You are the ones who will sustain the economy and create jobs for the teeming populace.”
Dr Francis Nwilene, Regional Representative of Africa Rice Nigeria said that the target was for each state of Nigeria to be self sufficient in rice production.
Nwilene, who was represented by Mr Jide Oladejo, one of the scientists in FAO, said that the major challenges of rice production in Nigeria were impurities.
He said that each rice seed variety should have the characteristic called “DUS” meaning distinct, uniform and staple.
“The programme will help to reduce importation of rice to each state, empowering the farmers and reduction of hunger and poverty,’’ he said.
Mr Pius Ogbonna, State Director of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the farmers’ testimony had shown that the programme was a boost to efforts at ensuring food security.
“It is a welcome development for the youths and women to be busy in life,’’ he said.
Ogbonna called for timely supply of seeds, fertilizer, chemicals and machines to farmers.
Mrs Ngozi Ebuo, leader of Awka cluster, commended the donors for the gesture, assuring that the rice seeds would be used judiciously.
She said that their participation the training had further opened windows of opportunity for them to excel in rice production and empowerment.
“What FAO has done today is more than okay, but we still need tube-hole for water irrigation as water pumps, transplanting machines and driers are not available,’’ she said.