Posted on February 9, 2018
As Nigerians bemoaned the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recent report indicating over four million job losses in 2017, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has assured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm. According to him, over seven million jobs were created in the various villages across the country at the same period.
Ogbeh, who pointed out that there is no difference between income made in the cities and the villages, disclosed that the Federal Govenment’s economic diversification programme anchored on agriculture has put money in the hands of farmers, making many of them millionaires.
This, perhaps, is the case for the beneficiaries of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase-1 (ATASP-1) in Anambra and Enugu states, as silent agricultural revolution is going on in communities in the South-East states where the African Development Bank (AfDB) funded programme is taking place.
The programme, an AfDB contribution to agricultural development in Nigeria, is being implemented in five other states for five years (2015-2019).
The Federal Government in partnership with the AfDB in 2015 launched the ATASP -1 with commodity value chain development alongside infrastructure development as some of its key components in four Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZs).
The four staple crop processing zones are Adani-Omor, in Enugu and Anambra states; Bida-Badeggi in Niger State, Kano-Jigawa and Sokoto-Kebbi, covering a total of 33 local government areas.
Specific objective of the project is to identify and promote science-based solutions for rice, sorghum and cassava value chains through technology production and distribution of quality seeds and planting materials strengthened by well-built seed systems.
Target groups are smallholder farmers mainly youths and women trained by IITA, Ibadan, AfricaRice and ICRISAT along the value chains and assisted with improved technology to record good yield in their farms and product development skills.
In Adani, Enugu State, Daily Sun met Ndidigwe Ekene, a young graduate who has benefited immensely from the ATASP-1 initiative, haven received training on farming after his national youth service programme.
The young rice farmer said that from the way his fortune has changed, he would have no business looking for white-collar job again:
“Formerly, we used to broadcast rice, but with the intervention of ATASP-1 and with the help of Africa Rice, I adopted a new approach which has significantly increased the yield. What I used to get before the ATASP-1 intervention was 11 to 12 bags (of 130kg each) after broadcasting, but now I’m getting above 15 during the rain-fed and quantities we used to get are higher during the dry season.
“I don’t think there is any work that can make me stop farming unless you send me out of this country to where I cannot see land but once there is land there, I will continue farming. What I have here is one hectare, but I will like to expand my business to at least 10 hectares.”
Another farmer, Bernard Idu, said the tonnage had dramatically increased following the improved technology and the seeding system training he received from ATASP-1.
Farmers in the area also applauded the seed multiplication skills they imbibed from the trainers. A group of 21 youths trained in both cassava and rice seed multiplications said the initiative has changed their view of farming and also equipped them to make more money.
Spokesman of the group, Ogwuda Ugochukwu, a 31-year-old graduate of Zoology and father of two, explained that they co-owned eight hectares where they produce seed, adding that they are already linked to an off-taker.
Aside rice and cassava, it was gathered that the ATASP-1 programme has for the first time introduced sorghum farming among the Mbu community of Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State and the people are seeing huge potentials in the crop.
One of those who have keyed into sorghum farming in the area is 29-years-old Ugwuagbo Anthony who until now saw sorghum as something of no interest. He told Daily Sun in the farm that the programme has introduced four new varieties of sorghum (SK 5912, CSR 01, SAMSORG43) for trials and all showed good prospects as observed in the farms.