Benue State farmers get improved cassava stems

Ene Okwanihe

West African Agricultural Productivity programme (WAAPP-Nigeria) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has flagged -off the distribution of improved varieties of cassava stem.

The distribution of the  improved varieties of cassava stem which was developed by WAAPP-Nigeria is targeted at boosting high yield harvest of cassava by farmers, to ensure that farmers get dividends of their farm produce and also ensure the availability of food to the people.

With this improved varieties, farmers will earn better from cassava as different things can be produced from it such as Ethanol, food sweeteners, starch, cassava flour and the cassava leaves will be converted to feeds for cattle on ranches around the country.

While speaking at the distribution exercise the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Mr. Audu Ogbeh said the improved varieties will help improve the quality and quantity of cassava harvest by farmers and  is enriched with Vitamin `A’ to enhance nutrition.

The minister stated that government’s priority in coming years is to achieve self sufficiency in the country’s local staples namely:  cassava, rice, maize, sorghum, millet, wheat, fruits, and vegetables, poultry, honey, sugar, beans, soya, palm-oil, fish, milk etc.

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Ogbeh said the Government had begun land clearing in rural areas to enable farmers expand their farms and to open up more farming space for youths to venture into the profession and has also concluded plans to provide processing machines for planters and harvesters to aid farmers’ process cassava into starch and sweeteners for export.

He further stated that efforts are being made to ensure all year round availability of food by building more dams in rural areas to support irrigation as the country could no longer depend solely on rain for food production.

“In a few months time, we shall begin to build dams in Local government Areas across the country; agriculture can no longer depend on the rainy season alone We must ensure food production all year round’’

“Showing support to farmers by introducing mechanized farming to make farming easier and more attractive to the younger generations so that when the older generation can no longer continue the younger ones will be there to ensure continuity” he added

Also speaking at the event the acting National Coordinator of WAAPP-Nigeria Mr. James Apochi said the aim of WAAPP-Nigeria is to develop technologies and disseminate those technologies for adoption that will lead to increased Agricultural production.

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Mr. Apochi said WAAPP-Nigeria as a World Bank assisted programme is making conscious efforts to support the Federal Government’s Agriculture policies by boosting agricultural productivity and to enhance regional integration in West Africa and the distribution of the improved varieties of cassava stems is part of that conscious effort.

The coordinator further said the programme in collaboration with the University of Agriculture, Makurdi was executing three projects, the projects are fingerling multiplication, cassava stem multiplication and adopted village extension programme which covers over 12 villages across the state.

He added that the distribution of the improved varieties will stimulate domestic production of cassava for consumption and export, generate employment for youth, stimulate rural economy and reduce hunger and poverty.

While commending the efforts of WAAPP-Nigeria and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development the Ochi’ Idoma of Idoma land, His Royal Highness, Chief Elias Obekpa who was represented by Chief Anthony Adejo Represented by Chief Anthony Adejo a palace chief, said farming is a God given vocation and it is the only means of livelihood of the Idoma people.

Obekpa urged his followers to heed President Muhammadu Buhari’s call and return to the farm as was it was time for the whole nation to wake up from their slumber, turn to agriculture and address the issue of unemployment in the country.

He said crude oil was no longer capable of sustaining the country, urging Nigerians to embrace agriculture as there was dignity is farming.

The traditional ruler however, urged the government to ensure prompt supply of farm inputs like seeds in time for the start of farming season, fertilizers and agro chemical like weed killers and pesticides.

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Helen Adakole from Apa local Government Area of the state expressed happiness and appreciation for the gesture and prayed God to sustain the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

She said people in rural areas are primarily farmers saying that more of such government presences are required to boost agriculture in the country.

She said government should take mechanisation seriously as farmers were ready to feed the nation and the entire continent.

Mrs Adakole said WAAPP-Nigeria and the ministry had not let their hopes down saying that the programme had restored farmer’s confidence in government and encouraged farmers to always key into government’s plans for farmers to bridge the gap between rural farmers and the Government.