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ECOWAS Plans 60,000MT Of Rice For Nigeria

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The Coordinator of
ECOWAS-initiated Rice Seed Up Scaling Programme, Mr Sunday Okelola,  says farmers in seven Nigerian states will be assisted to produce 60,000 metric tonnes of paddy rice between 2016 and 2017.
Okelola stated this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja recently.
“The project is in support of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Rice Offensive Initiative that was inaugurated in
2014.
“The main objective is to scale up the use of improved rice seeds. “Rice has been observed to be very important for food security sustainability in the sub-region vis-a-vis increasing the farmers’ income, creating wealth and making life better for the farming populace.
“So, we want to see how to improve on the livelihood of people. One way to do it is by promoting rice production, and you cannot promote production without quality seeds.
“So, this project is looking at utilising 1,200 metric tonnes of seeds to produce about 60,000 metric tonnes of paddy within the two years.
“We have split this into what we can do in 2016 and what we will do in 2017.’’ Okelola said that the two-year programme would be implemented in Kano, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Ekiti and Ebonyi states between March 2016 and December 2017.
He said the programme was being spearheaded by the Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN) in collaboration with the West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD).
“For 2016, we are looking at producing about 48,000 tonnes of paddy and the balance of 12,000 will be produced in 2017.
“We have also looked at where we can produce these seeds? So, we have selected some states like Kano, Niger, Benue, Ekiti and Ebonyi where rice is being grown.
“We are putting into mind the geopolitical differentiation in Nigeria, and of course trying to capture the whole country.’’
Okelola identified other participants in the programme as the National  Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), seed companies, rice millers and financial institutions like the Bank of Agriculture.
According to him, the project also covers seed planning, connecting and building the capacity of actors as well as facilitating access to equipment and proper storage.
“We have brought in millers including Labana, Miva, Lagos Rice, and Onyx. We have gotten their assurance that if this is produced they will be willing to buy.
“It goes beyond that because you cannot produce when the capacity is not there. We are also building the capacity of about 120 persons cutting across the various sectors of the rice value chain.
“We are equally going to promote demonstration because we know that some varieties have been developed over time that is not in the hands of the farmers.
“Another thing is that we noticed our seed companies don’t have outlets. So, this project will support the establishment of 10 sales outlets cutting across our production hub.’’
According to him, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide 800,000 dollars in funding through the West
African Seed Programme of WECARD.
Also speaking in a separate interview with The Tide Mr Olusegun Ojo, the Director General of NASC, said that the role of the council in the project was to ensure that the participating seed companies played by the rules.

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Agriculture

IITA Develops New Potato Variety

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Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa.  Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said.  Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water.  The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting.  He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.

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Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan

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The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.

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Agriculture

NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing

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The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative,  Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria,  Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with  comparative advantages.
farming season?
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.

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