Judex Okoro, Calabar
The fight against food insufficiency seems to be yielding positive results as over 5,000 farmers have declared Operation Feed Cross Riverians.
The farmers, spread across 12 local government areas, said they made the declaration after series of training in innovative farming techniques geared towards improving cassava, maize and livestock farming as well as their income.
The training, coordinated by Sasakawa Africa Association, a Japanese non-government organisatiom, NGO, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and some development partners, is primarily aimed at ensuring that local farmers do not suffer loss in their farming enterprise but maximize their productivity.
Cross River was selected by the federal government for the pilot phase of the project in 2013 and since then the partners have been working with farmers on how to improve on the crops particularly cassava and rice which the state has comparative advantage.
Some of the farmers during the 2019 media field day held at some of the demonstration farms in the northern and central senatorial districts, commended the development partners for their timely intervention and expressed optimism that the nation’s drive to grow what it eats will come to fruition in the near future.
The chairman, Okumaya Multi-Purpose Association, Ikom LGA, Pulin Agazuma, said the new farming methods have really benefitted farmers in the state and this is evident in the potential increase in their output.
“We have experienced a new thing because the planting is different and there is reduced work labour as well as general efficiency in cultivating cassava and maize. With these news methods being applied to our farming, we can indeed, declare Operation Feed Cross Riverinans as there would soon be food for all,” Agazuma said.
One of the beneficiaries of the training at Aleci Community in Ikom, Salvation Iwora, said: “Before now, we planted several crops in a particular location and then during the harvesting period, all the crops will be generally poor but following the adoption of the new farming method, from what we have seen so far, this method is far better than what our fathers taught us.
“I used to harvest just a couple of bags of maize from my farm but now in the same location, I get up to ten bags from the same farm and this is quite better than before. They gave us knowledge as well as the improved variety of cassava stem which we planted. We the new cassava ‘go to heaven’ and what they gave us to cultivate is called ‘four nineteen’.
“They equally gave us yellow corn, fertilizer and all the chemicals we used to treat the pests. We are quite appreciative of the efforts because it adds value to the farming business in our community”, he said.
Assessing the project, another farmer, Eworo Ogar, said with the new technology, their task has been made easier and encouraged other farmers to embrace the new cassava/maize intercropping technique in order to make the most of their efforts.
“If you want to apply fertilizer, it is easier as well as doing a lot of tasks. In terms of harvest, we know the right specie of crops, fertilizer and every other thing. Sasakawa gave us the maize seedlings, and we started planting them using the new methodology this year.
“So, I think this method is the best as far as farming operations is concerned. I thank Sasakawa because they have shown us how to make money instead of begging and urge our fellow farmers to leave the old system and embrace system as it’s more rewarding”, he said.
Also one of the beneficiaries of livestock farming and a member of the Betem Royal Cooperative in Bekwarra, Janet Otobo, disclosed that about 30 women were trained and given goats as a cooperative, adding that they contribute to feed the goats just as they hope to substantially expand the livestock in future.
According to her, “Before now we left our goats to roam about looking for grasses and other foods to eat but now we have modified our technique in goat rearing business courtesy of Sasakawa.
“We now keep the goats in a particular location and bring grasses from the bush and treat it with salt before using it to feed the goats. Within a short time the goats have grown and a number of them are pregnant and we hope to use this to improve our lot.”
Another beneficiary of the intervention, the Secretary of Paradise Ideal Group in Bansara, Yala local government area, Theresa Monkom, said the extension services offered to rice farmers and rice processing machine donated to the community has added value to rice farmers as it addressed capital flight from Bansara.
“Sasakawa has given us employment and has also helped the Bansara rice farmers sustain themselves. We can now compete with other adjourning rice producing states and we hope the government sustains the closure of borders so that the potentials of Bansara in rice production can be fully harnessed”, she stated.
Speaking earlier during the 2019 field day to some of the farmers, the Country Director of Sasakawa Africa Association, Professor Sani Miko, said the partnership between the organization and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was partly aimed at eradicating hunger in Africa as well as making agro-business a success in the country.
He explained that the new-introduced technology of cassava/maize intercropping and improved livestock production was also made possible with the support from African Cassava Agronomy Initiative as well as researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
One of the researchers from IITA, Ogunsani Thompson, said the new variety is aimed at improving the local variety that is already in existence and ensure that farmers cultivate what is needed in the market.