Uche Usim, Abuja
Thousands of smallholder farmers in various states across the country have received input packages for rice and tomatoes by the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
NIRSAL said the move is part of its proactive efforts to make the 2019 farming year a huge success.
At the recent flag-off of input distribution to thousands of farmers in Sokoto, NIRSAL’s Head of Project Monitoring, Reporting and Remediation Office (PMRO), Mr. Zahraddeen Muazu, who represented the Managing Director, Abdulhameed Aliyu, said the agency’s primary mandate was to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty through agriculture informs its commitment to the ABP.
“Ensuring food security and creating jobs in the country is our goal,” Muazu said, adding that NIRSAL was driving the process in its capacity as a Participating Financial Institution (PFI) under ABP, part of the agricultural transformational initiatives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration being driven by CBN.
He also said that ABP was meant to provide a strong springboard for for food security and wealth creation through off-take market-linked commercial agricultural production by smallholder farmers. He pleaded with them to work closely with NIRSAL’s PMROs who have specialised capacity in the area of farm-level risk management, project monitoring, and extension services, and to put the knowledge gained from the continuing capacity building and training workshops organised by NIRSAL during the regular field practice meetings to use.
NIRSAL has already launched dry season input supply in various states over the last two weeks and will continue with the input supply distribution this week in Gombe, Jigawa, Taraba and Kano states. In the coming weeks, the ABP input distribution will move to Anambra, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Ondo and Zamfara states, where cassava, maize, cocoa, rice and poultry farmers will receive input supplies ahead of the early wet season.
This new approach of very early season and on- time input supply system was proposed by NIRSAL to CBN and was approved by the CBN Governor thus breaking the jinx of late season input supply as was being previously experienced by farmers.
Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Sokoto State chapter, Alhaji Ibrahim Salihu, represented by the Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Tambari, applauded NIRSAL and CBN for the new system of early input supply and timely distribution, saying it would provide farmers early head start for the season thus giving them sufficient time to anticipate and exert control over field risk events. He added: “We hope that this early input supply system is concluded soon so that the majority of rice farmers receive inputs by the end of February,” he said.
Over 3,000 rice farmers who have benefited from the ABP input distribution so far are set to plant this February and hope for high yields at harvest time. Mallam Dauda Iliyasu, a rice farmer from Taka Kune, Goronyo LGA, said “we are happy to receive these inputs especially early in the year. This is the first time farmers in Goronyo LGA will benefit from government intervention.” He added that “in the past, we could not farm rice during the dry season, but now with the help of NIRSAL, we are not afraid to plant rice in the dry season because we have received water pumps, fertilisers and good seeds to do dry season farming.” Other farmers affirmed that they expect a bumper harvest early in June.
Also present at the input distribution exercise were representatives from CBN, Sokoto State Agricultural Development Project, and National Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC).
In previous years, most rice farmers failed to plant on time due to the late distribution of inputs, resulting in poor yields. The ABP was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015 and has continued to pave the way for big gains in the agriculture sector in terms of food production, job creation and contribution to national GDP.
Since its launch, national rice production has grown remarkably, with paddy production reaching a period high of 5.7 million metric tonnes in 2017. In terms of milled rice, that is 3.7 million metric tonnes. This demonstrates that self-sufficiency in rice production can be achieved in Nigeria.
With concerted efforts being made to combat challenges of previous years, a new milestone is anticipated this year. The inputs being distributed to rice farmers now include seeds, crop protection products, NPK and urea fertilisers, knapsack sprayers, petrol water pumps and mechanisation services.
A general approach adopted by NIRSAL in primary production is to align with Agricultural Commodity Ecological Areas (ACEAs). For NIRSAL, that is a fundamental layer of risk management. Thus, this dry season rice farming was designed to work in tandem with the natural in the ecological areas such as topography, nearness to water bodies for irrigation and so on.