Jude Chinedu, Enugu
If the recent steps by the Enugu State Government in the area of modern agricultural methods are anything to go by, the state would soon become a leader in agricultural production through a project aimed at drawing farmers away from crude agricultural practices towards total mechanization.
Implemented by Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS), the project has witnessed the demonstration of various modern farming equipment at different farm clusters across the state. Acting head of the project, Dr. Joseph Ochiaka, who led a team of experts to Ugbawka Rice Cluster, Okpatu Cashew Cluster and Eha-Alumoma Cashew Cluster, where motorised cutters and harvesters were demonstrated, said the project was government’s initiative to reposition farming.
He promised to fully implement the adopted technologies for the overall benefit of cashew and rice farmers. He said APPEALS would fully implement the project development objectives of enhancing the productivity of small and medium-scale farmers and increasing value along priority value chains of cashew, rice and poultry. He said once farmers were able to adopt the processes, there would be massive departure from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming, which would boost food production.
APPEALS national procurement specialist, A.B.K. Tijani, praised the farmers for their enthusiasm and personal efforts already put into their agricultural activities, assuring that the project would support them in accessing the technologies once they were embraced. Also, national project accountant, Dr. Ahmed Tijani, advised farmers that when they embrace climate-smart technologies, they would increase their yields and market potential, thereby increasing their revenues.
Enugu APPEALS communication officer, Ambrose Igboke, said the project seeks to “enhance agricultural productivity among small and medium-scale farmers in Enugu State, to support farmers to have increase in production of rice, cashew and poultry and to empower women, youth and people living with disabilities to engage in agribusinesses.”
He noted that the project seeks to increase output and improve processing and marketing of rice, cashew, poultry and aquaculture among other value chains. It also aims to increase the number of farmers adopting improved technologies in agriculture: “To create and sustain infrastructure for agribusinesses, offer technical assistance, management and knowledge sharing with beneficiaries and to create business alliances and out-grower scheme.”
One of the farmers, John-Mary Eze, said he was impressed with the demonstration noting that the equipment would improve their agricultural practice. He, however, hinted that the major problem faced by the farmers in the area was poor land preparation: “The major problem we have here is land preparation. If you look, you will see the kind of farming we do. If we are to have better yields, the government should assist us. We need bulldozers and tractors. If we have those incentives, then these things that were demonstrated here will work out well.
“Without a level ground, you can’t use rice cutter or harvester to harvest your rice. We want the government to help us improve the standard of our farming so that we can get what we want. We need more inputs and machinery. We are doing most of these things on our own through cooperatives.
“At times we lease tractors from Ebonyi State. The tractors come most times around ending of March and April. By then the land is too soft and the tractor begins to sink. If we can get the tractors by February or early March, by May or June we will begin to plant and we won’t have problems.
“We need bulldozers to pull down all these trees you are seeing. Getting us machinery for the preparation of land is the major problem we have. It is when this is done that we can start to talk of planters, harvesters, threshers, trans-planters and cutters.” He further lamented huge financial loses running into millions of naira incurred by the farmers due to lack of equipment:
“We are supposed to get six tons per hectare but we get less than two tons. So, we lose four tons.Each ton of rice costs around N300,000. You see the loss is much, especially because we use manual labour.”
Another farmer, Michael Nwobodo, who was equally happy with government intervention pleaded for soft loans to help them undertake preliminary activities that will make for better yields: “I am happy because there is nothing as pleasing as when you are doing something and government decides to come into it. It gladdens the heart. I think that once we learn this practice, cutting of rice will be easier for us. We want government to help us with loans because we need money to get the best out of our work.
“Money will help us to acquire all we need for land preparation. They have promised to give us the equipment so we are happy but our major problem now is how to prepare the land and make it good enough for farming.”
It is projected that 10,000 direct individual beneficiaries and 50,000 farm household members as indirect beneficiaries would be part of the Enugu APPEALS Project while about 35 per cent of the total direct beneficiaries would be women.