By Chinyere Anyanwu
In a bid to further enhance food and nutrition security, economic growth and job creation, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), has flagged off the distribution of free agricultural inputs and quality seeds to smallholder farmers in Edo State.
The event, which took place at the Benin office of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) featured the distribution of equipment such as food dehydrator, motorised oil palm harvester, cashew cracker, 3 HP water pump, knapsack sprayers, agrochemicals, growth enhancers, power tillers, cassava stems, planters and cassava processing equipment, among others.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, who represented the minister, said, “the smallholders are the most vulnerable in times of crisis. It became imperative for the Federal Government to support them with the much-needed inputs, especially seeds, the most important factor that determines farmers’ yield, to enable them recover quickly from the setback of the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity.”
He revealed that 35 per cent of the inputs were targeted at women farmers and processors in line with the targets set in the National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women. “Similarly, 10 per cent is targeted at persons with special needs and this has been communicated to the farmers’ associations to act accordingly.’’
Umakhihe emphasised the commitment of the ministry to addressing the national food security by mapping out strategic policies such as the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), the Green Imperative Agricultural Promotion Policy, NATIP and Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), among others.
He stated that as part of efforts to support smallholder farmers, the ministry has distributed different equipment and improved seeds and seedlings of various crops to farmers in Osun, Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba states. The next major input and equipment distribution will be in Katsina State.
The permanent secretary tasked the beneficiaries to make judicious use of these inputs to produce food for the nation while calling on other stakeholders to provide similar support to farmers “so that, together, we can become self-sufficient in food production.”
In his welcome address, the state Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Security, Stephen Idehenre, stated that these initiatives were designed to provide critical support to smallholder farmers in the state, leverage land assets toward driving development and diversify the economy with a focus on sustaining food security.