Uche Usim, Abuja
Thousands of smallholder farmers in various states across the country have received input packages for rice and tomatoes from 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 was 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 is to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty through agriculture, informed of its commitment to the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme by “ensuring food security and creating jobs in the country is our goal,” Muazu said.
He added that NIRSAL was driving the process in its capacity as a Participating Financial Institution (PFI) under the ABP, part of the agricultural transformational initiatives of President Muhammadu Buhari administration being driven by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He also said that the ABP was meant to provide a strong springboard for food security and wealth creation through offtake market-linked commercial agricultural production by smallholder farmers and 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.
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 would move to Anambra, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Ondo and Zamfara states, where cassava, maize, cocoa, rice and poultry farmers would 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 the CBN and was expeditiously approved by the governor of the CBN 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 the CBN for this 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, fertilizers and good seeds to do dry season farming.”
Other farmers affirmed that they expected a bumper harvest early in June.
Also present at the input-distribution exercise were representatives from the 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 5.7million metric tonnes in 2017. In terms of milled rice, that is 3.7million 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 & urea fertilizers, knapsack sprayers, petrol water pumps and mechanization 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.