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How rice farmers are creating wealth in Benue

Rice farmers in Benue State are determined to create wealth through rice production for the Nigerian market and beyond. For this reason, no stone has…

Rice farmers in Benue State are determined to create wealth through rice production for the Nigerian market and beyond.

For this reason, no stone has been left unturned in the value chain of rice production as farmers continued to utilise each phase to maximise profit.

At VitalisTarnongu’s farm, the breeder seeds for foundation would be due for harvesting in the next two weeks.

The farm, situated at the bank of River Benue, inside the University of Agriculture in Makurdi, uses irrigation to boost dry season rice seed production.

Tarnongu said what he did with Faro 44 breeder’s seed planted in a portion of the 1,000 hectares field was to multiply them into foundation seeds to become certified for farmers’ purchase.

“At this level it will be harvested as multiplication seeds, then replanted to produce certified seeds, which can now be planted by the majority of farmers to become grain for companies or individuals to buy and process for consumption.

“The rice seeds usually undergo three stages to become grain – from being breeder seeds to multiplication (foundation) seeds, then certified seeds (which is regulated by the seed council). Then farmers will purchase the seeds to produce grain in a larger quantity.

“On this farm, we are using irrigation because it is dry season. The duration of the seed maturity is 90 days. What you see on this farm is a Faro 44 breeder’s seed not up to a ‘mudu’ measurement, which we raised on a nursery bed for 20 days and transplanted by one foot apart; and it is doing very well.

“As it is right now, we are hoping to harvest 80 bags of 100kg per hectare; and multiplying this with the number of hectares cultivated so far would yield bountiful income,” he said.

Tarnongu said his plants were rid of any challenge of diseases as such things were taken care of with appropriate requirement from the early stage until its present level.

For birds or other insects which should have been a source of worry, the rice farmer said his 24-hour standby security men took charge of such concerns. However, he wants financial assistance from the government to further boost his quest for expansion in both field and equipment.

“From the revenue generated on this farm, I have over 100 workers to pay salaries. If I had small push from the government we would move forward and engage the youth, which will roaming the streets.

“As at now, I am singlehandedly carrying the load of this farm. I want to also appeal to the new government, both at the state and federal level, to pay attention to insecurity to avert the danger ahead because we are producing food,” Tarnongu concluded.

A young rice farmer, Olikita Ikani, who participated in this year’s season farming, said it was a lucrative experience on his seven-hectare field.

Ikani, who has prepared for another rice farm in the expected wet season, encouraged young people to venture into rice production.

“Young people can create wealth with rice production in Benue State,” Ikani said.

In the same vein, other farmers around the banks of River Benue, passing through Buruku and Kastina-Ala Local Government, engaged in this year’s rice farming.

Some of them at that axis, who are already harvesting their rice, appealed to government to show more interest in agriculture by empowering farmers to boost rice production.

The chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Comrade Aondongu Saaku, who corroborated the rice farmers, said that due to lack of fund, farmers around Buruku and Kastina-Ala were able to participate in this year’s dry season rice farming on a small scale.

He said that they were faced with limitation of land clearing and other inputs, adding that the farmers are on ground to farm, but there are no lands that are cleared for farming.

Saaku disclosed that the federal government had earlier promised rice farmers the necessary inputs for this year’s dry season, but noted that the government went into elections and forgot its commitment.

“The government had promised to make the needed inputs available, such that we collated all the necessary data in readiness on our part, but they forgot about agriculture entirely when they went into elections.

“So, farmers around the riverside of Buruku, Kastina-Ala engaged in rice production on a small scale. Some of them are already harvesting. We did the rice farm through irrigation system on our own and we are now getting ready for the wet season rice farming,” he said.

The AFAN chairman added, “If the government had given us a little push in irrigation agriculture this year, food production would be in surplus, by God’s grace. This is because rice production is very lucrative.

“We (AFAN) encourage young people to go into rice farming because money comes from it better, with no tension involved. In rice farming you don’t need to steal from anybody. It is the easier way of getting money.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Agric Science in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Thomas Unongo, explained that the state government, in spite of paucity of fund, distributed water pumps, high-yielding improved seeds, herbicides, among other inputs, to dry season rice farmers.

Unongo said the federal government and other agricultural agencies of the government also did the same thing through the provision of green houses.

He added that a lot was still being done for farmers to boost production in rice and other food crops across the state.

He, however, admitted that a lot more should be done, especially in the area of land clearing, stressing that government should clear forest land around river banks in rural communities and environs to further boost rice production.

The director emphasised that his ministry would keep doing its best to build the resilience of farmers so that they could conquer their challenges and move the state forward in agriculture. He appealed to policy makers to support young people in agriculture to succeed.

“If much is invested into Benue agriculture, no other state in this country can withstand the state in food production,” Unongo said.

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