The Ebonyi Government on Sunday said it had paid N87.1million as one year counterpart fund to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to boost rice production.
Mr Sunday Ituma, the state Programme Coordinator of IFAD disclosed this in Abakaliki at the conclusion of its national office assessment of some rice production and processing clusters across the state.
According to Ituma, the intervention will also cover the production and processing of crops like cassava and yam as well as general agricultural enhancement.
The coordinator commended the government for the prompt release of fund and promised IFAD`s readiness to partner with the government to achieve its rice production and other objectives.
Ituma informed the visiting team that the state office had intensified its drive to reduce poverty among farmers through increase agricultural production in the state.
“We have strived to enhance income and food security of the poor and rural households engaged in production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava in targeted local government areas on a sustainable basis.
“The programme targets small-holder farmers engaged in rice and cassava value chain in the councils, as we provide them with improved seedlings, fertiliser and agro chemicals, among others at highly subsidised rates,’’ he said.
“Adequate enhancement would be made in creating awareness of IFAD’s intervention to farmers, especially on requirements from them and the intervention’s time frame.
“We, however, appeal to the national office to assist us with irrigation facilities to ensure all season farming and modalities to check flooding which submerge cultivated rice and other produce farmlands,’’ he said.
He said he led the IFAD team to assess rice clusters Ikwo, Izzi, Ezillo local government areas and the Abakaliki Rice Mill Company, among other areas.
Dr Samuel Eremie, Leader of the IFAD National Office team, commended the Ebonyi Office of the organisation for its efforts and outlined areas of defects, sustenance and overall improvement.
“It was observed that one of your greatest challenges is how to get water off the fields, especially rice farms during flooding but we assure you that the problem will be effectively tackled.
“You should, however, seek other ways of driving the rice production, processing and markets in the state and not depend entirely on the government to ensure stability.
Prof. Jones Nlemchi, another member of the team, also commended the Ebonyi IFAD Office but urged it to involve more women and youths in the various rice production and processing clusters.
“The beneficiaries should be adequately informed on the contents of IFAD interventions and what it requires of them for effective collaboration.
“You should also ensure adequate data reportage and collation so that documented data would be the same with information obtained from the fields,’’ he said.