Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (BATN’s Boost To Rice Farming)

As Nigeria continues making efforts to raise the bar in the
area of agriculture and lessens its overdependence on crude oil, more corporates are
beginning to lend a hand in food production, writes Raheem Akingbolu
Food security has been a growing concern for
government, which has in its view a population of well over 150 million that is experiencing
rapid growth.

It is a critical
element in the 17 Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (UN) and it is
crucial to the eradication of
poverty and hunger. The UN, in its 2015 Sustainable
Development Goals Fact Sheet
acknowledged that “500 million small farms worldwide, most still rain-fed, provide up to 80% of food consumed in a
large part of the developing world.”

Hence, it recommends
investing in smallholder farmers
as a sure path to food security and nutrition for the poorest, as
well as food production for local
and global markets.
In keying into this goal, the Federal Government, in recent years, has experimented with
various agricultural policies with varying results.

One of such
policies was the ban, last year, placed on the importation of
rice, which is a staple in Nigeria.
However, concerns raised by agricultural experts over
inadequate local production forced the Government to
modify the ban.

Zamfara State
Governor, Alhaji AbdulAziz Yari,
while addressing journalists after a Federal Executive Council meeting in October last year,
said that “the ban on the importation of rice would not
be enforced until the local industry is developed enough to
produce maximally for local consumption.”

Experts’ view
Experts are of the view that the wait for self-sufficiency in rice production may take a little longer, being that rice is a crop that requires high volume of
water and considering the
prevalence of rain-fed farming culture among rural farmers.
Minimal cultivation of the crop takes place during the dry
season, thereby making it hard to achieve an all-year round cultivation, which is critical to a
maximal annual yield.

It is gratifying to note that, in recent years, government has
shown strong support for dry-
season rice farmers in the country. For instance, in the
2013/2014 farming season, under the Growth Enhancement
Scheme (GES) of the Agricultural
Transformation Agenda (ATA),
government assisted tens of thousands of dry season rice
farmers with agricultural inputs,
including irrigation facilities and
equipment in some states where rice is widely grown.

There have also been concerted efforts by the private sector to
partner with government to
boost the productivity of
smallholder rice farmers. The
intervention of the British American Tobacco Nigerian
Foundation (BATNF) in dry season rice farming in some
northern states is one of such interventions worth mentioning.

Rural farming One community that bears
testimony to this is Gaba-Dokko in Bida, Niger State, where dry season rice farming is fast-
gaining acceptance. It plays host to one of the BATNF model rice
farms. With this project, BATNF
provides technical support and
agricultural inputs as well as finance to rice farmers
cooperative societies through its implementing partners.

Some of the other communities are
Kwande in Benue State and Ojeigbe in Ebonyi State.
Recently, the BATN Foundation and its implementing partners from the Niger State Agricultural
Development Project/FADAMA
Control Office (ADP/FCO) visited
dry season rice farmers and their model farms to monitor and evaluate the progress of the
project. The feedback indicated that the intervention is starting to yield the deserved, positive
impact.

Gaba-Dokko, a predominantly
Nupe community about 150 kilometres from Minna, is just
beginning to embrace dry
season rice farming.

Coordinator of the Niger State
ADP/FCO, Alhaji Suleiman Muhammed Vatsa, led a team of
ADP officials, which included Project Supervisor, Mr Aliyu Idris, and Mr Baba Shawa, as well as
Mr Tajudeen Akinwale of the
BATN Foundation, on a visit to the 11 hectares of farmland
used by the farmers. According to Alhaji Vatsa, while the native farmers in the community still
largely practise the traditional wet season rice farming, the site chosen for the dry season
farming project was previously not farmed during the wet season because of its vulnerability to flooding.

As a result, the land is not put to use all year round. But with the dry season rice farming initiative,
there is a turn around.

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