The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has encouraged rural farmers to plant crops that can fetch them good income in foreign earnings through exports. He made this call during the flag-off of distribution of sesame seeds on Friday at Otukpo Odu in Otukpo local government of Benue State on Friday.
The minister, recalled that “10 days ago, the high Commissioner of India was in my office and talked about something he wants Nigeria to grow and export to India. Pulses he called it. Very soon we will bring some of those seeds and we will show you how to grow them. We shall package them and export to India.
“You too will become earners of dollars. We should feed well. We should make money. We should contribute to Nigerian economy.”
Also, over 7,000 members in the locality around Otukpo were provided with Sesame seeds.
According to him, “the chairperson of the cooperatives led the first delegation to my office. When I checked their records, it was well kept. I was impressed. And I said this was fantastic. I then said I would not let you down. I said let’s go and reorganise all the cooperatives because the season has come for us to turn agriculture to a big business. We are going to train five extension officers for each local government.”
Winnifred Ochinyabo, who spoke about the intervention, said “at least two farmers from each cooperative were trained so they could go back and train the remaining members of their cooperatives. They are from nine local governments in zone C who are interested in sesame cultivation for this year.”
A total of 400 bags, each containing five kilogrammes of sesame, were distributed to over 7,000 farmers, each in a group of cooperatives. A member, or two, from each group was trained who, in turn, are to train others in their respective groups of about 15 each.
According to Ochinyabo, a 5 kg bag plants one hectare of farmland from which a harvest of 5,000 kg is realisable within a growth and production period of three months, under appropriate agricultural practices.
The traditional ruler, Och’Otukpo Odu, Dr John Eimonye, explained that Otukpo is “favoured by good weather for agricultural production of most root and cash crops that are found elsewhere in Nigeria (yams, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, soya beans, beniseed, maize, guinea corn, citrus, vegetables), and livestock.”
The minister also distributed improved variety of cassava stem to farmers in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue.
While distributing the variety which was developed by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP-Nigeria), Ogbeh said the variety is enriched with Vitamin ‘A’ to enhance nutrition.
The minister said the federal government’s agricultural programmes were not only targeted at ensuring availability of food to the people but to ensure they eat well.
He added that the federal government had began land clearing in rural areas to enable farmers expand their farms and to open up more space for youths to venture into the profession.
He said government had concluded plans to provide planters and harvesters and processing machines to aid farmers process cassava into starch and sweeteners for export.
Dr. Eimonye informed the minister about Otukpo, saying that, “in our rural development programmes, we have favourable land, and people, favourable environment. All that is left for us in Otukpo (is) to join your laudable food security programme, the solution of our challenges, which we believe the ministry of agriculture, particularly the Department of Rural Development, can handle effectively because, in Otukpo district alone, we have about 10 mechanised farm sites, while the traditional farmers stand at about 5,000 men and women farmers.”
While thanking the minister “for the land clearing we experienced here this year” and pleading “for more,” Dr. Eimonye added that extension services be provided and sustained, emphasising that “those new methods introduced have to be sustained so that other interested farmers would develop lasting trust, resulting in sensitisation of local communities on these new methods by all the stakeholders.”
“Nigeria, for so long, forgot agriculture,” the minister added and, “as a result, we are experiencing terrible poverty here.” On the sesame production, he noted that, “this year, we are starting a bit late. We tried to do some things earlier but there were obstacles. I assure you that, between October and March next year, there may be more bulldozers clearing more land. I do hope we could install pumps to draw water so there could be irrigation.
Chief Ogbeh counselled the farmers to make good use of the extension service providers to ensure good agricultural practices. “They will show you what to do,” he stressed. “They will teach you the right application of fertiliser. So, let nobody use NPK 15 15 15 anymore. There are new fertilisers that have been developed since I came in. The soil in every part of Nigeria has been tested to know which fertiliser is best for where and why?” An official of WACOT, supplier of the sesame seed, told the farmers to adopt good agricultural practices, planting at the right spacing, using the right agrochemicals against weeds and pests.
According to the minister, “these fertilisers are designed for special crops. If you use any other fertiliser, you will not get the same yield. We organised these to come. We will create a warehouse where you will get fertiliser when you want. And we will make sure that the best fertiliser gets to you.” Given good yield, the farmers are expected to make fortune this year. The minister outlined the nature of support for the farmers. “When it is time for harvest, we will bring threshers and we will find you market. Next year, the maize will come early. The sorghum will come early.”