Rice farmers partner ministry of water resources, to access 116 water facilities nationwide

• Targets all year round rice cultivation

Ministry of Water Resources and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), on Friday, signed an MOU for proper utilisation of the irrigation channels of the 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA) to boost rice production across the country.

The President of RIFAN Mr Aminu Goronyo, disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Abuja shortly after the MoU signing ceremony.

He said the Minister described the move as his contribution towards the Presidential initiative to make Nigeria rice the hub in Africa and ensure food security.

Goronyo said the minister revealed to them that government was determined to reposition and strengthen the RBDAs to become major economic nerve-centres in line with government’s economic diversification policy.

He said for proper utilisation, the RBDAs were undergoing structural reforms towards partial and eventually full commercialisation of their operations, while that the National Council on Privatisation has approved the appointment of a transaction adviser to guide the process.

“The Ministry has initiated the National Irrigation Programme, which aimed to establish additional 100,000 hectares of irrigated farmland by 2020,” Goronyo said.

Goronyo said the move has become imperative because as food demand rises due to growing populations and with the closure of Nigeria borders, increased agricultural output is crucial.

He added that since most agriculture across the country is currently rain-fed, increased availability of irrigation use by farmers is very essential and in high demand.

The RIFAN President said because the ministry has the capacity to speed up the economic diversification moves, RIFAN seek the assistance of the minister for the utilisation of its 116 facilities which include 38 irrigation sites, 37 dams and 41 water supply projects spread nationwide.

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The River Basin Authorities, include Anambra-Imo, Benin- Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Hadejia-Jama’are, Lower Benue and Lower Niger. Others are Niger Delta; Ogun – Osun; Sokoto – Rima; Upper Benue and Upper Niger Basin Authorities.

He said the approval would reposition and strengthen of the rice farmers to produce more rice and make Nigeria become major economic nerve-centre in rice production in line with the government’s economic diversification policy.

Goronyo said the irrigation scheme would help the farmers in rice production three times a year with a bumper harvest.

He said the Minister promised to meet with the heads of all the affected RBDAs to work out the modalities for work to commence.

Goronyo added that while irrigation is essential for rice productivity improvement there was the need for complementary services, infrastructure, and institutions for greater impacts on production and wellbeing.

He, however, said RIFAN under the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank would accompany the scheme as others under the rain-fed by the provision of institutional support services and adequate farm inputs.

“These include the facilitation of access to farm inputs such as fertilizer and herbicide that are of great importance to boost rice productivity and the availability of improvement of extension services to provide a source of information and training for the farmers,” he added.

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