The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, on Saturda distributed improved variety of cassava stem to farmers in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue.
While distributing the stems which were developed by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP-Nigeria), Ogbeh said they were enriched with Vitamin `A’ to enhance nutrition.
The minister said government agricultural programmes were targeted at ensuring availability of food to the people and ensure they eat well.
Ogbeh said farmers deserved all forms of support from government and Nigerians, adding that it was their efforts that had prevented food crisis in the country.
The minister said that government had begun land clearing in rural areas to enable farmers to expand their farms and 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.
Ogbeh said government had also concluded plans to build dams in rural areas to support irrigation as the country could no longer depend solely on rain for food production.
“In a few months , we shall begin to build dams in local government areas across the country as agriculture can no longer depend on the rainy season alone.
“We must ensure food production all year round,’’ Ogbeh added.
The Ochi Idoma, Chief Elias Obekpa, said farming was a God-given vocation and the only means of livelihood of the Idoma people.
Represented by Chief Anthony Adejo, a palace chief, Obekpa urged his followers to heed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to return to the farm.
He said that it was time for the whole nation to wake up from the slumber and turn to agriculture and address the issue of unemployment in the country.
The traditional ruler said crude oil was no longer capable of sustaining the country, urging Nigerians to embrace agriculture as there was dignity in farming.
Obekpa, however, urged the government to ensure prompt supply of farm inputs like seeds, fertilisers and agro chemical as agriculture was seasonal.
Earlier in his remarks, the acting National Coordinator of WAAPP-Nigeria, Mr James Apochi, explained that WAAPP was a programme funded by the World Bank.
He said the aim of the programme was to boost agricultural productivity and enhance regional integration in West Africa.
The coordinator said the programme, in collaboration with the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, was executing three projects.
Apochi said the projects were fingerling multiplication, cassava stem multiplication and adopted village extension programme covering over 12 villages across the state.
The coordinator said the distribution would stimulate domestic production of cassava for consumption and export, generate employment for youth, stimulate rural economy and reduce hunger and poverty.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mr Oche Abor expressed happiness and appreciation for the gesture and prayed God to sustain the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
He said people in rural areas were primarily farmers, saying that more of such government presence required to boost agriculture in the country.
Abor said government should take mechanisation seriously as farmers were ready to feed the nation and the entire continent.
He said WAAPP-Nigeria and the ministry had not let their hopes down, saying that the programme had restored farmers’ confidence in government. (NAN)