To make the goal of economic diversification achievable, the Ebonyi State government launched a one-man, one- hectare scheme, with the target of capturing 80,000 farmers and providing them with soft loans.
Aside this, the state also provided 13 bulldozers, 40 tractors with complementary equipment; agro chemicals, fertilizers, while non- selective herbicides and seedlings were given to farmers at an interest free arrangement.
International fund for agric and FADAMA counterpart funds was paid by the government to access funds for the development of hectares of land.The government also acquired 250,000 hectares of arable land, targeting over 8,000 civil servants and 65,000 farmers to cultivate rice.
The result of the agricultural programme was a financial boom for rice farmers in the state. People from every part of the country, were coming into the state to buy Ebonyi rice.
The state commissioner for Agriculture, Barr. Uchenna Orji told The Guardian that 2016 was a litmus test for the state on agriculture, especially on rice production.
According to him, “we started with a meeting with stakeholders, during which a resolution was reached on crop of comparative advantage and other farming activities, and rice was taken as core commodity, though maize, tomato, palm oil, plantain plantation, poultry and fishery were identified as priority.
“Government believed that all the value chain in rice production will be engaged from primary to tertiary production, so 40 tractors of 75 horse power with full implements were purchased, 24,041,000 smallholders farm machines, such as planters, thrashers, whinowers, power tilling machines, among others, were distributed to farmers. Government trained farmers and gave inputs to over 540,000 of them under the state rice programme made possible by the 2billion commercial loan secured by the state government.”
He further stated that 2017 has even greater prospect, adding that the state is targeting over 500,000 metric tonnes of rice this farming year.Orji added that the state has commenced dry season rice in collaboration with the Cental Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and will start the raining season rice production on time.
A rice farmer, Iduma Okeke said last season’s rice production favoured the farmers, because of bumper harvest, thanking government for providing incentives, which includes agro chemicals, fertilizers, selective and non-selective herbicides and seedlings at interest free rate.
Another farmer, Mr. John Udude, who also praised state government’s policy on rice production, advised government to take cognisance of farmers with small farmlands.
He called on the ministry of Agriculture, to cue into government’s policy to make it more functional and operational.
“We have many virgin lands in this state that have not been used over the years, such land can be devoted to rice and cassava production, these products are among the exporting products in this country, which can provide both employment and revenue for the people and government,” he stated.