By Our Reporter
The Japanese government has donated 20 rice reapers, as well aa 20 rice threshers to Nasarawa State meant to be utilized by small scale farmers in three local areas of Awe, Obi and Keana.
Japanese ambassador to Nigeria, Yutaka Kikuta, announced the donation at an elaborate ceremony that held in Azara, Awe Local Government Area of the state on Tuesday.
Mr. Kikuta, while commissioning and handing over the agricultural equipments, disclosed that the donation was coming under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP), under which the Japanese embassy, within two decades, have funded 170 projects across Nigeria, worth over $12m.
He explained that the scheme is designed to provide mechanized rice farming equipment to increase and improve the quantity and quality of rice produced by rice farmers, towards enhancing the economic wellbeing of communities in the three local government areas.
The Japanese ambassador added that the development in agricultural sector, is in line with the themes of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7), with the Japanese government pledging to further support economic transformation in Africa.
This, according to Mr. Kikuta is expected to be achieve through the promotion of innovation in agriculture, developing and expanding agricultural technologies, increasing income of small farmers through the Small Holder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP), among others.
He noted that before the commencement of the project in 2011, local farmers lose up to 20 percent of harvested rice due to damage from traditional method of threshing, not to mention additional cost of hiring manual labour.
“With the introduction of 20 rice reapers and 20 threshers, it’s our expectation that this project will reduce time and loss of rice from reaping to threshing,” the Japanese ambassador said.
Responding, Nasarawa State governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, commended the Japanese government for the choice of Nasarawa State farmers to benefit from such worthy collaboration, considering the comparative advantage the state has in the rice value chain.
Engineer Sule told the ambassador that Nasarawa State is blessed with 140, 000 hectares of land suitable for rice, with the state having a capacity to produce over 350, 000 metric tonnes of rice.
The governor disclosed that through the GGP, 442 rice farmers were empowered and trained to improve rice production technologies, management, with 35 front line extension agents also trained in good agricultural practice to be passed to other farmers, as well as 11 extension agents that were trained in Japan on improved rice production technologies and research methods.
He described the event as yet another milestone in his administration’s determination to further strengthen the collaboration with the Japanese government, towards achieving the desired import substitution and backward integration policy of the Federal Government.
“This intervention is in tandem with the vision, development objectives of this administration, aimed at giving agriculture its pride of place as the major mover of our state economy,” he stated.
While again commending the Japanese government for the initiative, the governor however charged the beneficiaries to ensure judicious use of the equipment, so that the purpose of the intervention will be achieved.
He announced that government will put in place mechanism for monitoring and supervising effective utilization of the agricultural equipments, directing the state Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the Nasarawa Agricultural Development Programme, to evolve a strategy to monitor the use of the reapers and threshers.
155 out growers working with Olam Farms Nigeria Limited, the technical partner for the project, are expected to benefit from the scheme.