James Emejo in Abuja
The federal government Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme- Phase 1 (ATASP-1) has injected 464 metric tonnes of food valued at N32.2 billion into the economy against a target of 100,000MT.
Also, since its launch in March 2015, it has generated 299,615 jobs compared to a target of 120,000 jobs.
This was made known yesterday by the scheme’s National Programme Coordinator, Mr. Ibrahim Arabi, during an interactive session with journalists.
He said the intervention had further boosted the income of farmers by 20.5 per cent against 25 per cent target at mid-term review of the programme, expressing confidence that the benchmark would be met before the end of the programme.
Arabi, however, lamented that inadequate counterpart funding from stakeholders remained a major constraint to the full realisation of its objectives, adding that it seeks to train 40,000 youths in various value chain activities in the sector before the end of the programme in 2020.
Nonetheless, he said over 20,000 farmers and processors, including women and youths, had been trained on Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) and food processing across the four Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZs) from inception to date.
Essentially, the ATASP-1 emanated from the deliberate efforts of the federal government to attract private sector investment in agriculture; reduce post-harvest losses; add value to agricultural produce; develop rural infrastructure as well as enhance access of farmers and other value chain actors to financial services and markets.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had produced ATASP-1, which seeks to tackle the challenges in the country’s agriculture sector.
ATASP-1 is funded to the tune of $174.85 million, including grant facility, and became operative in February 2015 and subsequently launched in March 2015.
Originally a five-year programme which was later extended for two years, the programme is currently being implemented in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Green Alternative Agriculture Policy and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
According to the national programme coordinator, over 50 per cent of beneficiaries have adopted improved technologies introduced with regards to production, processing and post-harvest handling of rice, sorghum and cassava, and have also acquired additional assets through enhancement of income.
He said as a result of the programme intervention, the areas under cultivation of three commodities increased from 68,000 (Ha) target to 73,506 (Ha).
Arabi further explained that to achieve its set objectives, ATASP-1 adopts the strategy of capacity building/training and empowerment of farmers, women and youths among others across the three commodity value chains of cassava, rice and sorghum alongside rural infrastructure development.
He added that the programme is currently ongoing in 200 rural communities, 33 local government areas in seven states-Anambra, Enugu, Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi and Sokoto-with a land area of 194, 426Km and a population of 32,121,944 people who are predominantly farmers.
The national coordinator said the scheme has contributed to food and nutrition security, job creation objectives of the agricultural policy.