Igbawase Ukumba writes that Nasarawa State government recently entered into partnership with the Japanese government to supply 25 per cent of total rice production in Nigeria
Rice is one of the staple crops grown in Nasarawa State. This is plus given that the state has about 140,000 hectres of land that is suitable for rice cultivation. The state also has the capacity to produce over 350,000 metric tones of rice, which was one of the reasons that prompted the government to go into collaboration with the Japanese government to improve the quality of rice and perhaps enable it supply 25 per cent of the total rice production in Nigeria.
The partnership between the Nasarawa State government and the Japanese government dates back to the year 2011 when the rice post harvest and marketing pilot project was conceived. Through this project, 442 rice farmers were empowered and built to improve the rice production technology of parboiling, milling, marketing and business management. Similarly, 35 frontline extension agents have been trained on good agricultural practices for dissemination to other farmers.
In addition, 11 extension agents were trained in Japan on improved rice cultivation technology and research method. It is in this connection that the collaboration had resulted to the establishment of the 1.5 tones per hour capacity rice incubation plant for the production and marketing of improved quality rice that could compete with imported rice in Nasarawa State. The plant is currently leased out to rice millers and dealers who are producing good quality rice called ‘Mama’s Pride’ . In the same vein, 27 destoners were also given to the rice millers in Lafia for the improvement of quality rice which they produce.
It was against that backdrop that the Japanese government, under its Grant Assistant for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP) scheme, recently donated 20 units each of reapers and threshers to some farming communities of Awe, Obi and Keana Local Government Areas of the state.
Flagging off distribution of the machines at Azara, in Awe Local Government area of the state, Governor Abdullahi Sule; in company of the Japanese ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Yutaka Kikuta said the occasion was yet another milestone in his determination to further strengthen the collaboration and partnership with the government of Japan towards achieving the desired import substitution of backward integration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governor had therefore hoped that the partnership between the Nasarawa state government and Japan government will be sustained because the state is indeed an agricultural state, hence he commended the government of Japan for the choice of Nasarawa state farmers to benefit from the worthy collaboration considering the comparative advantage the state has in the rice value chain.
“Let me assure Your Excellency, the ambassador of Japan, that Nasarawa State government will continue to seek areas of further collaboration with the government and good people of Japan in various sectors including health and education geared towards improving the economy and livelihood of our people. I want to state that this intervention is in tandem with the vision and development objectives of this administration aimed at giving agriculture its right place as the major mover of our state economy.”
Frontline Rice Production
Sule continued that it was in furtherance of his administration’s commitment that he recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IFAD/FGN for participation in the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) additional financing which he said that he has already approved the release of N88 million, which is the counterpart by the state contribution to that effect.
Similarly, the governor told the ambassador of Japan that Olam Group was currently having over 10,000 hectres of land in Rukubi village of Doma Local Government Area for the rice value chain development, especially with the out growers scheme beneficiaries.
Sule who was vividly convinced with the Olam Group’s development said: “The manager of the out growers scheme told me that he has over 4,000 out growers at the moment, and that to me, is really a huge achievement especially with their target of between 10,000 to 12,000 out growers in this area. So I commend Olam for this and call on all the other commercial farmers who are coming to Nasarawa State to copy from Olam so that we can continue to empower our farmers in the state.”
“You will recall that some weeks ago, my administration also signed an MoU with Azman Group for cultivation and processing of 12,400 hectres of land for rice in Toto Local Government Area. This endeavour is aimed at placing Nasarawa state on a global map as a frontline rice producing state. In addition, we are also in negotiations with the Dangote Group to acquire 50,000 hectres of land; both in Doma and Nasarawa Local Government Areas, for further cultivation of rice. By the time we finish that, Nasarawa State should be producing at least 25 per cent of the total rice production in Nigeria.”
It is pertinent to note that the Japan’s government development of Africa’s agricultural sector is in line with the goals of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development which was concluded in Yokohama, Japan recently. The Japanese ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Yutaka Kikuta, attested to this fact at the handing over ceremony of the reapers and thresher to the Nasarawa rice farming communities at Azara. Kikuta added that at the TICAD7conference, the government of Japan pledged to further support the economic transformation in Africa, particularly in agriculture to the promotion of Japan’s private sector’s investment in Africa.
Kikuta affirmed that: “The project we are commissioning today in Azara is one of the embodiments of the Tichan 7 commitment. Let me start by thanking Governor Sule for sparing his time to attend these important events for the commissioning and handover ceremony for the provision of rice reapers and threshers machines to farmers in Obi, Awe and Keana LGAs of the state. I wish to congratulate all the people of the communities and appreciate all the stakeholders for their unflinching support towards the process.
”Under the scheme of Grant Assistant for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP), the embassy of Japan has so far in the course of the two decades, executed 170 projects in various regions and areas in Nigeria worth over S12 million. The project of provision of rice reapers and threshers falls under the GGP scheme and it is designed to provide mechanised rice farming equipment to help rice farmers for their work thereby fostering the social and economic development of the communities.
“In your communities, local rice farmers spend long time harvesting the rice incurring additional costs with carrying their manual labour in losing up to 20 per cent harvest rice due to damage in operation process. Manual operation is hard work, especially for women. With the introduction of 20 rice reapers and 20 threshers, it is our expectation that this project will reduce time and loss of rice from reaping and threshing which will increase income for155 farmers and their families. It is expected that the income increase will provide the opportunity to invest more for rice yield so that socio-economic wellbeing of the benefiting communities will be further enhanced,” the ambassador maintained.
It is worthy to state that the gesture from the Japanese government will, no doubt, let the benefiting communities have mechanised rice reapers and threshers that will reduce the burden of the farmers. The mechanisation of the rice production will change the communities significantly like change in quality and productivity.
These envisaged benefits derivable from the introduction of mechanised rice production into the selected Nasarawa communities consequently gladdened the heart of Ambassador Kikuta as he disclosed to the mammoth crowd that came out from the selected communities of the three local governments m to witness the memorable even saying that, “I am equally pleased to let you know that this is a Public, Private Partnership Project that the Olam Nigeria Limited which will closely monitor the communities by offering technical assistance. As you may know, Olam Nigeria Limited is a company that the Japanese company; Mitsubishi which has a strong presence and working relation with local farmers in Nigeria, is one of the main shareholders.”
Kikuta maintained that the machines were symbols and goodwill from the people of Japan to the people of Nasarawa State, hence the project will contribute to the better future of Nasarawa State and further strengthen the relationship between Japan and Nasarawa.
Suffice to acknowledge that the collaboration between the Nasarawa State government and the government of Japan in the area of agricultural development dates back to the year 2011 with the implementation of rice post harvest processing and marketing pilot project that promoted adoption of improved rice technology along all the value chain, the Permanent Secretary in the Nasarawa State ministry of agriculture, Naphtali Dachor, revealed during the commissioning of the Japanese donated machines at Azara.
According to Dachor, “the collaboration is aimed at improving the quality of domestic rice and the state’s yearn for import substitution. The collaboration had led to the establishment of 1.5 tonnes per hour capacity rice incubation plant in Lafia that has already been leased out to the Lafia Rice Millers and Dealers Association. This was then followed by the donation of 27 rice detoners for the improvement of rice quality. Today we are witnessing another milestone in our collaboration with the government of Japan through the grant of 20 threshers and 20 rice reapers to Olam Rice out growers in Awe, Obi and Keana Local Government Areas.
Nevertheless, the management of Olam Farm could be the most excited participant because the farmers who had gathered to celebrate the epoch making event at Azara happened to be members of Olam Farm out growers programme. This was attested by the vice president of the Olam Farm, Raji George, during the commissioning of the Japanese donated machines by Governor Sule, as he said that, “it was a short journey that has grown into a very big one. We are very excited and want to seize this opportunity to thank the government and the good people of Nasarawa State for the peace and the enabling environment we have enjoyed so far, and we urge the government not to relent”.
With profound gratitude, George thanked sincerely the good people of Japan for the kind gesture through their GGP programme which has really touched the lives of rural people positively. He continued that it wouldn’t have come at a better time when research has proven that rice farmers are currently losing 25 per cent of their produce during harvest and post harvest activities as a result of manual harvesting. He expressed optimism that with those equipment donated by the Japanese government, that gap will be significantly narrowed.
“To the farmers, to whom much is given, much is expected. We hope and believe that you will not let us down. Continue to do the good work and more is yet to come. Just to support you, Olam Farm, in collaboration with NADP and GIZ green revolution centre, has packaged a training that will speak to the need of the farmer groups on the uses, repairs and maintenances of these equipment. Already we have kicked started the process of selecting 34 young farmers from these groups who will be specially trained on the operation and management of these equipment,” the Olam vice president said.
The traditional rulers of the communities selected as beneficiaries of the Japanese benevolence could not hide their joy as they told the Japanese ambassador that they were very grateful for the reapers and threshers offered to Obi, Keana and Awe Local Government Areas in collaboration with the Nasarawa State government. They assured them that their subjects who are beneficiaries of the gesture were going to make use of those implements judiciously.
The words of appreciations from the royal fathers were conveyed by the Sarkin Azara, Dr. Kabiru, who told the ambassador that the choice of his community (Azara) to flag off the programme was not by mistake. “In Azara alone, we roll out not less than 250 trucks of rice yearly. And each truck is about 30 bags, multiply by 250 will give the numbers of bags turned out annually from this community. We are very grateful because with manual harvest, we lose a lot of the rice before it gets to the point of consumption. However, with your intervention with the mechanised implement, there will be increase in the yield of the commodity,” the paramount ruler said.