Ekiti State has a huge potential in rice production but over the years its capacity has been hampered by poor credit facilities for farmers and lack of modern equipment. With the partial closure of land borders by the Federal Government, which has curbed rice smuggling into the country to a large extent, local farmers now have opportunities to boost their production capacity.
The story is about to change as a civil society organisation, the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD) is attracting a huge investment from Japan to boost the capacity of local rice farmers in Ekiti State.
The NISD has entered into a pact with Japan in Nigeria to provide farmers in Ekiti State with modern equipment to boost rice production.
The organisation was presented with a cheque of $148, 209 by the ambassador of Japan to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Kikuta Yutaka. The project is being driven under the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects. The Japanese Embassy hopes that this public-private partnership assistance will contribute to increasing rice production in Ekiti.
At the event, the Ekiti state government was represented by the Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Folorunso Olabode; Special Adviser to the governor on Development Partnerships, Mrs. Margaret Fagboyo and Special Assistant to the governor on Civil Society Matters, Mr. Biodun Oyeleye.
While Kikuta signed on behalf of the Japanese Government, Mr. Martins Olamide, the Program Manager of NISD signed on behalf of his agency.
According to the contract documents, the donor (Japan) will make available to the recipient (NISD) the grant of $148, 209 or its local currency equivalent as of the date of disbursement by 31st March, 2020.
Olamide promised that the grant would be properly and exclusively used for the purchase of products and services necessary for the execution of the project as stated in the agreement.
While noting that the contract would be completed one year after the contract date, Olamide noted that the rice project is a boost to food security not only in Ekiti State but also in Nigeria.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Olabode, thanked the Japanese Embassy for investing in rice production in Ekiti State, just as he added that Ekiti needed more support from development partners to boost food security and create more job opportunities for its people.
Apparently overjoyed by the news of the grant from the Japanese government, some local rice farmers described it as a welcome development which would boost yield in the state.
A rice farmer in Imesi Ekiti, Femi Alowonle said: “We are very lucky in Gbonyin Local Government Area because this is one of the major rice belts in Ekiti. Provision of tillers and harvesters will make our jobs easier and we thank the government of Japan for this.
“The modern equipment will assist us to produce more and besides, it will attract more young men and women into rice production because our young generation doesn’t want to work with their bare hands.”
Another rice farmer in Egbe-Ekiti, also in Gbonyin Local Government Area, Ola Ogunmodede, heaped praises on the Japanese government and NISD for making the feat possible.
Ogunmodede said: “We rice farmers have formed ourselves into cooperatives to be able to access loans and inputs and the provision of modern farming methods by the Japanese will help us realise our dreams.
“The rehabilitation of Egbe Dam by the Ekiti State government, which will soon be completed, is also a major boost for rice production.”
A member of Rice Growers Association in Ekiti State, Bode Lucas, urged the government of Japan and other development partners collaborating with the Ekiti State government to extend the gesture to rice farmers in other parts of the state.
Lucas said: “We appreciate what the government of Japan has done for our colleagues in Gbonyin but we have rice farmers in virtually all the local government areas in Ekiti State.
“Investment in rice production is capable of turning Ekiti State into a major rice producer that can rival Kebbi, Ebonyi and other states because what the farmers need here is support in the areas of credit facilities and state-of-the-art equipment.”