Ministry of Water Resources and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), on Friday, signed an MoU for proper utilisation of the irrigation channels of the 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA) to boost rice farming across the country.
The President of RIFAN, Mr Aminu Goronyo, told newsmen in Abuja that the Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, signed the MoU.
He said that the minister described the move as his contribution toward the Presidential Initiative to make Nigeria the rice hub in Africa and to ensure food security.
Goronyo added that the minister said government was determined to reposition and strengthen the RBDAs to become major economic nerve-centres in line with government’s economic diversification policy.
He said for proper utilization, the RBDAs were undergoing structural reforms toward partial and eventually full commercialisation of their operations, as the National Council on Privatisation approved the appointment of a transaction adviser to guide the process.
The RIFAN boss said “the ministry initiated the National Irrigation Programme with the aim of establishing additional 100,000 hectares of irrigated farmland by 2020.”
Goronyo added that the move was imperative “following increased food demand due to growing population.”
He explained that since most agriculture across the country was currently rain-fed, increased availability of irrigation by farmers was essential and in high demand.
He, however, noted that “because the ministry has the capacity to speed up the economic diversification moves, RIFAN seek the assistance of the minister for the utilization of its 116 facilities, including 38 irrigation and drainage projects, 37 dams and 41 water supply projects spread nationwide.”
The facilities include — River Basin Authorities such as that of Anambra-Imo, Benin- Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Hadejia-Jama’are, Lower Benue and Lower Niger.
Others are the Niger Delta; Ogun – Osun; Sokoto – Rima; Upper Benue and Upper Niger Basin Authorities.
The rice farmers association president said that the approval would reposition and strengthen farmers to produce more “and make the country a major economic nerve-centre in rice production line with government’s economic diversification policy.”
Goronyo, who noted that a token irrigation water charge would be paid in bulk to the RBDAs, said the irrigation scheme would help farmers in rice production three times a year with bumper harvest.
He said the minister also promised to meet with heads of all the affected RBDAs to work out modalities for work to commence.
He disclosed that the move was also in line with the promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari that goverrnment would revive all the 12 River Basin Development Authorities to boost agricultural activities across the country.
Goronyo added that “while irrigation is essential for rice productivity improvement, there is need for complementary services, infrastructure and institutions for greater impact on production and wellbeing.”
He, however, said that RIFAN, under the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria, would accompany the scheme as others under the rain fed through the provision of institutional support services and complementary farm inputs.
These include the facilitation of access to farm inputs such as fertilizer and herbicide.