The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) on Tuesday distributed rice processing equipment worth N8.6 million to five women farmers groups in Niger.
The State Programme Coordinator (SPC), Dr. Mathew Ahmed, while distributing the equipment to the farmers in Minna on Tuesday, said the measure would go a long way in creating jobs.
According to him, it will also ensure that local rice farmers produce the crop in line with international best practices.
“We are here today to distribute rice processing machines to our farmers to enable them produce rice that will compete favourably with the foreign rice.
“Many of the foreign rice we eat today in Nigeria are not better than our local rice because they are expired but our local rice is fresh.
“Some of the foreign rice we eat constitute health hazards, hence the need for VCDP to ensure food security,’’ he said.
The equipment distributed included five rice de-stoners, 10 rice par boilers, and 46 manual sprayers.
The coordinator said IFAD-VCDP would subsidise the cost of the equipment.
He explained that the groups selected from the five participating local government areas in the VCDP applied for the equipment.
The local governments include Bida, Wushishi, Kontagora, Shiroro and Katcha.
He said that aside training the farmers in mechanised farming in the value chain, the programme also trained them in using first-bottom approach to parboil rice.
“We are presently working with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to make sure that our farmers adhere to international best practices that will make their product accepted across the globe,’’ he said.
He said that there were 13,000 farmers participating in rice and cassava value chain in the state.
In her remarks, Dr. Amina Bello, wife of the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, commended IFAD-VCDP, saying that it had added value to the state’s agriculture drive.
She was represented by Mrs Kaltume Rufai, the Permanent Secretary, Niger State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
Bello urged the beneficiaries to utilise the equipment to ensure success of the programme.
Responding on behalf of one of the beneficiary groups, Hajiya Hadiza Yunusa, Chairman, Nufawamasu Gumi Rice Producers Association, Bida, said that before the coming of IFAD-VCDP the colour of their rice was not attractive and contained impurities.
Yunusa said that the VCDP had trained them on modern ways of cultivating, processing and marketing rice.
“Now we sell our rice and cassava to other West African countries, our customers even book in advance,’’ Yunusa said.