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The Fadama III Additional Financing (AF) has empowered 350 entrepreneurs with start packs in Niger.

Dr Aliyu Kutuji, State Programme Coordinator (SPC) of the programme made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday.

He said that the beneficiaries numbering 350 were given the start packs worth N100,000 each, totalling N35 million.

According to him, the programme in the state has achieved far more than its set objectives.

NAN reports that the main objective of the programme was to increase the income of rural farmers, food and job creation.

He revealed that the target was initially to empower about 300 youths and women, but was able to assist 350 entrepreneurs eventually.

“We gave them two-week training in some of the higher institutions in the state and we gave them starter pack of N100,000 each that is about N35 million.

“The beneficiaries are doing great in their respective businesses and most of them will showcase their products in the forthcoming Niger Fadama Trade Fair.

“We are also inviting about 2,000 farmers in the state to come with their products too.

“The essence of the trade fair is to showcase what Fadama has been doing in the state since the beginning of this administration, our governor and officials from the Fadama National will also be present.

He added that Fadama’s target was increasing the income of 75 per cent beneficiaries by 40 per cent at end of the programme.

“We still have a year plus for the programme, which means we will still achieve more before December 2019.

“In the area of food production which is rice and sorghum, we are to increase the output of the farmers by 40 per cent also at end of the programme.

“At present, we have achieved more than 50 per cent.

“ Prior to the programme, our farmers were realising 1.5 to 2 tonnes of rice/sorghum per hectare, but right now they are realising 5 to 6 tonnes per hectare,” he said.

The coordinator further said that Fadama had taken over about five out of 17 irrigation schemes in the state covering 600 hectares to enable farmers to produce all round the year.

“We have also constructed almost 35 kilometres of surface roads and 500 kilometres of roads under common user facility.

“We have six aggregation centres for our farmers to store their farm output for off-takers to buy and three agricultural hiring equipment centres, one in each zone.

“The programme also procured 10 tractors for Fadama Federation Association to assist our farmers to mechanise.

“We were able to assist our farmers with 150 power tillers in collaboration with the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs),’’ he said.

Kutuji, however, thanked the state government for giving Fadama freehand to run the project with the outline of the World Bank.

He said “The state government has been paying counterpart fund to support the project and the state Ministry Agriculture also assisted Fadama Federation Association with six tractors and three rice thrashers at subsidised rates.’’

NAN reports that Niger is one of the six Fadama core states partaking in rice and sorghum value chain programme.

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