FG targets 100,000 hectares of irrigated agriculture

Abuja- The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has developed a 15-year strategic plan to develop 100, 000 hectares of irrigated agriculture in the country.

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The Director, Irrigation and Drainage, with the ministry, Mr Matthew Offie, disclosed this in an interview with the the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said that this would boost self sufficiency in food production and also generate foreign earnings.

The director told NAN that Nigeria cannot continue to depend solely on oil, saying agriculture through irrigation farming would go a long way to boost all-year round farming.

According to him, the plan which is in three phases will create avenues to see how to move the sector forward and partners with other sectors.

Offie said the Federal Government alone cannot drive the change, adding that the private sector needed to be involved.

“The Ministry has planned to develop  100,000 hectares of irrigated agriculture; we are currently working to see how soon this becomes operational.

“We have seen that government alone cannot fund these things; that is why we are partnering with private individuals, who have showed interest in developing irrigated agriculture in the country,” he said

The director said the Federal Government has shown its commitment towards improving the capacity of the Ministry of Water Resources in the inauguration of the Graduate and Youth Empowerment scheme.

The scheme, he said, allows unemployed youths to benefit from irrigation farming and Aquaculture through provision of water and land.

He said that River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) cultivate already developed irrigation scheme annually to boost food production, saying as the rainy season goes, they would utilise existing irrigation schemes.

Mrs Esther Oluniyi, Deputy Director, Irrigation, Planning, Design and Management with the ministry, told NAN that the scheme was an opportunity for youth interested in agriculture to engage in irrigated farming.

She said two RBDAs: Lower-Niger, Ogun-Osun, have been inaugurated, saying reports coming from the beneficiary youths have been encouraging.

“The ministry is interested in youth empowerment, hence the introduction of this scheme, with the enormous water that has been impounded in our dams, we are already achieving a lot.

“The beneficiaries are earning a lot from Aquaculture, farming, we are extending it to other RBDAs soon.”

Oluniyi urged youths interested in agriculture and Aquaculture to locate RBDAs nearest to them to meet the criteria and access the opportunity.

She added that plans are underway to extend irrigation opportunities to commercial farmers to cultivate rice toward boosting food security.

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