By Philomina Attah
Abuja – Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen. Heineke Lokpobiri, said the Federal Government will construct more rural roads to enable farmers transport their produce to the market.
Lokpobiri made this known in Abuja on Thursday at the National Sensitisation Workshop on the selection of states to participate in the third Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP3).
He expressed optimism that the effort, when materialised, would also address post-harvest losses.
The workshop was organised by the Rural Access and Mobility Project, a Federal Government agency, responsible for constructing rural roads to ease farmer’s access to inputs and market.
He said most farm produce got destroyed, daily, because of lack of good road linking the rural roads to the market.
According to him, “From the report available to us, about 70 per cent of the 193 million Nigerians, whose only means of livelihood is agriculture, reside in the rural areas with half of them living less than 2 kilometres away from good road.
“This has sent negative signal on the Federal Government’s efforts toward revamping the sector as majority of our smallholder farmers still find it difficult to access agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertiliser.
“The RAMP1 and 2 was a huge success, which is why the World Bank is increasing its loan to about 500 million dollars for more construction of rural roads in the third phase (RAMP3).
“I believe it is as a result of the joint monetary and evaluation of both RAMP unit, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the development partners that gives rise to the third phase.
“There is going to be some level of transparency because monies meant for the project are paid directly to contractors and expenditure processes also monitored, “he said.
The minister said RAMP also includes maintenance as a sustainable measure to protect the huge investments on the roads and to enhance maintenance culture in the country.
He assured the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD) and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) of proper handling of the money to ensure the continued success of the project.
Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Ohaeri Stephen, said the project would help to alleviate mobility and access challenges faced by farmers.
“The activity of this project has created access for the health workers to also access rural populations with health facilities.
“I urge the participating states to be committed in the project, by way of ownership and pay their counterpart funds.
“I want to assure you that the Federal Ministry of Finance will do its best to ensure that the objective of these projects is achieved,” he said.
The World Bank Task Team Leader, Mr. Olatunji Ahmed, said that the bank donated money for the continuation of the project to alleviate the suffering of the rural populace.
“When we talk about roads in Nigeria, we are talking about 200, 000 kilometres of roads of which 50 per cent will come from rural areas.
“We started with RAMP1 in Kaduna and it was a great success. The success story is everywhere. We moved to RAMP2 which involved four other states and the lessons learnt in RAMP1 were carried over to RAMP2 to develop it.
“Ramp2 is progressing well in all the four states: Adamawa, Niger, Cross Rivers and Enugu.
“Based on the success story of the previous project, that is why more states have indicated interest in the third phase. We have more than 18 states here present,’’he said.
The National Coordinator of RAMP, Mr. Ularamu Ubandoma, said selection of states and their participation in RAMP3 would depend on their readiness in meeting the criteria to be discussed at the technical session.