The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) on Friday distributed farm machinery to nine groups in Ebonyi.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project was initiated under a tripartite agreement between the Nigerian Government, South Korea and FAO under the South-South Cooperation.

Dr Babandi Amin, Director, Federal Department of Agriculture in the ministry, noted that the focus of the project was on the development of the rice value chain in Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire.

Amin, represented by Dr Fatima Aliu, the ministry’s Rice Value Chain Desk Officer, noted that the main objective of the project was on increasing the capacity of the countries to develop competitive and inclusive rice value chains.

“It is expected that the outcome of the project’s intervention is to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of local rice farmers and processors.

“It is also aimed at improving market access for small-scale farmers, women and youths and is being implemented in Ebonyi due to the state’s rice production and processing comparative advantage in Nigeria,” he said.

Babandi thanked the Ebonyi Government and other stakeholders for providing the ministry and FAO with the necessary support to successfully implement the project.

“We expect more cooperation and support from the government and people of the state while urging the beneficiaries to judiciously utilize the machines.

“It is hoped that the machines will increase your efficiency and competitiveness in rice production and processing, as well as improve your market access,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Moses Nome, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted that the state government was willing to collaborate with the project to improve its rice production capacities.

“The expansion of the project is important because it would provide job for the teeming Ebonyi populace including framers, civil servants and other segments of its society.”

He advised the beneficiaries not to store the machines or use them for other purposes and to consult officials of the state agriculture ministry when necessary .

The South-East Director of the ministry, Mr Nnamdi Ibe-Ezemu, commended the project implementers of the project.

“Rice is a golden grass in the world and we are doing our utmost to encourage its production as well as to empower rice producers in Ebonyi and entire South-East zone,” he said.

Dr Sofia Akuloma, FAO Representative in Nigeria, said that Ebonyi plays a vital role in the organistaion’s plans due to the way it meets the rice needs of the country.

Akuloma represented by Mrs Adeola Akinlola, noted that the project, which was in its first phase, would end in March 2018 with the second phase focusing on improving its mechanization capabilities.

Chief Abel Nwafor, one of the benefiting groups’ member, thanked the project implementers for their intervention and pledged to effectively utilize the machinery received.

NAN reports that the machinery distributed included three power tillers, two threshers, six water pumps, one rice mill de-stoner, four moisture meters and 10, 000 packing bags (25kg), among others.

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