How APPEALS project is changing narratives about farming in Kogi

A federal government/World Bank assisted farming project tagged APPEALS is radically changing the narratives about government’s sincerity towards farming in Kogi state as SALIHU OYIBO reports.

Apparently, the APPEALS project was developed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in collaboration with the World Bank and other stakeholders with focus on food security, local  production, jobs creation and economic diversification.
In Kogi state, the project is primarily to enhance the productivity of small and medium scale farmers and improve value addition along the three priority value chains of rice, cashew and cassava.
Cashew was selected due to its export potentials expected to help in fulfilling the export vision of the project, while on food security, rice was chosen and for livelihood cassava was considered for the state.
In addition, the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic which really affected the nation’s economy demanded for alternative sources to improve livelihood.However to achieve this, the APPEALS project which is being coordinated by Dr Abdullahi Sanni Ozomata in the state swung into action in April 2020 by visiting farmers in their farm clusters  across the three senatorial districts with assurances that farmers would be given farm inputs to enhance rice and cassava production.Changing the narrativeSurprisingly, many farmers did not believe that the statement of Dr Ozomata as they all claimed that for many years the government and its agencies have been coming with rhetoric that they would assist the farmers, but till the end of the farming season, no input was given.
Therefore when the APPEALS project came with another promise, the farmers dismissed it with a wave of the hands, but Dr Ozomata proved them wrong when in the month of July 2020, he led his team to the farm centres and gave them grants and farm input to enhance their production.
Testimony by a farmer
One of the beneficiaries and a cashew farmer at Umomi in Ofu local government area Mallam Usman Tijani said “The first time the representative of the APPEALS project led by Dr Ozomata visited us in our  farm clusters centre with promises of assisting us, none of us took them serious because we had been fooled by such statements in the past.
“But to our greatest surprise, the APPEALS project came, sensitised us on how best we can improve on our work and gave us grant and input to enhance production of our crops.”
Precisely in the month of July 2020, Kogi APPEALS project engaged rice farmers to undertake dry season farming where the following  farming communities such as Odo-Ape Abugi, Akpatega, Ejule Ojebe, Koton-karfe, Shintaku, Kungbani, Osara among other communities  were visited.However, the visits  witnessed a large turn out of farmers as they were happy and eager to receive the grant and the input to commence the dry season farming activities.
Undaunted by the challenges of drought and flood during the 2020 wet farming season,   farmers supported by Kogi  APPEALS project were in high spirits as they began the harvest of their rice paddy across the different farm clusters in the state in the month of October down to December 2020.
Technical support from state gov’tAlso, members of the State Steering and the State Technical Committees led by the deputy governor, Chief Edward Onoja, were on oversight visits to commodity interest groups across the three value chains of rice, cashew and cassava.Chief Onoja, who expressed satisfaction with the performance of the rice  farmers at Ajaokuta, Adavi, Ofu, Igalamela/Odolu, Kabba-Bunu and Yagba local government areas, said the state government has established a rice mill  located and functional in Ejiba community to process paddy rice produced by Kogi farmers.
He assured farmers that the current administration would not relent in its effort to produce more food through consistent lashing unto most federal government, CBN and World bank assisted projects.
“Farming is the only alternative to food security. If there is enough food in the country, there would be a sharp drop in the crises that may arise as a result of hunger.”
Charge by state coordinator
Speaking at Umomi community in Ofu LGA, Dr Ozomata said the rice and cassava farmers were able to get to the stage of harvesting because officials of APPEALS project did not sit in the office and invite the farmers to know their welfare.
He noted that the officials moved out of  their offices from time to time to check the farmers on their farms in order to know what they are doing having been given  input and grant.
“We visited the farms on several occasions to sensitise them on what to do to succeed in their farming.
“In the past, middlemen took what belonged to farmers and went back to sell to the  farmers at exorbitant prices, but this time around, it is no longer business as usual because we ensure that the grant and the input get to the farmers directly.”I am happy that even the farmers mentioned that in the past, they collected money from merchants to clear their farms and after harvesting, the merchants came back to buy their produce at a ridiculous price that further  impoverished them who suffered day and night to produce the crops.”I am also glad that this time around, farmers in Kogi state are no longer borrowing because of the assistance they received from us. They can now sell their produce at a price that would make them happy and improve their standard of living.” 
Speaking on the grant given to the farmers, Dr Ozomata warned against giving money to any official of the project.
“Whoever comes to you and says you should pay back the money given to you, that person is not from APPEALS because the money is a grant through the World Bank, federal and Kogi state governments.”We are here today to see for ourselves what you are doing with the grant given to you and I am happy and impressed with your performance. The rice farmers have harvested bags of rice which is impressive and the cashew trees are neat and I am optimistic that the yield will be high during the harvesting period.” 
Other beneficiaries testify
One of the beneficiaries of the wet season rice farming and cluster chairman of ASCO camp farm centre, Umaru Tijani Ahmed, disclosed that over 120 members benefited from the 2020 wet season farming project for rice production.
He further revealed that at the end of the harvesting, over 250 bags were harvested from each of the 11 farm centres, assuring that the cluster would do better in the next wet season farming.
“APPEALS project has done greatly in Kogi state. We appreciate the project . I have never seen an agricultural project that assisted farmers from land preparation to harvesting stage and also gave us grant and farm input. It is marvellous and helpful to us.
“We are appealing to the project to assist us with harvesters and other farm implementations that can enhance our work. I am a graduate of mechanical engineering from FUT Minna I graduated 2007 and completed my NYSC in 2009 and regardless of all odds, I ventured into farming and today I am doing pretty well courtesy of the APPEALS project.”
Another cluster chairman  of APPEALS project at Uwowo – Ogbogbo in Igalamela local government area, Obaje Momoh, also revealed that his group harvested over 350 bags of 100 Kg rice at the end of 2020 wet season. “If not for drought, we could have harvested more bags of rice paddy. In the past, using the same size of land for rice cultivation, we can only manage to harvest between 40 to 50 bags because of lack of assistance. We appreciate the mechanised farming introduced to us by the Kogi APPEALS project.” While commending the initiators of the project, Momoh lamented that in the past, this type of programme meant to assist farmers only get to political farmers that had no business with farming.
At Uro community in Adavi local government areas rice and cassava farmers were visibly happy seeing the yield after harvest.
One of the cassava farmers, Mallam Usman Tijani, said, “At the beginning when the APPEALS officials approached us with promises of giving us grant and farm input, we did believe them, but now many farmers especially cassava farmers in Adavi are ready to key into the programme.”
Furthermore, the managing director, Kogi Agricultural Development Project, Mr Ogirima Bello, who led the team A of APPEALS  to Uro community for oversight function, said farmers in the community especially those in cassava and cashew value chain have done marvellous jobs with the grant and input they received.”The farmers are happy and they are using the programme to effect positive changes in their farming activities. Both the cashew and cassava value chain are doing well”.
Also at Odo-ape community in Kabba-Bunu local government where the farmers are predominantly cassava farmers, the story seems to be the same as the farmers praised the initiators of the project and appealed to the state government to sustain the project in the interest of farmers.

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