The Ebonyi Government has solicited the intervention of the Federal Government and donor agencies in the establishment of irrigation facilities to boost farming in the state.
Senator Emmanuel Onwe, the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Abakaliki on Monday.
He said that the intervention would promote all-season farming in the state.
Onwe, who noted that the World Bank gave a grant of 40 million U.S. dollars to Sokoto and Jigawa states in 2017 for irrigation purposes, said that Ebonyi also wanted such intervention.
He said: “Irrigation farming is capital intensive, as the establishment of an irrigation facility which will cover 500 hectares of land at the Ezillo rice farm, for instance, will cost between N700 million and N1 billion.’’
He, however, said that certain factors such as functionally and durability should be considered when establishing irrigation facilities, while the source of water was also very important.
The commissioner noted that boreholes only had short-term irrigation benefits because their water had high concentration of saline, which would destroy soil nutrients overtime.
He said: “The Ebonyi River is the source of water for the Ezillo water project and the quantity of water needed to irrigate between 1,000 and 1,500 hectares of land, for instance, is quite huge.
“The use of dams is capital-intensive because over N1 billion is required to establish such a facility, this would be quite taxing for the Ebonyi Government.”
Onwe said that the state government had intensified efforts to draw the attention of the Federal Government and donor agencies to the challenges facing its irrigation plans.
He said: “The Federal Government’s focus on the agricultural production of South-East states has increased because of the giant strides of the Ebonyi State Government in the sector.
“We want to maintain our status as a leading food producing state in the country and this can be achieved by engaging in all-season farming, supported by irrigation.”
Onwe noted that the Federal Government and the donor agencies could tackle the constraints facing the efforts of Ebonyi to engage in irrigation farming by exploring the irrigation potential of the Cross River.
He said: “The Cross River is the largest body of water in the South East after River Niger and it can be utilised for irrigation farming to feed the whole of southern Nigeria through the production of rice, cassava, tomatoes and vegetables, among other crops.
“The Central Bank Governor, the Minister of Agriculture and former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had visited Ebonyi on agricultural missions and they all acknowledged the huge agricultural potential of our state.
“The price of a bag of rice is presently N4,500 in Ebonyi, instead of its N9,000 price-tag elsewhere; our feats in rice production have impacted significantly on the national economy.’’