Failure to pay counterpart funds may hamper economic, social development in Anambra State-Azor

Anambra State Governor, Professor Charles Soludo non-payment of counterpart funds for health, education, agricultural programmes, among others organised by the Federal Government of Nigeria and International Fund for Agricultural Development-Value Chain Development Programme (FGN/IFAD-VCDP) by Anambra government might adversely affect production of rice and cassava in the state, according to a civil society activist, Mr Chris Azor.

A reliable source who pleaded anonymity told journalists on Tuesday in Awka that the Anambra Government last paid her counterpart fund for the FGN/ IFAD-VCDP projects in the year 2018.

“This is the fifth year running since the Anambra Government paid her counterpart fund for the FGN/ IFAD-VCDP programme last.

“The state first paid the counterpart fund of N94.4 million in the year 2015, in 2016, it paid N94.8 million, due to additional financing between the year 2021 and 2023 the money rose to N118 million yearly, meaning that it is owing about N590 million.

“The programme first began with three Local Government Areas of Anambra East, Anambra West and Ayamelum, later Orumba North, Awka North, and finally Orumba South, Ogbaru and Ihiala, “the source revealed.

Mr Azor disclosed that the FGN/IFAD-VCDP programme is aimed at enhancing on a sustainable basis incomes and food security of poor rural households engaged in production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava.

He said the FGN-VCDP, an international agency, was the major body funding the programme while the federal and state government paid counterpart funds.

He said the project which began in the year 2015 was expected to end in 2024 and was envisaged that the project might be extended due to its obvious impact.

He noted that the programme had impacted positively on the food security, job and wealth creation in the state following statistics made public by the agency.

“For instance, Anambra farmers stunned the nation when they recorded a quantum leap from 2.5 ton per hectare for rice/cassava nine ton per hectare in rice production to six ton per hectare and cassava thirty ton per hectare in 2015, respectively.

“FGN-VCDP/IFAD Anambra State internal mid-term progress report (June 1, 2019 to October, 2022) revealed that farmers in the state have continued to improve their yield in cassava and rice making the state a force to reckon with in the food production areas in the country.

“Available operational records further revealed that Anambra hit 210, 000 metric tons of rice production in the year 2016.

“They also produced more than 540, 000 metric tons in 2019 with the projection of 791, 000 metric tons from 2020 and beyond.

“According to official records, 262 rice farmers comprising 198 female and 64 male were supported to cultivate 214 hectares of rice under the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility of COVID-19.

“8, 500kg of certified rice seed, 460 bags of 50kg NPK fertilisers, 230 bags of 50kg Urea, 250 litres of selective and nonselective herbicides were provided to farmers to cushion the effects of covid-19”, the official document revealed.

“Again, 396 cassava farmers groups consisting of 1, 875 adult male, 2025 adult female, 664 male youth, 634 female youth deposited N10, 116, 982 to pay for matching grant for 2022 cassava wet season in 2022.

“The record also showed that, 608 rice farmers groups consisting of 1975 adult male, 1866 adult female, 1522 male youth and 1026 female youth deposited N16, 801, 000 to pay for matching grant support for 2022 rice wet season production.

“However, these gains already recorded in agribusiness might nose dive if the state fails to act fast in fulfilling her financial obligation for the project.

“The state contribution is for running costs mainly used for the payment of staff salaries and allowances and other sundry administrative expenses.

“Due to the delay in the payment, FGN/IFAD-VCDP staff in Anambra area owed 13 months salaries and other allowances, a situation that has negatively affected the work attitude of the workers and by extension programme implementation.

“The morale of workers in undertaking their responsibilities to farmers have largely been affected because it is not easy for someone to work for a whole 13 months without salaries and you expect magic from such a worker,” a staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

“A beneficiary who simply identified herself as Mrs Ngozi said she has been part of the Programme since inception, adding that the response attitude to farmers by FGN/IIFAD-VCDP staffers was fading in recent time.

“When we first started the Programme, they told us that they are responsible for capacity building and extension services and these were the reason behind the initial success recorded.

“Lately, when you have problems in your farm and contact them, the first time the FGN/IFAD-VCDP staff will tell you is, we have not received our salaries and many at times delay or decline the intervention,” Mrs Ngozi lamented.

“She noted that about 4, 000 rural farmers including; women, men and youths are participating across the eight constituent local government areas through various farmers’ co-operative societies.

“It is through the co-operative societies that FGN/IFAD-VCDP execute its projects like construction of market stalls, stores, construction of cassava bulky centres, rice mills, and boreholes.

“They equally build the capacity of farmers through training and extension services in addition to supply of equipment, matching grants on inputs and certified seeds and quality inputs among others”, she said.

“Mrs Ngozi appealed to the state government to urgently fulfil her obligation by paying the counterpart fund, as the programme meant so much for the socio-economic well-being of the state.

“Dr Foster Ihejiofor, Anambra State Commissioner for Agriculture when contacted on the reason behind the non payment of the counterpart fund simply told journalists to speak with FGN/IFAD-VCDP State Programme Co-ordinator,

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