Dr Mathew Ahmed, Niger’s Programme Coordinator for VCDP on rice and cassava, said this on Saturday in Katcha  while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“Going by the number of rice farmers benefiting from the VCDP and the hectares of land they cultivate, you will agree with me that Niger State has the potentials to feed Nigeria and West Africa,’’ he said.

Ahmed said 146 rice farmers were benefiting from the programme in the state and were cultivating a total of 10, 000 hectares of land.

He said that these farmers produce 120, 000 metric tonnes of rice per annum.

The VCDP coordinator added that the state has arable land and large number of farmers, especially youths, embracing modern techniques in farming.

The Programme Coordinator said that the VCDP was providing effective agronomic practices to the rice and cassava farmers for yield increase.

“The farmers have testified that before the VCDP came into their clusters they were getting one metric tonne of rice per hectare.

“As at today, they are harvesting four metric tonnes of rice per hectare of land.

“It is encouraging because the state and the country can become self sufficient in food production,’’ he said.

Ahmed said that the programme, which started as a pilot scheme in three local government areas in the state, had been increased to five local governments.

He said that IFAD was also assisting five other local government areas in the state under the Federal Government Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) arrangement.

Alhaji Shehu Yusuf, the Chairman of All Farmers Association in the state, reiterated that the state has the arable land to feed the country and West Africa with rice.

“As I speak to you, 7, 000 members of AFAN in Niger State are benefitting from the federal Government ABP scheme.

“Each person is expected to cultivate one hectare of land with a yield of 5.5 metric tonnes per annum, making a total of 385, 000 metric tonnes of rice annually,’’ he said.

Also speaking, Mallam Mohammed Ndako, the Chairman of Jinji Farmers Cooperative Society in Katcha Local Government Area of the state, commended VCDP, saying ABP had increased yield and income.

Alhaji Umar Kutigi, the Director of Agriculture Communication in the Niger Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the state had a land mass of 86, 000 square kilometres.

Kutigi said that the figure was 10 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass, adding that 85 per cent of the land was arable.