A’akwa autonomous community is a small settlement with massive land mass for rice farming in Okpoma Yala local government of Cross River State. The community is synonymous with remoteness of lying somewhere at the end of the road bounded by the great River Oe’yi Onwu. But for rice cultivation in Cross River State, this arid land with ancient buildings is a ready host to commercial rice farming in this millennium.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Santuscom Agro Hub pioneered by Paul Santus, a new wave of rice technology has begun to ripple across the community. This technology have the potential to more than double yields, while raising the productivity of land, water, labour and capital. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), by Santuscom is now being tested and adopted by several farmers, who thought that they had tried every technique available to improve their crop production. Beyond Okpoma, sceptics are also taking the results seriously with the influx of rice farmers who troop on daily basis to have a first hand sight of the over 100hectares Santuscom rice farm at A’akwa.
In SRI, rice plants are transplanted early, after just 8-12 days in an unflooded nursery, and they are planted singly, rather than in clumps. Planting is a precision task, done in a square pattern with relatively wide spacing: 25-30 cm between plants. This increases the sunlight each receives and gives roots more room to grow. Fields are ideally kept damp rather than completely flooded, creating a more aerated environment, which promotes root development and diversity of soil organisms.
Farmers in the area are also enthusiastic about the new variety of paddy introduced by Santuscom high tillers and large quantum of grains in each tiller raised on the farm.
“The crop raised on the field is ready for harvesting. Unlike other varieties with a gestation period of 140 days, this new variety is ready for harvest in 105-110 days which means we can cultivate three times in a year. There is also reduction in production cost, use of water, fertilizers and other inputs,” the group chairman said in a recent chat with Solomon Island.
In line with the recent directives of President Muhammadu Buhari at the commissioning of the Cross River State Rice Seedling Factory, Santuscom Agro Hub is negotiation with the Cross River State government on areas of partnership and mutual synergy to boost rice production to meet domestic and national demands.
According to the Chairman, “with the level of discussion so far with the State Rice Seedling Factory and all equipments on ground for harvest, i am optimistic that the rice plantation will create employment and that the improved, high yield disease resistant various from our will double national yield and consumption”.