Afife, (V/R) July 7, GNA - Mr Jacob Aduah, Project Manager of the Afife Rice Irrigation Project, on Tuesday urged the Project's Farmers' Co-operative Union to institute a development levy to support rehabilitation works at the Afife site. He gave the suggestion at a forum attended by the Deputy Volta Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Dzamesi, as a follow up to a recommendation by the farmers to the Management of the Project to use funds accruing from the Irrigation Service Charges (ISC) to finance repair works on the irrigation facilities at Afife. He explained that whereas they (Afife farmers) paid only 200,000 cedis per hectare per year as ISC, their counterparts at Dawhenya and Kpando Tokor paid five million cedis and four-and-a-half million cedis respectively per-hectare per year. Mr Aduah said until recently when 80 percent of the total amount being realised from the ISC was being retained locally, the bulk of the money was paid to the project Head-Office in Accra. He said between 1998 and 2001 many of the farmers had defaulted in the payment of the ISC, due to poor harvest. Mr Aduah said the farmers were able to pay outstanding arrears since 1998 due to the bumper harvest in 2001 that netted 200 million cedis. The farmers expressed their appreciation to Government for taking steps to revive their farming activities. They however appealed for major rehabilitation works on the irrigation dam and other facilities, which had not undergone any repairs for a long time. They mentioned silting of the channels; deteriorating drying floors; bad roads; crumbling ware-houses; high maintenance costs, and premature sale of produce at give-away prices to middlemen. Other problems they listed included high interest rates on loans and the short period for repayment, undue delay in the supply of agro-chemicals and lack of tractor services. Mr Dzamesi said 19 communities in the area, had been earmarked for connection to the national electricity grid, while efforts were being made to facilitate the provision of good drinking water. Mr Julius Ametefe, Acting Volta Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), urged the Farmers' Co-operative Union to work towards attaining financial independence. He announced that the Small Credit Input and Marketing Project of the MOFA would assist women income generating groups to purchase rice from farmers for marketing. Mr Ametefe said farmers would be offered tractors on hire purchase and urged the Afife farmers to take advantage of the package. He said Government was also planning to import threshers to boost the processing of local rice.