As part of efforts to boost the production of wheat in the country, the Vice President Kashim Shettima, revealed that Nigeria has secured a $163 million support from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Shettima assured that President Tinubu’s administration would fulfill all promises made particularly in the agricultural sector, adding that food security would receive serious attention from the government.
He said: “We have obtained a $163 million dollar loan from the African Development Bank to support wheat production. The scheme would be launched soon.
“We need 10,000 hectares of land in Kebbi State. But the scheme would be well executed in Jigawa State with a cultivation of 50,000 hectares of land to boost wheat production.”
Responding to this, the CEO/DG, Feed Nigeria Summit, Mr Richard Mbaram noted that the funds were not just for wheat but also for sorghum, rice, maize, soybeans and cassava.
Mbaram said “we have been able to cure on a promissory note, $110 million from Japanese International Cooperation Agency, there is a move also from the Islamic Development Bank to repurpose about $113 million for the same activity. It is meant for emergency food production activity.
However, the vice president’s speech, in stating that there is a shortfall in the country as regards the staple called wheat, is very true.
“The plan and the strategy that is being implemented now is one, which in the next 24 months, we’ll see Nigeria really making a lot of headway in terms of import substitution of wheat. “
Applauding the President’s declaration on a state of emergency, he said “the move is a clear and unequivocal statement as to the fact that what he’s seeing in the agricultural sector/the Nigerian economy is not what it should be. And so, he feels that we should up our game and operate as though we know that there’s fire on the mountain.
“It’s a long time in our history that we’ve had such clear directional leadership in the agricultural space as this is turning out to be, because we are all wrapped up to get more serious, looking at the amount of monies we have spent on the Anchor’s borrowers program, more than a trillion naira with very little to show, the president’s declaration of emergency clearly, was a realistic appraisal of the state of affairs and also a verdict, on the implementation of the Anchor’s borrowers program.”
Speaking on the model the wheat production project would be leveraging, he said “It’s a subsidy provision activity in which we’re targeting smallholder farmers with 50% input subsidy on fertilizer, improved seeds, good agronomic practices, extension as well as agronomic protection undertakings with the support going to the smallholder farmers because they are the actual target, the bulk of the food we eat are produced by them, however, if we support them properly and deliberately we should be able to ramp up overall food production in the country and then consistently improve on the mark.”
While stating the economic benefits of the project he said “we are providing support to farmers to increase their wheat production capacity, 250,000 hectares of farmland will be cultivated across seven states of the North. And we are envisaging that with that intervention and the support that is going to the Lake Chad Research Institutes (LCRI) to also begin to galvanize its local capacity to produce improve seeds, heat resistant, heat tolerant varieties, Attila and with all of those varieties we believe that we should be able to crack or decode the wheat importation problem.
“In all honesty the layout that we have now is a well thought out strategically oriented layout with all of the parameters in place. If we implement it consistently over the next 18 months, the outcome would be mind blowing.”
However, the framework on ground to forestall challenges during this project execution includes the use of technology and ICT based platforms to deploy the subsidy. We had done it between 2011 and 2015 and stopped sometime in 2017. But now with the new government and its new focus and its resolve, the ministry under the leadership of the current minister has resolved to deploy the ICT framework. That’s the program called the Agro Pocket, it’s a program in which farmers will receive electronically enhanced alerts around where to go for their inputs, what manner of inputs to expect and also receive extension and services. That way we can be able to provide them good agronomic practices by utilizing the opportunities that ICT provides. In addition, we are also looking at area yield index insurance, we also have mechanisms in place to ensure that we really deploy the best technologies available.
“We’re also looking to work with the private sectors, connect with private sectors in terms of service deliveries around mechanization, financial service provision on financial inclusion and the likes. All of those things are structured in a way that can really deliver the value that the country seeks.
Beyond that, “we are connecting the program to the special agricultural growth in the emergency production activities, in a structured manner when connecting it into the agro industrial building zones program, so that the energies that the SAPZ and the private sector involvement and the structuring that takes place can generate for the farmer is properly directed to them. So, the SAPZ will be more like the primary off-taker of the produce that is going to be produced, whatever is going to be produced in the course of this productivity enhancement undertaken efforts by the government.
“Usually we lose about 30 -40% or more of what we produce from the farm gate, between the farm gate and the industry as well the table, we often times decry that even the little that is produced is lost through post-harvest losses, weather impact, environmental impact and all of that, so we are deploying technology, we’re also utilizing the values and redundancy eliminating propensities that industrialization provides us so that we can bring predictability into the process of the value chain of agriculture, so the progress that we’ll be making will be systematic, consistent, sustainable and overall impactful.”
Highlighting the place of smallholder farmers in this project, he noted that the smallholder farmer is the real, main stakeholder in the agricultural business. The farmer really is called a smallholder farmer in a derogatory sense. But the truth of the matter is that he/she is the business, and by that measure, if you support them, they will certainly be able to not just make profits but improve on their capacities so they can transition from just being smallholder farmers to medium scale farmers, and ultimately to large scale farmers. Therefore, they remain our main focus, they are the primary building blocks of our agro-economy. We’re focusing our attention on the smallholder farmers to get them back on track.Because once you up his game and he provides food for the country and makes money out of that, you’re really beginning to oil or energize the overall economy of the country.
There is a near term benefits, which is short term, there is a medium term and then there’s a long term, For the short-term benefits, the dry season farming session is almost here, we’re having dry season farming in the next two months by late October into early November, we should be in the dry season. And from December into January, we should begin to expect to see the full outcome of the work that is being done.
Furthermore, Mbaram said Nigerians should understand that we know where the pains are and that we’re working to fix them. “Agriculture is no magic, it is a process.”