Governors of states in the North West region of the country have sought the support of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) in order to promote cooperation and unlock the country’s vast agricultural potential.
According to the governors, the North West has sufficient water and land resources to produce enough food, particularly rice and wheat, to feed the country.
The delegation of the seven newly elected governors, who met with the Bank’s President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in Abidjan, was led by Katsina State Governor, Dikko Umar Radda, and included Governors Nasiru Idris of Kebbi State; Alhaji Umar Namadi of Jigawa State; Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State; Deputy Governors Aminu Abdussalam of Kano State; Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe of Kaduna State and Idris Mohammed Gobir of Sokoto State.
The conference was held in Abidjan focusing on boosting food production, nutrition and security, as well as innovative ways to unleash the zone’s rich agriculture potential and fast track the implementation of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs).
It was gathered that the special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones are designed to promote increased productivity, value addition and market access through government-enabled and private sector-driven investments to develop strategic commodity value chains.
Other priority areas included opportunities to leverage the AfDB’s renewable energy programmes including its $20 billion Desert-to-Power initiative that will deliver 10,000MW of solar energy to nearly 250 million people across the Sahel region.
In his remarks, Umar Radda said the North West governors decided to adopt a coordinated approach in collaborating with the bank to implement agriculture and power projects that will drive the zone’s development and improve livelihoods.
The lack of irrigation infrastructure, he elaborated, was among the key challenges in the zone, leading to low yields, post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities, youth unemployment and underemployment and insecurity.
Meanwhile, the governor of Jigawa State said his administration was prioritizing strategic partnerships that advance rural infrastructure, farm mechanization and climate-smart agriculture.
He then noted that the North West governors were prioritizing a coordinated approach in collaborating with the bank to implement agriculture and power projects to drive the zone’s development and improve livelihoods.
In response, the AfDB president told the governors that the bank was working with the Federal Government to tackle high food and energy prices.
He urged the governors to collaboratively and promptly select agricultural hubs to host the schemes.
Adesina also said the bank and its partners have targeted $1 billion in financing to expand the SAPZ programme in Nigeria to support up to 25 of the country’s 36 states.
According to him, these zones would benefit local farmers and create jobs throughout the value chains and would also provide unprecedented opportunities to transform commodities into high-value products, reduce waste and post-harvest losses, boost incomes, increase profits and plough money back into rural economies.
Noting the North West zone’s endowments in livestock, particularly cattle, Adesina underscored the area’s potential for meat processing.
He then applauded the regional approach of the North West governors, assuring them of the bank’s support.
On his own part, the Bank’s Executive Director for Nigeria, Samson Oyebode Oyetunde, urged the governors to urgently develop agribusiness development plans to benefit from the current global attention to agriculture and food production.