Agriculture

Press Release: AfDB launches pilot programme to cultivate the savannah in eight African countries

According to the AfDB President, so huge is the potential of African savannahs that the World Bank called the Guinea savanna zone “one of the major underutilised resources in Africa

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 19, 2017/ — The savannahs of Africa cover a mind-boggling 600 million hectares, of which 400 million hectares are cultivable, the President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org), Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

But just 10% of this is cultivated, a mere 40 million hectares, Adesina said Wednesday, while speaking at a session titled “Transformation of the African Savannah Initiative (http://APO.af/vSoKvu)” at the 2017 World Food Prize-Borlaug Dialogue (http://APO.af/EXgmf3) symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.

According to the AfDB President, so huge is the potential of African savannahs that the World Bank called the Guinea savanna zone “one of the major underutilised resources in Africa.”

He noted that Africa’s savannahs were better than the savannahs of Brazil, a country notable for turning its savannahs into agricultural wealth, saying Africa’s soils were not acidic and therefore did not need liming which had to be done at massive scales in Brazil.

“The initiative will start by bringing approximately two million hectares of savannah in eight African countries — Ghana, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Mozambique under the cultivation of maize, soybean, and livestock production in optimum conditions.” The goal: to double production in those eight countries.

“Africa must learn from the experiences that have worked elsewhere, while tailoring the interventions to the specific realities of Africa. We must ensure that small, medium-scale and large-scale commercial farmers co-exist in a way that allows opportunities for all,” Adesina said.

The 2017 World Food Prize Laureate explained that partnerships in research and development would be crucial, saying that was why the AfDB had engaged to work with the strongest possible organisations with proven track records in tropical agriculture from South America.

Some of them, he said, included the Brazilian Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the Agricultural Corporation of Brazil (CAMPO), as well as others with long experience in conservation agriculture, including the Argentine Association of Zero-tillage (AAPRESID), and the Argentine Agricultural Research Institute.

“They will work very closely with universities and the national agricultural research systems across the savannahs of Africa,” he noted.

The AfDB Vice-President of Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, also explained that the Bank was determined to increase productivity so that Africa would become a net producer and exporter of agricultural produce.

Blanke said, “The idea is to have more job creation and create the next generation of agripreneurs. We can’t do everything. So, we’ve broken it down to certain number of value chains that we are going to tackle in Africa. 

“If you look at the savannah, it has massive potential. In fact, it spans about 400 million hectares and only about 10% of it is utilised. It covers about 25 countries and about 240 million people are depending on agriculture in these areas and about half of them are living in poverty.”

The AfDB Vice-President highlighted that the savanna initiative, which begins in November, will use the best technology in order to transform the savanna based on the experience of Brazil.

Brazil has a history of building their own savannah, which is their cerrados, with these kinds of technologies, Blanke added.

“It was about driving farms that were producing a new variety of soya beans. It was very difficult and we know that, but amazing things happened,” she said.

The Former Minister of Agriculture of Brazil, Chairman of CAMPO and 1996 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Alysson Paulinelli, in his address, noted that in the 1970s, Brazil was suffering a lot, like Africa today.

Paulinelli said, “We imported two-thirds of what we consumed. Brazilian families had to use about 42% of net income to feed themselves. We had to decide how to save Brazil. It was doomed to bankruptcy.

“So, we made a decision to drive a change in agriculture. The first thing we did was to realise that Brazilian agriculture was not different from colder climates. Brazil, the way things were, could not be self-sufficient, so we had to change our production system.

“The government needed to change first, but the Government was not ready. So, we put together a group of experts and they convinced the Government. After the Government, the farmers had to change and we believed it would benefit them.”

Today, Brazil exports US $100 billion in food items, Paulinelli added.

He explained that the feat was not that difficult, saying that those who want innovation must believe in the benefit of science.

“Now, we are reaching Africa. And, on the request of the AfDB, we will start work in Ghana,” he said.

“The support from Japan was crucial to our success. Those who were doing the work in the fields received all the information from the institutions.”

Meanwhile, the Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Sagre Bambangi, underscored the biological, socioeconomic and political dimensions to consider.

According to Bambangi, the Government of Ghana initiated a campaign that ensures availability of food in the country, thereby creating job opportunities.

“We in Ghana are delighted to have been chosen to host the TASI pilot programme,” he said.

For more on the World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue events, please visit: https://www.AfDB.org/2017wfp and http://www.WorldFoodPrize.org.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

Agriculture

Press Release: Three World Food Prize laureates call for global action to save African crops

The fall armyworm reportedly has a foothold in 28 nations in Africa, and it feeds on crops that include maize, which more than 200 million Africans depend on for food security

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 19, 2017/ — The world’s anti-hunger organizations have an opportunity to prevent widespread destruction of African crops by stopping the spread of an insect, warn three of the most respected thinkers on international agriculture.

However, the international community must act swiftly, in cooperation, and on a large scale to do so. The fall armyworm reportedly has a foothold in 28 nations in Africa, and it feeds on crops that include maize, which more than 200 million Africans depend on for food security.

“The armyworm is a clear and present danger,” said Akinwumi Adesina, who will be inducted as the 2017 World Food Prize winner on October 19 in Des Moines, Iowa. “Doing nothing is not an option. What we need are urgent actions to support Africa, to rapidly address this real threat to its food security.”

The World Food Prize is popularly known as the Nobel Prize for agriculture. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org). He is calling for action from the world’s governmental, non-profit, corporate, and academic leaders gathered for a three-day symposium surrounding his induction.

Known as the Norman Borlaug Dialogue, the symposium draws a global agricultural development community to Des Moines to discuss strategies for responding to the greatest challenges in feeding a world population expected to rise to 10 billion by mid-century.

“Stopping the armyworm is the highest purpose to which we can dedicate this year’s Borlaug Dialogue,” said Pedro Sanchez, a soil scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the 2002 World Food Prize laureate. “We hope to galvanize those with resources and expertise to rush to the aid of those in need.”

Robert Fraley, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto and the 2013 laureate, emphasized that a great deal is known about how to address the threat. In fact, the fall armyworm has long been in North America, but scientists and producers have largely been successful in containing it.

“The good news is that this threat is eminently preventable. We have strategies to detect the insect early, to stop its spread, and to identify crop varieties most resistant to it,” Fraley said. “The world’s anti-hunger community needs to invest the resources to put those tools to use.”

Borlaug was a Nobel Peace Prize winner credited with using advances in agriculture to save a billion lives. He was born in Iowa and established the World Food Prize.

For more on the World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue events, please visit: https://www.AfDB.org/2017wfp and http://www.WorldFoodPrize.org.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

Agriculture

Press Release: AfDB seeks global support for Africa’s young farmers

Highlights agribusiness as solution to Africa’s youth unemployment

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 18, 2017/ — The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) has called for global support for Africa’s young farmers and “agripreneurs”, highlighting how agribusiness is the answer to the continent’s youth employment.

In collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development, the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD), Michigan State University, Iowa State University, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the AfDB brought together stakeholders to discuss how to expand economic opportunities for Africa’s youth throughout the agricultural value chain, from lab to farm to fork.

The session titled “Making Farming Cool: Investing in future African farmers and Agripreneurs” was held on the sideline of the ongoing 2017 World Food Prize Symposium-Borlaug Dialogue (http://www.WorldFoodPrize.org) in Des Moines, Iowa, and had in attendance young entrepreneurs from Africa (http://APO.af/EcKEVJ), private sector representatives, policymakers and thought leaders.

Africa has the world’s youngest population with 60% being under 35 years old. There are 420 million youth aged 15-35 and this segment of the population is expected to double to 840 million by 2040.

Working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Development Bank is empowering young farmers under the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth program.

“Africa’s next billionaires are not going to come from oil, gas, or the extractives. ENABLE Youth is about investing in small agribusinesses today so that they can grow into large enterprises tomorrow,” President Adesina said.

“By empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain, we enable them to establish viable and profitable agribusinesses, jobs and better incomes for themselves and their communities.”

He explained how attracting a new cadre of young, energetic and talented agripreneurs – who will drive the adoption of new technologies throughout the value chain, raise productivity and meet rising food demands – is an urgent priority.

Recent studies indicate that as African economies transform, there are expanding opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship throughout high-potential value chains – literally from lab to fork – where consumer demand is increasing, including horticulture, dairy, oilseeds, poultry and aquaculture.

In addition, there are huge opportunities for engaging African youth in services and logistical sectors in key off-farm activities such as transportation, packaging, ICT and other technology development and light infrastructure – that add value to on-farm productivity and efficiency, in ways that could not envisioned before.

The whole idea of connecting farms to markets, particularly rising urban and regional markets, is where Africa needs to plug in this bulging youth population, Adesina said.

The Bank President highlighted major efforts needed to provide young Africans with new business opportunities, modern and practical skills, access to new technologies, land, equipment and finance that will allow them to transition from subsistence livelihood into higher-paying work, whether these are on or off the farm. 

In his words, “This is how we intend to make farming cool!”

Through the ENABLE Youth program, the AfDB and its partners are empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain with plans to train 10,000 agriculture entrepreneurs, or “agripreneurs”, in African countries, launching at least 300,000 enterprises and creating 1.5 million jobs over the next 5 years.

Africa already has shining examples of successful youth agripreneurs, nine of whom were in the room as Adesina spoke.

He cited three examples of the thousands of young agripreneurs whose fascinating stories fill him with a sense of hope and urgency.    

“We need to effectively utilize this African diaspora in the same way done by the Asian countries by leveraging on their expertise to fast-track Africa’s development agenda and allow all Africans to contribute, regardless of whether they are based locally within the African continent, or outside,” Adesina noted.

On agribusiness as a solution to Africa’s youth unemployment, Jennifer Blanke, AfDB’s Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, called for access to finance for the youth agripreneurs by re-aligning incentives for commercial banks and other financial institutions to reduce lending risks.

“There are over 15 job groups along the whole agricultural value chain – from farm to fork,” she said.

Noel Mulinganya (http://APO.af/EcKEVJ), a young agripreneur and leader of the Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (a group of 20 young graduates aged between 25-35 years old from different academic backgrounds engaged in collective agribusiness enterprises), spoke of the need for funding opportunities for young African farmers.

“My aspiration and those of my colleagues is to become business builders,” he said. “We would like this program to be a platform for sharing our knowledge and experiences in order to touch and engage youths as much as we can in agribusinesses.”

Lilian Uwintwali (http://APO.af/EcKEVJ), whose firm provides ICT platforms that serve over 10,000 farmers in Rwanda − linking farmers to markets, banks, insurance companies and extension services, said, “I aspire to get partnerships and investment opportunities here in the USA and I believe the discussions here at conference will help me shape a better business model for my project, m-lima, in Rwanda.”

She speaks of how farming could generate income for African youth.

“I am talking from experience because it has sustained me for the past 5 years,” she said.

For more on the young “agripreneurs”: http://bit.ly/2gt7H4f

For more on the World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue events:https://www.AfDB.org/2017wfp andhttp://www.WorldFoodPrize.org

#FoodPrize17 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

Agriculture

Press Release: Africa holds the key for feeding 9 billion people by 2050, Adesina says during Norman Borlaug Lecture

Calls for land tax for unused agricultural land or underutilized agricultural land

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 17, 2017/ — Africa holds the key for feeding the nine billion people that will inhabit this planet by 2050, the President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) and 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said (http://APO.af/z7AxMV) during his Norman Borlaug Lecture delivered on World Food Day.

The Laureate also called for land tax for unused agricultural land or underutilized agricultural land to provide incentives for faster commercialization of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.

In a lecture titled “Betting on Africa to Feed the World,” delivered on Monday, October 16 before a large international audience at Iowa State University in Des Moines, Iowa, Adesina stressed why, more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernize its agriculture and unlock its full potential.

“Africa sits on 65% of the uncultivated arable land left in the world, so what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world,” he emphasized. “African farmers need more than a helping hand. They need a policy lift,” Adesina said.

He also highlighted how the challenge of addressing global food security is greatest in Africa where close to 300 million are malnourished. It is also the only region of the world where the proportion of the population that is food insecure has increased, he said.

The AfDB President paid tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug, whom the lecture series was named after, and recalled how Africa was the last frontier for the late Borlaug.

Borlaug, the Founder of the World Food Prize, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world.

Adesina stressed that despite the progress globally in food production (including in Africa, Latin America and Asia), the world still has 700 million people languishing in extreme poverty. This, he added, includes 800 million with chronic hunger, 2 billion people with micronutrient deficiency, and 150 million children under 5 years of age who are suffering from stunting.

He described the challenge of feeding the world as immense, with need for rapid increases in global food, feed and biofuel production to feed a global population of 9 billion people by 2050. 

“If Dr. Borlaug alone could feed one billion people, we definitely can feed 800 million people globally and we definitely can feed 300 million Africans. Dr. Borlaug would be disappointed if we couldn’t and with all technologies and innovations, from gene revolution to ICT revolution, at our disposal, we won’t be able to face him and say we didn’t.”

Adesina decried the current situation where Africa spends US $35 billion annually on food imports, describing it as unacceptable. By his estimates, if the current trend continues, Africa is estimated to spend US $110 billion by 2030 on food imports.

“There is therefore absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region. Africa has huge potential in agriculture, but, as Dr. Borlaug used to say, nobody eats potential!”

Unlocking that potential must start with the savannas of Africa which covers “a mind-boggling 600 million hectares of which 400 million hectares are cultivable,” Adesina said.

Africa’s savannas, he said, are better than the savannas of Brazil, because their soils are not acidic and therefore do not need liming, which had to be done at massive scales in Brazil.

“Yet, while the savannas of Brazil feed the world, those of Africa cannot even feed the farmers there,” he lamented. He further highlighted how technologies, innovations, research and development, mechanization, modernization of agriculture, policy support and massive investments in infrastructure made the difference to turn the savannas of Brazil and those of Northern Thailand into a food powerhouse.

To transform its agriculture, Africa needs to make a decision to develop new agrarian systems − one that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.

He also canvassed land tenure systems that make it easier to get access to land, and for smallholder farmers and their communities to have secured land rights.

A top priority must be to mechanize agriculture in Africa, he added.

Over 1,200 people from more than 65 countries will address cutting-edge issues related to global food security and nutrition at the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, October 18-20, 2017.

For more on the World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue events, please visit:www.AfDB.org/2017wfp and www.WorldFoodPrize.org.

Read the full speech: http://APO.af/z7AxMV.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group.

Agriculture

Press Release: World Food Day: African Development Bank (AfDB) urges African leaders to make agriculture attractive to young Africans and stem migration

“We must get youths into agriculture and see it as a profitable business venture not a sign of lacking ambition”- Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 17, 2017/ — On the occasion of the 2017 World Food Day, the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org/en) has highlighted how Africa’s food security depends on attracting young people to agriculture and agribusiness. The sector can potentially create wealth and employment for African youth, thereby stemming migration. 

World Food Day, celebrated yearly on October 16, promotes worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. This year’s theme focuses on the need to ‘Change the future of migration; Invest in food security and rural development’. 

The AfDB’s ENABLE Youth program, which grooming a crop of young agriculturists, is on course to make this happen.

Mahmud Johnson, 26, is the Founder of J-Palm Liberia which works to improve income for Liberia’s smallholder oil palm farmers by 50-80%. He is also creating additional jobs for over 1,000 young people to work as sales representatives for his products. 

“Despite the tremendous odds, we (African youth) are determined to maximize our abundant agricultural resources to create wealth, jobs, and socioeconomic opportunities in our countries and across the continent. We need our stakeholders to view us as serious partners in Africa’s transformation, and to work with us to expand our enterprises,” Mahmud said.

Mahmud and some of his employees have benefited from capacity building programs under the AfDB’s Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth initiative.

Like Mahmud, many African youth are passionate about staying back on the continent to create wealth and employment, if given the tools and opportunities to put their skills to use. Under the ENABLE Youth program, the Bank is working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop a new generation of young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs.

“Our goal is to develop 10,000 such young agricultural entrepreneurs per country in the next 10 years. In 2016, the Bank provided US $700 million to support this program in eight countries and we’ve got requests now from 33 countries,” said Adesina.

The Bank considers investment in agriculture as key to making Africa youths prosperous, thereby stemming the tide of migration.

This goal, and theme of 2017 World Food Day, are well aligned with two of the AfDB’s High 5(http://APO.af/6D641c) development priorities – Feed Africa (http://APO.af/FN7bfw) and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa(http://APO.af/Yfi5Fw) – said Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the AfDB.

“A thriving business sector in Africa will provide the jobs and returns that will attract and retain Africa’s best talent on the continent, while improving the quality of life of all Africans,” she said. 

With more than 70% of Africans depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, it is imperative for the sector’s full potential to be unlocked, and by doing so help to vastly improve the lives Africans. 

Accordingly, one of the goals of Feed Africa is to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2025. 

Due to the finite nature of mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, crude oil, among others, African countries must diversify their economies. This cannot be done without a significant emphasis on agriculture given that the great majority of Africans depend on it for their livelihoods. 

Increased food demand and changing consumption habits driven by demographic factors such as urbanization (internal migration) are leading to rapidly rising net food imports, which will grow from US $35 billion in 2015 to over US $110 billion by 2025 if trends are left unchecked. 

Given that African smallholder farmers are on average about 60 years old, Africa’s food security depends on attracting young people into agriculture and agribusiness and empowering them. Governments can support these shifts through the right enabling environments via policy reforms for increased private investment in agriculture and agribusiness. And also by better articulating the importance of agriculture for their economies in their interaction with the public.

“Food security, rural development are closely interlinked with issues of migration, fragility and resilience. The Horn of Africa and the Sahel provide compelling examples of how global factors such as food insecurity, radical extremism and migration reinforce state fragility and have devastating effects on development,” said Khaled Sherif, AfDB Vice-President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery. 

“The lack of economic opportunities, infrastructure, employment opportunities and unpredictable climactic changes in these countries are key sources of fragility that often times result in the forced migration of peoples seeking a desperate alternative. The Bank has, where appropriate, adopted risk-based approaches at both country and regional levels in addressing fragility.”

Ahead of the World Food Day, the AfDB joined Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and other developing partners on October 14 in a day-long set of activities to promote agriculture as a business. They emphasized the need for governments to invest in agriculture to create jobs and stem the flow of migration that has undermined the security and economies of African countries. 

For more on the World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue events, please visit: http://APO.af/EXgmf3 and http://APO.af/lVEF8k
 

Distributed by APO on behalf of African Development Bank Group.

Agriculture

Press Release: “Betting on Africa to Feed the World”: Adesina, 2017 World Food Prize Laureate deliver Norman Borlaug Lecture on World Food Day

President Adesina received the 2017 World Food Prize on Thursday, October 19

DES MOINES, United States of America, October 16, 2017/ — The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org/en) President, Akinwumi Adesina, will deliver the Norman Borlaug Lecture today as part of the World Food Prize events taking place from October 16-20, 2017 in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.

The Norman Borlaug Lecture titled “Betting on Africa to Feed the World” will be held on World Food Day, October 16, in conjunction with the annual World Food Prize celebration.

President Adesina will receive the 2017 World Food Prize on Thursday, October 19. The prize is to agriculture what the Nobel Prize is to peace, science and literature.

The World Food Prize board announced President Adesina as the 2017 Laureate (http://APO.af/nNtr9w) in June for his work in improving the availability of seed, fertilizer and financing for African farmers, and for laying the foundation for the youth in Africa to engage in agriculture as a profitable business.

The World Food Prize, founded by Nobel Laureate, Norman Borlaug, is the foremost international honour recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

As Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, Adesina introduced the E-Wallet system, which brought transparency to fertilizer distribution system – a process previously hampered by corruption for 40 years. His policies expanded Nigeria’s food production by 21 million metric tons, and the country attracted US $5.6 billion in private-sector investment, earning him tremendous respect as the ‘farmers’ Minister’.

Under his leadership, the AfDB is accelerating agricultural development through its Feed Africa Strategy (http://APO.af/Qs73cE) with planned investment of US $24 billion over the next 10 years.

The goals of AfDB’s Feed Africa strategy are to help eliminate extreme poverty in Africa by 2025; end hunger and malnutrition in Africa by 2025; make Africa a net food exporter; and move Africa to the top of export-orientated global value chains where it has comparative advantage.

Over 1,200 people from more than 65 countries will address cutting-edge issues related to global food security and nutrition at the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, October 18-20, 2017.

“As someone who grew out of poverty, I know that poverty is not pretty. My life mission is to lift up millions of people out of poverty, especially farmers in rural areas. We must give hope and turn agriculture into a business,” the AfDB President said.

The three-day conference convenes a wide array of scientific experts, policy leaders, business executives and farmers and has been branded “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”

Through the Borlaug Dialogue, the World Food Prize Foundation helps build alliances in the struggle against world hunger and malnutrition.

Distributed by APO on behalf of African Development Bank Group.

Agriculture

PRESS RELEASE: Unemployment: Dangote Rice launches youth graduates rice farming project in Kogi

This is even as the Company prepares to hit the market with One million metric tons of Dangote rice in 2018

LAGOS, Nigeria, October 15, 2017/ — Unemployment: Dangote employs youth graduate for rice farming in Kogi.

A multi-million Naira Youth Farming Initiative that will engage teeming unemployed Nigerian graduates in rice farming has been launched by the Dangote Rice Limited (www.Dangote.com) in Kogi State.

This is even as the Company prepares to hit the market with One million metric tons of Dangote rice in 2018.

The Dangote Youth Rice Farm project, mainly an out-grower scheme for youths only was flagged off at the Lower Niger River Basin Authority, Kampe, Ejiba in Yagba West local government area of the state where youth have embarked on rice cultivation over 100 hectares of land.

The rice farm project, which was preceded by a special training for the youth farmers on the dynamics of the rice farming, will see the youths cultivating the rice paddy on a 100 hectares of land, which will then be bought over by the company for processing.

Under the scheme, the Dangote Rice Company provides the seedling, anti-pest-chemicals, and fertilizers while the Basing Authority provided the land for the young farmers.

The management of Dangote Rice led by the Group Executive Director, Mr. Devakumar Edwin flagged off the project while taking delivery of some rice paddy bags produced from the pilot project.

Mr. Edwin explained that the project is a new dimension to the efforts by the pan-African conglomerate, the Dangote Group, at ensuring food security and creating job opportunities in Nigeria especially for the youths saying this Initiative is in line with the vision and commitment of Dangote Industries Limited to create a new generation of agri-preneur that will revolutionize the Nigerian agricultural sector.

“We believe skill, knowledge, enabling environment, collaboration and linkages along the value chain are driving forces for economic empowerment and social development in line with the Federal Government policies. This project will address the skills gap in local rice production among unemployed youths by providing technical, organisational and financial requirements.”

He said it would also enhance domestic rice production to cover the large gap between demand and domestic production and to increase self-sufficiency of Nigeria and substitute imported rice by quality Nigerian rice brands.

Mr. Edwin disclosed that most modern rice mills in Nigeria presently operate at not more than 20% capacity utilization due mainly to lack of good quality paddy and that Dangote Rice aimed to change this situation developing and adapting out-grower schemes. According to him, the Dangote Rice Company plans to set up a 150,000 metric tons integrated rice mill and sale one million mt of parboiled rice by 2018.

The Dangote Group boss stated that the decision of the management to start the project was driven by two factors, one of which is the need for youth employment through empowerment to go into agriculture. “The youths are more vulnerable to crimes and other social vices when they have nothing to engage them and this in turn affect the nation negatively.

“The second factor is the need to strengthen the on-going efforts at producing rice for self-sufficiency so that we can save foreign exchange. By the time we will be doing one million metric tons of rice next year, no less than three million jobs would been created along the value chain.”

Mr. Edwin said the Kogi pilot project will cover four season of two years and will be launched in four other states soon.

In his own remark, the Managing Director of Dangote Rice, Mr. Robert Coleman urged the youth farmers to concentrate on the project and pay attention to details so that they would come out with good paddy yield.

He congratulated the farmers for the decision to partner with Dangote Rice noting that they have a solid source of livelihood for themselves and members of their families if they give their all for the success of the scheme.

The Coordinator of the youth farmers, Umar Etudaye thanked the management of Dangote Rice for believing in them and engaging them for the project. He promised that they would deliver on the mandate given to them on the project.

He stated that the scheme is a practical step towards nation building because it’s the youths, who constitute 40 per cent of the population, would build the nation and only the youths that are empowered and gainfully employed could do that.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Dangote Group.