The joy of every farmer comes from more yield. If the harvest is twice as much as the previous season, the motivation to cultivate more is higher. While farmers and others in allied businesses benefit from the increased yields, the community experiences improved food security. And the cycle of prosperity continues.
Something much more than this scenario is however, brewing in Nigeria. The farmers are asking for more as they have tasted success.Imaginean investment that pays dividends multiple times a year. To investors, that is heaven!This is whyfarmers, whose dividends come at harvest, areasking for multiple harvests i.e. wet and dry season.
Rice is a primary staple food in Nigeria. It is consumed across all tribes, religions and socio-economic classes. Being the third-most consumed food in Nigeria after maize and cassava, rice isa food security concern to policy makers and consumers.Located in Argungu, Kebbi State, WACOT Rice Limited, a subsidiary of TGI Group, is working with thousands of farmers in its rice Outgrower Programme to enhance yield, production and farmer income.
Through this programme, farmers are now planting and harvesting in both dry season and wet season, with almost equal yield. In fact, some farmers have started testifying to achieving a third harvest in the same year. This is through the use of the right inputs, techniques and equipment. This means more paddy for millers and improved income to farmers even in the dry season.
According to Kabiru Ibrahim, a rice farmer in Dan Kwalli,Argungu,Kebbi State, “in the dry season alone, we go through two cycles, thereby ensuring that we harvest thrice in a whole planting year. This is due to the quality inputs,training, and extension services support we have been receiving from WACOT Rice”.
The programme currently runs in four local government areas and is continuously expanding to meet people at their rural locations. The company intends to eventually expand this programme to all 13 rice-producing states in Nigeria from which it procures paddy.
According to the FAO, Nigeria as at 2019, producedover 7.5 million metric tonnesof paddy per annum, which is predominantly grown in the wet season. Through the optimisation of dry season farming with programmes such as the WACOT Rice OutgrowerProgramme, this number could double or even triple as most rice-producing states in Nigeria have strong potential for dry season farming. Therefore, all hands need to be on deck, both government and the private sector.
The WACOT Out-grower Programme provides the farmers with quality Agri-inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and herbicides in both wet and dry seasons. WACOT further offers training on good agricultural practices, and yield-enhancement techniques. WACOT Rice also provides crop monitoring, advisory services; and at harvest, guarantees the farmers 100 per cent off-take of the paddy at prevailing market price.
To further enhance dry season farming, WACOT Rice has partnered with USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub to on-board more people, especially women and youths into farming activities.
Through the partnership with the USAID-funded Trade Hub, WACOT Rice will be registering an additional 5,143 dry season farmers, to complement its already existing outgrower network inKebbi State.The farmers will cultivate over 5,000 additional hectares of land, thereby producing more than 20,000 tons of paddy, to be used at WACOT Rice’s 120,000-ton rice mill in Argungu.
In this partnership, 50percent of the new farmers are women and youths.
The partnership between WACOT Rice and USAID’s Trade Hub was launched in Argungu on May 19, 2021, with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Bert Leonard explaining that her government’s involvement with WACOT Rice was to sustainfood security and creation of more jobs in Nigeria. At that occasion, the Deputy Chief of Party for USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub project, Karl LittleJohnalso highlighted the essence of the partnership, which included 60,000 jobs to be provided across Nigeria by WACOT Rice Limited, a subsidiary of TGI Group.
“The core objective of establishing WACOT Rice in Argungu and the launching of this partnership today is to create a catalyst for investment and provide grants to more farmers,” he said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of WACOT Rice Limited, Farouk Gumel said that over 2,000 jobs have been created by the company due to the partnership with USAID. He stressed that the expansion of the company has given opportunities for more farmers to cultivate more land for rice production.
According to Gumel, “When the company was established in 2017, we hardly sold any product for over three months because customers were always demanding for foreign rice.But today, we are selling Nigerian rice unstoppable, and people continue to ask for it.”
The best case scenario – which is not far-fetched – is seeing more integrated rice millers in Nigeria emulate WACOT Rice in its push to enhance rural prosperity and national food security. The multiplier effect of this will be a thing of beauty and substantial value indeed.
Food security is key to having an inclusive and prosperous nation. Nigeria is surely on its way to achieving this goal, but all hands must be on deck.
SOURCE: BUSINESS DAY