Sahara Group: Enhancing Food Security in Africa

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Abimbola Akosile examines the Food Africa Project, an innovative public-private partnership between the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) , Sahara Group – a member of the SDG Fund Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), UN agencies, renowned chefs – the Roca Brothers and the Kaduna State Government, directed at improving food security and nutrition and alleviating poverty through strengthening of agro-food value chains, improving agricultural productivity and yields, creation of a food processing facility and promotion of access to markets in Nigeria

Vital Project
The Food Africa Project was officially launched on July 13 with a series of events and programmes. The project is a collaborative initiative between Sahara Group, United Nations- Sustainable Development Goal Fund (SDG-F), Roca Brothers and the Kaduna State Government, directed at empowering the people and alleviating poverty through food security.

This project is an agro-base initiative envisaged to integrate the entire food value chain – the farmer, wholesaler, retailer and consumer- providing a sustainable source of food security, poverty alleviation and eradication, skill acquisition and social inclusiveness.
The primary objectives of the project are to: provide employment, eradicate poverty and empower the people – It is estimated that about 500,000 people will be impacted both directly and indirectly by the project; reduce food wastage through the recycling of food produce that do not meet the proposed standards for offtake– local and international standards; and assess the feasibility of improving and increasing production substantially to encourage the development of sustainable food infrastructure in Kaduna State, with initial investment in vegetables.

The project strategy seeks to identify potential areas for improvement in the conventional food value chain, hence the initiation of a backward and forward integration model for the implementation.

The launch was phased in three (a visit to vice president, a stakeholders meeting with the executive governor of Kaduna State and an official flag off in Jerie Community with the farmers, community members, traditional rulers and government officials)

Crucial Stakeholders
The key project stakeholders include Sahara Group, UN SDG-F, Kaduna State Government and the Roca Brothers.
While the SDG-F and Sahara Group will be responsible for project design and providing bulk of the financing, oversee the preparation of the work plan in agreement with all partners; the UN specialised agencies (Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) will be responsible for provision technical assistance in their core areas of expertise and implementing those activities agreed upon in the work plan.

The Roca Brothers will serve as off-takers to the products and contribute to overall technical oversight to the project through the provision of technical expertise and sharing of best practices in resource efficiency while Kaduna State has provided infrastructure such as land upon which the processing centre will be constructed, security, access to electricity, road networks and farmers’ cooperative.

Project Launch
The Food Africa project was officially launched on July 13. Prior to the launch, the team was at the Kaduna State Government House to hold a stakeholders’ meeting and formally notify the government of its intention to commence the project, and re-introduce all project stakeholders.

Present were representatives of Sahara Group, UN SDG-F, Roca Brothers, UN agencies and Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry. During the launch, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Kaduna State presented a brief overview of the project and promised to put in place required environment for the smooth takeoff of the project.
Sahara representatives were also on hand to give credence to the project whilst; Kaduna State Deputy Governor reiterated the state government’s commitment to the success of the project.

Upon the symbolic launch of the project, the parties moved to the earmarked site for the proposed food processing centre in Jerei, Kakargo LGA (Kaduna State) and met with all major stakeholders involved in the project.

The Roca Brothers’ team led by the Co-founder and Sommelier, Josef Roca met with the community representatives, cooperatives and local farmers to understand local farming techniques and enlighten them on better food preservation techniques.
The team further visited vegetable farms, supermarkets, local markets and restaurants in a bid to identify firsthand the key local products that are in high demand in Nigeria and how they can support the local market to make these more readily available.

The driving force of the project will be the empowerment of capable young women and men from local communities in the Kaduna State region. All project activities will thus be carried by a core team of locally selected young community facilitators, who will benefit from a two-year full-time vocational traineeship, comprising training in technical skills, business management and a mentoring programme.

They will in turn train at least 1,500 beneficiaries throughout the duration of the project, under the supervision of a Master Facilitator/ Chief Technical Advisor and the Project Management Team.
A hub/ marketplace will be established alongside the food processing center. It will allow smallholder farmers to sell their produce directly to customers. The increased availability and greater variety/diversity of food would be to the immediate benefit of local people and directly contribute to improved food security and nutrition.

The hub will allow for the creation of further opportunities for petty trade in other local goods and services. The project will take an active approach to promote entrepreneurship and new start-ups, by providing technical support to at least 500 local young women and men and nominal grants awarded on a competitive basis to those showing the most promise throughout the course of training activities.

On July 15, the SDG-F team, FAO, ILO and Sahara Group held a meeting at Capital Centrum in Abuja to discuss the next line of action regarding the commencement of project activities.

Global Partnerships
Achieving the 2030 target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require strategic and continuing multi-sectoral collaboration across the globe, says Tonye Cole, Executive Director, Sahara Group as the world recently marked the first anniversary of the SDGs.

Officially branded “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the SDGs is a set of seventeen aspirational “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them.

The goals include: ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests. The SDGs document was adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 25–27, 2015 in New York, USA.

Cole, who is also co-founder of Sahara, a leading African Power and Energy Conglomerate, said the SDGs platform had since become a veritable tool for addressing critical developmental issues globally.

“Going by available records, a significant success trend is emerging and it is great to see unfolding collaboration amongst several stakeholders on interventions being midwifed by the United Nations and its affiliates. It is imperative for governments, private sector, NGOs, international development agencies and global civil society to work together in a sustainable manner to ensure the targets of the SDGs are achieved by 2030,” he said.
He noted that Sahara Group has implemented SDGs compliant interventions and is currently supporting several partnership platforms that are setting the tone for accelerating the achievement of the SDGs across the globe.

Food for All
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) must implement the new Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) tagged, ‘The Green Alternative,’ which is designed to address Nigeria’s food security challenges and position the country as a net food exporter.

Experts have called for major public investments in agriculture to encourage people to produce enough food for local consumption and export. Government must also grow the agriculture subsector, with improved seeds and varieties from research institutions also made available to farmers.

Food for all should be the norm, rather than the exception, and that is why the Food Africa Project is very important to Africa’s development process. When the food problem is adequately solved, Africa and Nigeria can move to the next level. That is a worthwhile goal.