Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has commended WACOT Rice Limited, a subsidiary of TGI Group, for its efforts in boosting the drive towards food security in Nigeria.
The governor said this on the heels a $10.5 million (about N4.99 billion) co-investment partnership which WACOT Rice Limited signed with the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub (WATIH).
According to a statement, the company, which has an Outgrower Expansion Project in Argungu, Kebbi State, aspires to be West Africa’s leading rice producer.
Through the new partnership, WACOT Rice will register an additional 5,143 farmers to complement its already existing outgrower network in the state.
The new farmers are expected to cultivate over 5,000 additional hectares of land thereby producing over 20,000 tons of paddy, which will be utilised at the company’s 120,000-ton rice mill.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commissioned the mill in 2017. It produces premium household brands of parboiled rice Big Bull and Patriot.
Bagudu, who is the Vice Chairman of the National Food Security Council and also National Champion on Nigeria Rice Revolution, said the state government was pleased that efforts of the federal government in agricultural revolution was being recognised by international bodies like USAID and WATIH.
He added: “WACOT Rice Limited is the first major rice mill commissioned under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the support by both globally reputable organisations is a big boost for private sector investment in the Nigerian agriculture sector.”
It is expected that the project would improve the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the region while addressing Nigeria’s food security concerns.
The average smallholder farmer in Argungu, Kebbi State cultivates about half a hectare of land and earns less than $200 (N95,000) net income annually, barely sufficient to cover the needs of a household.
The Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhammad Mera, described the partnership and the investment by WACOT Rice as a welcome development.
“It is a win-win situation for our farmers, the state government and the people of the state generally”, the traditional ruler further said.
He said the WACOT Rice project was timely coming shortly after the farmers experienced devastating floods that wiped out their farmlands.
On the partnership with USAID and its benefits, Strategy and Business Development Manager of TGI Group, parent company of WACOT Rice, Habiba Suleiman, said: “The overall impact is to enhance yield per hectare and help farmers better their livelihoods. In terms of their earnings, this project will help them to be able to send their kids to school, access better livelihoods, access better healthcare and to have better nutrition, and quality of life”.
On her part, USAID Mission Director, Anne Patterson said: “The US government is pleased to partner with the private sector in Nigeria to develop market-driven solutions and sustainably improve food security by supporting local rice production”.
She added that, “with this new co-investment partnership, smallholder farmers in Kebbi State can increase yields and improve the livelihoods of their families.”
Working in partnership with USAID its Feed the Future strategy, the Federal Government has prioritised local production of rice, a major staple in the country. By supporting smallholder rice farmers to increase their yields by 50 to 100 per cent, the co-investment will help farmers earn more and lift themselves out of poverty, create thousands of jobs, and attract further private investments in the agriculture sector.
WACOT Rice disclosed that it would be placing a strong emphasis on women and youth, with at least 50 per cent of the new farmers trained to be women and 70 per cent of all the farmers under 30 years old.
Commending the team for the laudable feat, Group Managing Director of TGI Group, Rahul Savara laid emphasis on the Group’s mission to always add value to its communities.
Savara added: “No doubt, this project not only supports our drive to support the government in achieving food security in Nigeria, it also allows us to support our community, Kebbi, which was ravaged by flood just a few months ago.
“For us, sustainability is a way of life. Therefore, we will continue to explore avenues to grow sustainably, while supporting others.”