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Nigeria, EU Partnership for Innovative Modern Agriculture
The European Union is bringing succor to Nigerian agricultural sector that would enhance Nigeria’s quest for food security and sustainable agriculture, writes Dike Onwuamaeze
The European Union is investing €1.3 billion in the Nigerian agricultural sector. This was announced on Friday, July 1, in Lagos by the Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Isamuela Isopi, during the official launch of Team Europe Initiative (TEI) Green Economy, Nigeria.
The launch was part of the activities that marked the 8th Edition of EU-Nigeria Business Forum that was held in Lagos between June 30 and July 1, 2022, with the theme ‘Nigeria and the ₦ew €conomy.”
Isopi said that the TEI-Green economy would put forward innovative, modern solutions to established sectors like agriculture as a new growth engine.
She said: “We launch a TEI-Green Economy, which brings together projects and measures of access to finance, promoted and funded by the EU, the EU Member States and EU Development Finance Institutions” with the objective to achieve low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient development that would create jobs for the youth and accelerate economic growth through the development of climate-smart agriculture as well as circular and digital economy.
The attainment of this objective is built on three pillars, which are the development of climate smart agriculture and sustainable transformation of Agri-SMEs in selected value chains and the expansion of renewable smart energy and promotion of circular economy. The third pillar is the development of innovation and creation of jobs for Nigerian youth.
The implementation of the TEI-Green Economy is expected to yield the emergence of new, and the growth of existing, agribusiness in sustainable agricultural value chains in order to achieve growth in production and exports as well as improvement of smallholder livelihoods through capacity building and investments.
Others expected benefits of the TEI-Green Economy are improved food security, reduction of livestock/crop losses and the application of EU standards. It would also enhance the introduction of nature-based agricultural measures that would reduce climate change vulnerability, enhance biodiversity and combat deforestation and desertification. It would also enhance access to sustainable electricity, especially for agricultural and productive uses. It would also increase renewable energy share and improve renewable energy regulation and implementation in the country.
Other results expected from the project also include enhanced employability of Nigerian youth and women, increased creation of digital start-ups outside urban areas and the creation of new green smart jobs.
Isopi said that the TEI–Green Economy is intended to assist Nigeria in achieving low carbon, resource efficiency, and climate resilience agriculture by creating jobs for the youths and generating economic growth.
According to her, the TEI would run till 2027 and would impact 60 projects in agriculture, renewable energy and climate initiatives.
She said: “It is my great pleasure to announce the unveiling of the Team Europe Initiative – Green Economy. I am not doing this alone but doing it with my colleagues’ ambassadors and consul-generals of member states: France, Germany, Denmark and Netherland, alongside European Commission and European Union development financial institutions and private sector.
“It is by working together in collaborative approach and also in partnership between the public and private sector that we can achieve better results.”
Isopi, her remarks during the opening of the 8th EU-Nigeria Buiness Forum, noted that the economic situation in Nigeria has remained difficult and would be further stressed with yet another crisis unfolding in Europe that is occasioned by the Russia/Ukraine armed conflicts.
She said: “In Nigeria, the shockwaves are already being felt on fuel, fertilizers and food prices,” and added that “Nigeria’s new economy is about finding a path through difficult terrain, identifying opportunities and offering a business-friendly approach.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Director of European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture, Mr. John Clarke, said that the TEI would improve Nigeria’s agricultural industry and create jobs in the rural areas with the support of the private sector. It would also improve networking, discussions and shaping ideas that would be turned into proposals to government.
A Representative of the Supporting Efficient Agriculture Ecosystem of the Embassy of France, Dr. Sonia Darracq, said that France is very proud to be part of this TEI and is contributing €430 million for its implementation.
Darracq said that the initiative would be aimed at enhancing employability of Nigerian youths and women, improving food security and enhancing access to finance especially for agricultural businesses.
She said: “We will collaboratively be able to strengthen our efforts, expand our scope of actions and accept new partnerships.
“Climate change and demographic pressure indeed warrants us to apply new measures. I am confidence that this initiative will lead to more fruitful collaborations between Nigeria and the EU. We are committed to supporting the government of Nigeria in its efforts to diversify the economy, expand renewable energy while creating wealth, jobs and inclusive participation.”
EU identified agriculture as the backbone of Nigerian economy that is providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians and contributing about 22 per cent to the nominal GDP of the country. It said that the prevalent smallholder farming system that relied on rain-fed agriculture and unsustainable farming practices are highly prone to climate change to which Nigeria is particularly vulnerable.
The EU also noted observed that notwithstanding a number of policies adopted by the government, the agro sector does not produce the needed quantity and quality of output, nor does it create jobs for the country’s growing young labour force.
It is against this background, and in line with the EU’s Green Deal, that the TEI-Green Economy would support the Nigerian government’s effort to diversify the economy by combining support to enhance access to renewable energy for productive uses and boosting the development of the agricultural sector while integrating circular economy principles in the development models.
“Collectively, the actions will help Nigeria attain the SDGs and put the country on a sustainable development path,” the EU said.
The Head of Green and Digital Economy Team EU Delegation to Nigeria, Ms. Inga Stefanowicz, told THISDAY that the EU intervention would also be advisory and policy dialogue with government. It would also impact on capacity building and projects that directly encourage working with the private sector, small holder farmers, processors, aggregators and value chains in the agricultural sector.
Stefanowicz said: “It will bring in EU development financial institutions that will work through Nigeria’s financial institutions. They will be investing and lending directly on projects on the ground on favourable terms. These will be projects in the agricultural sector, investments in energy access primarily for productive use. We will concentrate of course on green energy, especially solar energy. Finally some of the projects are going to be what I like to call employability related projects. We will like to target more on youths and women.”
The EU further stated that the EIB sovereign lending would support the agri-food sector access to markets by financing rural roads, as well as climate adaption and mitigation efforts.
It said: “The EIB investments in infrastructure and private equity climate funds will facilitate renewable energy and other climate related projects. The EIB’s and European DFI’s technical assistance will be available to banks issuing SDGs and Green Bonds, whereas the EIB and European DFIs can also act as anchor investors.
“Access to finance will be instrumental in strengthening the resilience to climate change and promoting financial inclusion. In the case of smallholder farmers, this will also be enhanced by the EIB support to the rollout of the Digital ID.”
The EU noted that the ETI would create space for EU trade and investments while generating job opportunities for Nigeria’s youth through the combination of investment facilities for sustainable energy, agriculture and nature-based solutions by EDFI and European DFIs, coupled with policy dialogue and technical assistance by the EU and the EU member states.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, in his keynote Address delivered at the unveiling of the TEI-Green Economy, solicited the support of the EU and the EU-countries to assist with capacity building for Nigeria as a country and its companies to prepare proposals to access the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Abubakar, who was represented by the Director, Africbusiness and Marketing, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Emmanuel Olaleye, said that the execution of green projects would contribute to the reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions as envisaged in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) strategy.
He said: “EU companies and their Nigerian counterparts should take advantage of available GCF to attract Green Projects to Nigeria. I urge companies to use their Corporate Social Responsibility fund to finance the Integrated Watershed Management Plan that will reduce ecological damage in our rural communities as a result of soil erosion, land degradation, flooding, and high ground water level.
“Integrated watershed management projects will recharge the underground water sources, reduce flooding, and conserve water for Irrigation, thereby reducing the amount of water flowing to the south as flood water.”
The minister noted that the agricultural landscape in Nigeria is changing, with increased government policies aimed at stimulating private sector investment and boosting local production of key products.
“In line with the diversification drive of the current administration as well as in the fulfillment of one of its cardinal pillars of food security, the government will continue to prioritise activities in the agriculture sector through targeted policies to attract investments. The policies like the recently approved National Agricultural Technology and Innovation policy emphasises the use of technology that includes digital agriculture, ranging from innovative technologies such as the use of drones, internet, and other IT facilities/equipment along the value chain from input delivery, production, processing, and marketing. Digital agriculture techniques will be used to support climate-smart agriculture to effectively respond to the challenges associated with climate change,” Abubakar said.