NIGERIA – The African Development Bank (AfDB) is set to invest USD134 million to enhance local food production in Nigeria.

The announcement came from Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of AfDB, following his visit to the Center for Dryland Agriculture (CDA) at Bayero University, Kano.

The CDA, established by Bayero University in 2012 with World Bank support, functions as a regional training hub for West and Central African sub-regions, addressing development challenges in dryland areas.

Dr. Adesina revealed that the AfDB’s funding aims to support Nigeria in cultivating key crops, including rice, maize, cassava, and soybeans.

For the 2024 planting season, the bank plans to assist in cultivating 300,000 hectares each of rice and maize, 150,000 hectares of cassava, and 50,000 hectares of soybeans.

In addition to this, Dr. Adesina emphasized the importance of adapting to climate change by incorporating heat-tolerant wheat varieties, cultivating 118,000 hectares in March, and an additional 150,000 hectares of maize.

“We have no choice but to adapt to climate change and adopt better water management practices, particularly in the cultivation of more resilient and tolerant dryland crops,” stated Dr. Adesina, underlining the necessity of sustainable farming practices.

Furthermore, the AfDB will provide grants to the CDA to develop its capacity for predicting weather patterns, gathering information to aid farmers in better planning.

Dr. Adesina expressed the bank’s commitment to turning the CDA into a center of excellence in technology, enhancing its capabilities for the benefit of the agricultural community.

Highlighting support for young entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, Dr. Adesina mentioned the bank’s initiatives, including the “USD 20,000 grants offered under the Agri Pitch and Agri Hacking programs.”

Cassava growers advocate for economic reforms

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) drew attention to the country’s substantial annual loss exceeding USD 200 million due to the non-implementation of a plan to integrate cassava products into bread production.

The newly appointed National President of NCGA, Mustapha Othman, attributed this loss to the continued reliance on imported flour for bread production.

Othman emphasized the need for policy continuity, citing the abandonment of the cassava bread initiative.

“During the time of Akinwunmi, there was the cassava bread initiative. Had it continued, by now, we would have been using 40 per cent of cassava in flour in the bakery,” he stated.

NCGA is actively working to reduce the import bill by incorporating 10 per cent cassava into wheat. According to Othman, this initiative could significantly reduce the import bill by almost $200 million in the first year and up to USD 400 million when extended to 20 per cent.

He highlighted the multifaceted uses of cassava, including the pharmaceutical sector and ethanol production for biofuel.

Despite Nigeria being the highest producer of cassava, Othman pointed out that the income generated from it is less than USD 170 million, while China, with lower production, earns over USD 2 billion annually from the sector.

These contrasting figures underscore the urgent need for strategic reforms to capitalize on Nigeria’s agricultural potential.

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