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Driving poverty alleviation, higher income via agribusiness estates

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Garri production facility at FUNAAB

Nigeria needs an annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1 trillion to lift people above the poverty line but falls short at only $448 billion.

The shortfall is compounded by about 50 per cent post-harvest losses and food waste. Hence, establishing agribusiness in every local government area, where value could be added to fresh crops, would contribute up to N402 trillion to Nigeria’s GDP yearly.

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About 46 per cent of the population in Nigeria, according to the World Food Programme, live on less than US$2 per day, and the urban poor depending on daily wages have been very hard hit by COVID-19.

The preponderance of post-harvest losses and food wastage is also decried by the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (INSPRI), Ilorin, Kwara State, describing the monumental yearly waste as unacceptable amid a growing population, hunger, and malnutrition, according to NSPRI Executive Director, Dr Patricia Pessu.

This is the connecting point between Directorate of Agribusiness, Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, and Green Eagles Agribusiness Solutions Limited, with efforts to reduce poverty, get Nigerians sustainably employed, and drive towards food security by encouraging various cooperative societies to mobilise their members for investments in agriculture.

The agribusiness firm organised a symposium for cooperatives in Lagos State on what it calls a green wealth project, an agricultural initiative aimed at ensuring food security, exports, economic diversification, and sustainable wealth for all stakeholders.

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The project is designed to enhance profitability for stakeholders across agricultural value chains, as well as facilitate easy and profitable entry for small-holders into agriculture. Farm estate structures, as done in developed countries, eradicate challenges of land and time barriers for farm investors, while challenges of funding for real farmers and agribusiness entities are eliminated through profit-sharing arrangements legally binding.

Speaking at the symposium in Lagos on Saturday, the Chief Executive Officer, Green Eagles Agribusiness Solutions, Taiwo Oluwadahushola, said: “Food security has become a more serious issue than ever, and as a nation, we must bridge the local deficit in the production of critical food and cash crops to avert a major food crisis.”

However, averting food crises requires systematic and consistent investments into crop production, good agricultural practices, sustainable and environment-friendly farming, rural infrastructure and value additions as well as innovations. Part of the innovations is crowdfunding for agribusinesses, which most specialists have adjudged as the easiest way for revving up food production.

Oluwadahushola stated cooperative societies have a vital role to play in the achievement of national objectives of food security, import substitution development, and zero-waste of food.
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“We are persuaded that Lagos State cooperatives can play a vital role in the achievement of the green wealth objectives as well as provide tremendous benefits to all individual members in terms of decent returns on investments, lower food prices, a strengthened naira and increased purchasing power of every Nigerian worker.

“Our projections show we can assure an annual return of 30% to sponsors; that is 15% every six months. At the end of each investment circle, a sponsor may request a rollover or principal repayment,” he added.

The Director, Agribusiness, Lagos State Ministry of Commerce Industry and Cooperatives, Osiefa Akinbayo, while also addressing members of cooperative societies at the symposium, encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity the project presents.

She said: “This is indeed a good opportunity for cooperative societies to invest in agribusiness, especially now that the nation is diversifying into agriculture. The project is a laudable initiative, and I must commend the management of Green Eagles Agribusiness for this.”

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Dr Emmanuel Ijiwere, a director of the company, emphasised that “it’s high time we took action and made agriculture a major source of livelihood at all levels while ensuring food security in Nigeria and Africa as agribusiness is the new oil.”

Bola Adetayo, Director of Strategy and Business Development, said the project would help in creatively restructuring the nation’s agribusiness space to achieve the goal of shoring up the nation’s GDP through agriculture.

“In achieving this goal, we will facilitate the establishment of integrated farm estates in 774 local government areas across the federation to drive a rapid increase in crops and livestock, which is produced round-the-year at significantly lower production costs, until we achieve equilibrium of demand and supply at consistently lower prices,” she said.

Both Lagos State and the firm belief that such efforts to catalyse food production across local government areas would provide sustainable livelihoods for millions of rural dwellers and unemployed youths, as well as sustainable returns for sponsors.

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Secondly, cottage processing industries within the integrated farm estates would add significant value to farm products upon harvests and provide the efficient application of waste to wealth integration of crops and livestock. The cottage industries would also enjoy nearness to materials and farmers would enjoy direct access to the whole value chain, including guaranteed markets and exports.

In the project, integrated farm estates of at least a thousand hectares each would be established in each of the 774 LGAs across Nigeria. Farmers would be organised into co-operative structures, trained and sponsored to achieve the project objectives. The integrated farm estates models would create sustainable means of livelihood for at least three million people along the food chain from farm to table while stirring up unprecedented economic prosperity in and around rural communities across Nigeria.

The first phase would be geared towards the goal of national food security, while the second phase will facilitate the achievement of export prominence in crops where we have an agro-ecological advantage.

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