FADAMA III AF: Boosting rice production, employment in Lagos
First, it was the former Minister for Agriculture, who is now the elected President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, that declared at the National Assembly that about $30 billion dollars have been lost by Nigeria due to abuse and lack of transparency in import waivers on rice importation during the era of Goodluck Jonathan.
A few weeks ago, the National Assembly directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to ensure that the said $30 billion is recovered into the Federation Account by ensuring that importers of rice, who manipulated the process and evaded payment of importation duty are made to pay the sum in full.
However, the above scenario is like scratching the problem of rice production and food sufficiency in Nigeria on the surface, just like treating leprosy with medicated soap.
What led to the waiver scandal or Ricegate was the inability of Nigerian rice farmers to meet local demand for the staple food. Rice could be said to be the most consumed staple food in Nigeria today. It is estimated that about N1 billion worth of rice is consumed daily in Nigeria.
There is no doubt that such huge level of demand provides immense opportunities for the production of rice and other activities along its value chain. This was the opportunities that foreign countries producing rice have seen and which informed the off loading of rice from their stores into the country, what Dr. Adesina described as “rice that has spent decades in the strategic grain reserve of these countries and that is not even fit for animal consumption.” Adesina has been vociferous in his campaign that locally produced rice is more nutritious.
It was therefore, a pleasant step in the right and realistic direction when the World Bank, through FADAMA, identified rice as a priority staple food for support under the $200 million FADAMA III Additional Financing (AF), which is aimed, among others, at ramping up production and increasing income of farmers operating within the catchment of the selected States and other production areas engaged in priority staple foods, namely rice, cassava, sorghum, and horticulture in Kogi, Kano, Lagos, Niger, Enugu and Anambra states.
The details of the implementation arrangement are outlined in the amended Subsidiary Agreement of the Parent Project satisfactory in form and substance to the Association. The amended Subsidiary Agreement has to be executed on behalf of the recipient and the participating state concerned, as a condition of disbursement of additional finance in respect of activities taking place in that state.
Lagos State has been selected for rice production under the current project because of the success stories of FADAMA parent projects in the “state of aquatic splendor,” the co-operation of the state government in prompt payment of its counterpart funding of the projects, and the establishment of Eko Rice Mills by the state government at Imota-Ikorodu, with a capacity of 20, 000 metric tons per annum.
About 400 farmers are presently being prepared for the rice planting season in Lagos State under the FADAMA III Additional Finance Project for which the Federal and Lagos State governments recently signed a $25 million US dollars agreement.
Lagos State has a huge market, not only because of its daily increasing population, but also because the states of South West rely mainly on the Lagos market for the sales and purchase of agricultural produce. It is therefore, a commendable foresight for the World Bank and the Federal Government to have picked Lagos State for this special support.
A visit of the Imota factory of Eko Rice Mills, which is producing unpolished rice, revealed state-of-the-art equipment, in a hygiene and safety-conscious environment. The rice being produced is very nutritious and is packed in bags of five, 25 and 50 killogrammes. The mill is presently sourcing materials/paddy from two farm sites in Toga, Badagry and Itokin, all in Lagos State.
The AF, apart from boosting production and raising income of farmers, is also creating employment in Lagos and neighbouring states. For example, a 10, 000 hectares of land has been acquired in Ogun State for rice farming to feed the Eko Rice Mills.
Lagos State government has also introduced Rice-for-Job Programme, which is a sort of empowerment programmes for youths, who are encouraged to go into rice farming. Every year, according to the Management Information System Officer for State FADAMA Office in Lagos, Mr. Oladipo Azeez, the youths are trained in rice production and at the end of the training; they are supported by FADAMA with technical and financial aids, and advisory services to go into rice production and to start their own farm. About 3, 000 youths participate in the programme, while rice plantations have been established in Itokin, Egua, Imota and Badagry on the basis of one hectare of land per farmer.