BY Onome Amuge
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has announced the approval of a $134 million loan to facilitate the National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket programme in Nigeria, aimed at improving food production and boosting livelihood resilience.
The loan, approved by the AfDB Board of Directors, will support fast-tracking of the implementation of key policy and institutional reforms and boost private sector participation in Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
In addition, it is expected to help increase cereals and oil grains production from 7 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes and also raise average cereal yields from 1.42 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hectare during the September 2022-December 2023 implementation period.
The programme, which is an extension of AfDB’s African emergency food production facility, will also support Nigeria’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine that has resulted in higher volatility of basic food commodities such as wheat.
It also aligns with the bank’s 10-year strategy as it promotes climate-resilient agriculture and targets the vulnerable population, including youth and women.
In a press statement sent to Business A.M, the African Development Bank noted that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is projected to hit 402 million by 2050 from 206 million people in 2020, making it the third-most populous country globally. The bulk of its rural population, AfDB explained, represents 48 percent of the populace, and produces up to 90 percent of the national agriculture output.
The bank, however, lamented that inadequate support for the local farmers has confined them to traditional agronomic techniques, resulting in low productivity and limited opportunities for value addition, adding that in 2020, the harvested cereals area and yields fell 2.75 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
Commenting on the programme, Lamin Barrow, director general of the AfDB’s Nigeria country department, said it would prioritise support for five strategic crops, including maize, rice, wheat, soybeans and sorghum, with a particular focus on wheat value chains.
Barrow further explained that the National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket programme is anchored in the National Agriculture Technology and Innovation Policy (2022-27) which aims to modernise Nigeria’s agriculture sector in line with changing global food systems and supply chains.
He added that the programme will complement bank-supported operations in the West African country, particularly the Special Agricultural Special Zones (SAPZs).
“The Bank will support the federal government to put in place a robust institutional framework, including operationalization of the National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket program secretariat as the administrative vehicle to oversee the implementation of the Agro-Pocket Scheme, whose precursor is the highly successful e-wallet scheme that was rolled out in Nigeria between 2012 and 2015,” he said.
He also stressed that the programme would help build the resilience of farming livelihoods, enhance farmers’ access to improved seeds, and strengthen the capacity of industry stakeholders.
Speaking on the relevance of the programme, Beth Dunford, AFDB’s vice president for agriculture, human and social development, said, “Cushioning the poor from the effects of higher food, and energy costs, requires urgent and sustainable policy, such as increased public expenditure on agriculture.”
Prior to the recent development, AfDB had in 2021 led the mobilisation of $538 million for the flagship Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones programme to develop value chains for strategic agriculture commodities in Nigeria and transform rural areas into zones of economic prosperity.