U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard joined Kebbi State Governor H.E. Sen. Abubakar Bagudu and private and public-sector stakeholders committed to ensuring food security in Nigeria to launch a new co-investment partnership between the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub and the indigenous firm WACOT Rice. The partnership promises to improve the livelihoods of smallholder rice farmers in the country, whose success is crucial to feeding a burgeoning population. Rice is a major staple in Nigeria, but production and supply in Kebbi State, a major producer of rice, has suffered a setback because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the Trade Hub awarded the $1.48 million co-investment grant, which will allow WACOT to add 5,000 additional smallholder rice farmers into its special Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project launched to increase local production. The co-investment will create thousands of new jobs, increase yields by more than 50 percent, and help farmers earn more. In her remarks, Ambassador Leonard highlighted the importance of partnering with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions to improve food security, reduce poverty, and create jobs, particularly for women.
“We know the challenges faced by women farmers in owning lands and accessing finances and inputs — despite women being key to making a significant impact for future generations,” the Ambassador said. “We hope this activity will improve the livelihoods of women farmers and their families in Kebbi State.” Joining Ambassador Leonard and the Governor at the event were Rahul Savara, Group Managing Director for Tropical General Investments, the parent company of WACOT Rice and other notable stakeholders. Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative and works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors. In Nigeria, Feed the Future focuses on modernizing practices and improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers in five value chains: maize, rice, soy, cowpea, and aquaculture.
WACOT Rice operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu. The mill is one of the largest rice mills in Africa and sources unprocessed rice from across the country. WACOT also engages farmers who produce and supply rice to boost their yields and guarantees off-take of unprocessed rice from farmers through buyback arrangements.