Bill Gates Foundation Boosts Food Production in Nigeria

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Bill Gates Foundation funds rice and yam production to ensure food sufficiency in Nigeria

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Sep 26, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding six agricultural commodities value chains with emphasis on rice and yam production to ensure food sufficiency in Nigeria. This is especially important given the warning by the federal government that a bag of rice which sold for N7000 in 2015 may sell for N40,000 before December 2016 if Nigerians fail to produce rice.

Audu Grema, senior programme officer, Agriculture in the West African Office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on Tuesday, September 13, listed some agricultural projects of the foundation to include CARI-Project (rice) which was aimed at improving rice production productivity, pest control, and variety enhancement.

Expressing optimism that Nigeria will soon be self-sufficient in rice production, Grema said the rice project supported by the foundation is currently being implemented in Cross River, Niger, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Plateau and Edo, Ebonyi States. The programme officer, however, said that the Cassava Value Addition Project, CAVA, is based in Abeokuta at the University of Agriculture.

“We also have a big yam project where we are working with private farms around Abuja, Kaduna, Niger, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Akure to enhance yam propagation technology through seeds. We have a huge portfolio of agricultural investments in Nigeria. We are working on maize, rice, yam, cassava and crop-livestock interface.

“We have four strategic cassava investments that we think are critical that we are funding across Nigeria. In agriculture, we do not approve projects except if it has a small holder connection. Anything we fund must have a connection with enhancing the status of small scale farmers,” Grema said.

He explained that the foundation was also working in public health, integrated vaccine delivery, routine immunisation revival across many states.

He, however, refuted allegations that Gates was a major propagator of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, saying that the Bill Gates Foundation had no connection with GMOs.

According to him, Bill Gates has no interest to promote agribusiness, so we are denying that we did not bring GMOs into Nigeria. “Bill and Melinda Gates are not farmers; they are not into agricultural services; so, to think they will promote GMOs just to promote their businesses interest is very wrong.

“I will be in complete denial that we have nothing to do with these big commercial agricultural farms that have been cited in some of the articles in Nigeria. The foundation does not have anything to do with GMOs even in Nigeria and abroad. No connection with the big industrial agricultural concerns which people are alluding to. People making such assertions are morally wrong,” he said.

Grema commended the `Green Alternative’ currently launched by the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development. He said the agricultural initiative was a step toward fighting poverty and food security in Nigeria. The programme officer assured that the foundation would align its programmes with that of the federal government to enable the country achieve sustainable development goals, SDGs. The primary aim of the foundation with headquarter in Seattle, Washington, is enhancing healthcare and reduce extreme poverty.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world, founded by Bill Gates.

Realnews recalls that Heineken Lokpobiri, minister of state for agriculture and rural development, had warned Nigerians over the skyrocketing of some of the imported items in the country mostly rice. Lokpobiri, who stated this at a town hall meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, said that Nigeria spends about $22 billion a year on importation of food.

He said the development had led to the astronomical rise in price of rice and other commodities. The minister said there was a projection that by 2050, Nigeria’s population would be 450 million, wondering what would happen then if the people could not feed themselves now.

“For your information, we spend about $22billion a year importing food into Nigeria. We know how many more dollars … and that is why you see the price of rice going up. Price of rice was N12,000 some months ago, but it is now about N26,000 and if we don’t start producing, by December it could be N40,000.

“Rice matures in three months. So, this is a wakeup call for Bayelsa people to take the four farms we have seriously. The federal government has four farms in the state in our records. The average land you see in Bayelsa can grow rice, so the colonial masters were not wrong in their assessment when they said Niger Delta could feed not only Nigeria but the entire West Africa sub-region. Unfortunately, agriculture till today is not a priority of the Niger Delta as far as the state governments are concerned because of oil.”

He said the states in the Niger Delta had yet to give priority to agriculture the way the north-west states such as Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano as well as other states like Lagos, Ebonyi, Anambra, have prioritised it. He said Anambra State for instance, was not owing salaries despite the fact that it does not have oil but raking in money by exporting vegetables.

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