THE Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group, (AfDB) today approved a $134 million loan facility for the National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket programme (NAGS – APP) in Nigeria to scale up food production and boost livelihood resilience.
The programme, the bank said, would support the fast-tracking of the implementation of key policy and institutional reforms, and boost private sector participation in agriculture.
A statement issued and signed by the bank’s Communication and External Relations Specialist, Emeka Ezekiel, said the loan facility would further help increase cereals and oil grains production from seven million tonnes to 35 million tonnes.
According to the statement, the facility would further help increase average cereal yields from 1.42 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hectare during the September 2022-December 2023 implementation period.
The bank stressed that the programme aligned with its African Emergency Food Production Facility and would support Nigeria’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Food prices have been rising rapidly due to higher volatility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and aggravated by the war.
The programme also aligns with the AfDB’s 10-Year Strategy as it promotes climate-resilient agriculture and targets the vulnerable population, including youth and women.
The Director-General of the bank’s Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow, said in the statement that the programme would prioritize support for five strategic crops – maize, rice, wheat, soya beans and sorghum – with a particular focus on wheat value chains.
Barrow said the NAGS-APP is anchored on the National Agriculture Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP) 2022-27, which aims to modernize Nigeria’s agriculture sector in line with changing global food systems and supply chains.
“The programme will complement Bank-supported operations in the country, particularly the Special Agricultural Special Zones.
“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 programme 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.
The NAGS – APP is expected to help build the resilience of farming livelihoods, enhance farmers’ access to improved seeds, and strengthen the capacity of industry stakeholders, Barrow stressed.
The AfDB Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Beth Dunford, 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.”
The AfDB had led the mobilization of $538m 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.
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, representing 48 per cent of the populace, produces up to 90 per cent of the national output.
However, inadequate support for the farmers has confined them to traditional agronomic techniques, resulting in low productivity and limited opportunities for value addition.
In 2020, the harvested cereals area and yields declined by 2.75 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.