World Bank boosts agriculture with $300m

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Twelve countries in the West African sub-region are to benefit from
a World Bank-assisted regional agricultural project under the West Africa
Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP).

Nigeria is one of the countries to benefit from the $300 million
facility. Other countries under the scheme include Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Cote
d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Gambia, and Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is
expected to contribute $30 million of the facility, with the balance of $15
million to be contributed from the Nigerian International Development Agency
(IDA), and $6 million from free grants from the Global Food Crisis Response
Programme (GFPR). Nigeria contributes between 60-65 % of ECOWAS funds.

Boost for local farmers

Nigeria, which has already received the approval of the board of
the World Bank to participate in the programme, is expected to utilise the
facility to boost its productivity as well as create direct employment for
about 1.5 million local farmers, especially youth and women.

World Bank’s task team leader for the programme, Abdoulaye
Toure, leading a team of agricultural experts to Nigeria, said that the project
has started yielding results in some participating African countries, such as
Mali, where technologies developed for rice has helped raise farm productivity
from 2 to 9 tons per hectare, with Nigeria’s farm productivity currently at 2.5
tons per hectare.

Mr. Toure said Nigeria, which will share $51 million in WAPPP
package, will pay back only the interest-free $15 million to the IDA in 40 years,
with a grace period of 10 years.

“Nigeria is expected to play a key role in championing this
regional agricultural programme to scale up research and technology adoption to
enhance agricultural productivity in the West Africa sub-region. Many of the
participating West African countries are looking up to Nigeria for leadership
in the project,” Mr. Toure said.

The WAAPP project is expected to assist farmers in
agro-processing and value addition for agricultural products. The first phase
of the project, approved in 2007, has since provided Ghana, Senegal, and Mali
with agricultural research systems and regional research coordination and
monitoring through the West African Council for Agricultural Research and
Development (WACARD).

Nigeria’s agriculture sector has continued to remain the highest
contributor to the gross domestic project, with the federal government’s
aspiration to attain the Vision 20-20-20 objectives aimed at making the country
one of the world’s leading economies by the year 2020.

Available statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics
(NBS) show that Nigeria’s current food import bills are high, while
productivity of the country’s agricultural commodities remains comparatively
low against other countries in the sub-region.

The goal of WAAPP is to encourage integrated development of agricultural
research into the technology generation and dissemination continuum throughout
the region.


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