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Addressing food insecurity, unemployment through brown revolution – Daily Sun

From Uche Usim, Abuja
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, unveiled the brown revolution project, a scheme that seeks to end the importation of wheat in the near future and eventually, other grains.
It is to replicate the gains recorded in the rice and maize value chains, which is consistent with solving Nigeria’s food insufficiency imbroglio.
The initiative also draws inspiration from the need to cut back on the $2 billion spent annually in importing five million metric tons of wheat, thus depleting Nigeria’s foreign reserves and ballooning the unemployment figure.
It is equally motivated by President Buhari’s commitment to economic diversification, which finds expression in the mantra of “producing what we eat and eating what we produce.”
The CBN, the driver of the scheme, said that there exists an unflinching resolve to push the brown revolution to a higher pedestal, adding that the gains were becoming so manifest, especially with the expansion of crop production in Nigeria.
The scheme involves over 150,000 farmers cultivating 180,000 hectares of land in about 15 states and targeting 60% first year import substitution and ultimately saving $2 billion per annum.
Speaking while unveiling the first ever rain-fed wheat programme at the CBN-ABP Wheat Seed Multiplication Farm, Kwall, Basa, Plateau State recently, Emefiele, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Mr Edward Lamtek Adamu, revealed that the brown revolution was an offshoot of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), an economic interventionist plank created by the bank to solve the food insufficiency nightmare.
The brown revolution is also the first major wet season wheat production in Nigeria with about 700 hectares put under cultivation in Kwall, Kassa, Jol, Kafi Abu and Sop in Jos, Plateau State. While the short-term implication of this is the addition of about 2,000 metric tons of seeds to the national seed stock, the country can now potentially add 750,000 metric tons of wheat to the nation’s output annually through rain-fed wheat cultivation in Plateau, Mambilla Plateau and Obudu Plateau.
Adamu added that the intervention was necessary as wheat is the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill and given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat is projected to continue to rise and intensify pressure on the country’s reserves unless a decisive step is taken to grow wheat locally.
“The CBN will not rest on its oars as we continue to work with our partners, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), to expand the frontiers of wheat production in Nigeria to areas like northern Oyo, Kogi and Kwara states”, Adamu stated.
According to him, the ABP has recorded tremendous successes in supporting smallholder farmers to increase the cultivation of different commodities across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a development that will ensure local food sufficiency and prepare the country for massive export.
He said: “Through the programme, N788.035 billion has been disbursed to about 4 million farmers through 23 Participating Financial Institutions (PFI). So far, 4.796 million hectares of farmlands have been cultivated under the programme covering 21 commodities.
“Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. It is estimated that the country only produces about one per cent (63,000 metric tons) of the 5-6 million metric tons of the commodity consumed annually in Nigeria.  This enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion spent annually on wheat importation. This has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill. Given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat is projected to continue to rise. This can only intensify pressure on the country’s reserves unless we take a decisive step to grow wheat locally.
“Over the years, the availability of low-yielding seed varieties locally and poor agronomic practices have hampered successful cultivation of wheat in Nigeria. It has led to low productivity, making wheat production unappealing to farmers and unattractive for private sector investment. In order to change the situation and leverage domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, the CBN has decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the bank’s agricultural intervention programmes.
“Our collaboration with key stakeholders have culminated in the gains being witnessed today, amongst others. Improved seed varieties are the bedrock of any crop production process. We have made some progress in this regard with the acquisition of high yielding varieties from Mexico with potential average yield per hectare of 5-7 metric tons as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tons yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated. The two-pronged approach of seed multiplication and grain production which we have adopted is expected to sustain the propagation of seeds and guarantee availability of high-yielding seeds to farmers.”
Adamu said the strategy for the wheat value chain involves, ensuring availability of high-yield seeds by financing seed multiplication and establishment of seed ripple centres; expanding land under cultivation for wheat to a capacity that can meet total national demand through association and collaboration with relevant federal agencies and state governments; pursuing strategic collaboration with key stakeholders in the wheat value chain for sustained local production.
This strategy, he explained, “seeks to reduce wheat importation by 60% in two years and ultimately eliminate wheat importation or reduce it to an insignificant contributor to the country’s total food import bill.
“The wheat fields you are seeing here today are historic and further underscore the enormous potentials in our agricultural landscape. We are hopeful that with the right technology and agronomic practices, we can change the narratives and develop two wheat cropping cycles to support an aggressive drive to bridge the wheat demand-supply gap in Nigeria. Although, our effort in this regard is still in its early days, the CBN has achieved the following feats in the wheat value chain; added about 20,000MT of high yielding wheat seed variety to the stock of national seed supply; trained over 100 senior extension service officers on new technologies for wheat cultivation; designed a strategy for self-sufficiency in wheat production”, he added.
The CBN Governor’s representative also hailed the government and good people of Plateau State for their relentless support to the project through the provision of a conducive environment for wheat anchors to grow wheat.
“Such collaboration has unlocked the potential for increasing private sector investment in the State as we take steps to add to the hectares to be financed during the next planting season. We also intend to explore opportunities for additional land in the State for commercial wheat production.
“Stakeholders engagement has been a vital part of this project. Permit me to extend our appreciation to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its parastatals like the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) for their commitment to this project. We sincerely hope other state governments that have shown interest to partner with us starting from this dry season production will come on board. Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and other milling groups have also demonstrated sincerity and commitment towards ensuring the success of this project. The CBN looks forward to expanding this list of partners with you all seated here as we take this initiative to greater heights”.
Earlier in his remarks, President Buhari, who was represented by the Governor of Plateau State, Mr Simon Bako Lalong, said that the first rain-fed wheat production remains a landmark event.
He added that food security cannot be attained if farmers were not supported with the right seedlings, agriculture materials and other resources.
He said: “The ABP is a good mechanism to give farmers a ready market and provide jobs along the agricultural value chain.
“The benefits of the agricultural revolution cannot be over-emphasised. We’re almost attaining sufficiency in cassava, rice and others and wheat is being added to the list.
“One legacy this administration desires to bequeath before leaving office is zero importation of wheat. To that effect, we will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved in the most impactful way for the Nigerian economy.
“The Federal Government is committed to the continued support for the agricultural sector to ensure sustainability of food security efforts, contribute to foreign reserve accretion and ultimately support the growth of the Nigerian economy. The private sector is also encouraged to key into agricultural financing initiatives provided by the CBN and other government agencies.
“As a country, Nigeria has relied on the proceeds of oil exports for so long. However, with the volatility of oil prices, and its implications on our  foreign reserves, we have no other choice but to work towards the diversification of the Nigerian economy by investing in other productive sectors of the economy. The agricultural sector is one of the critical non-oil sectors which has made significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounting for a 22.35 and 23.78 per cent contribution to the overall GDP in the first and second quarters of 2021 respectively.
“It was also instrumental in supporting the emergence of our economy from the recession in the second half of 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring food security means ensuring availability and access across all demographics in the country. The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), managed by the CBN is one of such mechanisms. It is designed to ensure that farmers are guaranteed a ready market for their output and also facilitates finance for players in the next step of the value chain, the millers, to produce.
“Nigeria is on the path to actualizing sustainability in the production of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, groundnut, oil palm, cocoa and we are gathered here today because of a breakthrough in wheat cultivation in Nigeria. Through the various efforts of this administration in the agric value chain, we expect bountiful harvest in commodities like maize. It is important to stress that Nigeria currently spends over $2 billion on the importation of wheat annually. Wheat cultivation, similar to rice has the capacity to thrive in Nigeria due to the tropical climatic conditions. Currently, wheat is cultivated in many Northern states particularly in the dry season due to the high heat tolerance of the seed utilized by farmers.
“Wheat can also be grown in the wet season in Plateau state. Research also shows that it can be cultivated in other Plateaus in the country, namely, Gembu Plateau, Taraba State and Obudu Plateau, Cross River State. I urge these other states to take advantage of this opportunity and key into the initiative”, the President stated.
In his goodwill message, National President, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Salim Saleh Muhammad, described the event as epoch-making and assured that planting would be done at safe states and areas to guarantee high yield and good return on investment.
He said that bankers, millers and other wheat stakeholders were onboard the revolution train.
Also delivering his goodwill message, the Gbong Gwom Jos and Chairman, Plateau State Traditional Council of Chiefs,  Da Jacob Gyang Buba, stated that unemployed youths have constituted grave security challenge and that agriculture will provide avenues to absorb the jobless youngsters and ultimately help tackle the insecurity challenge.
He expressed worry that some of the players in the farmers association end up becoming roadblocks as they pose as middlemen.
He stated: “Those who really have the farms don’t access the loans. The commercial banks have made things difficult. I’m a victim. Let’s ensure these facilities are accessed by the actual farmers so that the aims and objectives are not eroded.”
He charged security agencies to ensure farmers are protected from security challenges so the country does not starve or return to massive food import and when crops can be grown locally.
“I heard 100 extension workers have been trained and I hope this number is expanded so they can come and guide the farmers on best farming practices”, he said.
The event had in attendance smallholder farmers, banks, officials of Lake Chad Research Institute, Flour Milling Association of Nigeria, prime anchors, seed companies, federal ministry of agriculture and rural development, among other stakeholders.
A farmer, Mohammed Ali, told Daily Sun that the commencement of the wheat revolution was a sign that good fortunes were underway for farmers and Nigerians in general.
“Before now, we suffered in planting wheat and other grains. But now, the government is giving us better varieties and better ideas on how to maximize our yield.
“My brother is into rice farming and today, he’s a millionaire. All he does is to plant and harvest his rice and there are offtakers to take it from there. There is no worry about markets to sell or post-harvest losses.
“That is what will happen to us wheat farmers. I can wait to join this scheme”, Ali explained.
Another farmer, Usman Garba, said the new initiative will ultimately bring millions of Nigerians out of the poverty web.
“Rice farmers are now millionaires. Wheat farmers will join suit. Nigeria is a huge country with huge potential. With agriculture, we can solve the problem of insecurity by engaging the youths. Agriculture is the new oil”, he said.
Emefiele recently challenged tertiary institutions in Nigeria to promote research and well-designed programmes that will boost agriculture and agribusiness in Nigeria.
While delivering a lecture titled: “Jump Starting the Agricultural Revolution: The CBN Experience” at the 23rd-25th joint convocation lecture of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM), the CBN Governor noted that the university community had a significant role in fostering research that would enhance yields per hectare by farmers and reduce other constraints faced by farmers such as access to markets and storage facilities for their produce.
Citing the agricultural success of Israel made possible through research into irrigation, he said the CBN was eager to see how the university community and the graduating students could leverage their knowledge and research to come up with similar breakthrough solutions that would improve productivity of Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
He assured that the CBN was ready to provide a commercial outlook to research breakthroughs on improved seeds by ensuring a guaranteed market through off-take of those seeds for adoption by Nigerian farmers under the Bank’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
He added that the seed industry was a multi-billion dollar investment, and offered the potential for collaboration between the CBN and the University Community. While declaring the Bank’s readiness to partner with Nigerian universities to achieve this objective, he also urged them to set up demonstration farms in farming areas, where farmers can come and  obtain knowledge on the right farming practices to adopt in order to increase their yields and output.
Emefiele also enumerated the impact of the bank’s intervention in the agricultural sector in Nigeria, noting that the cumulative effect of the interventions had, among other things, assisted Nigeria to achieve progressive increase in agricultural outputs along major agricultural commodities. He therefore urged the graduating students to leverage the knowledge they had acquired at the school towards applying it in supporting further growth of Nigeria’s agricultural sector given its immense opportunities.
He also charged other Nigerian youth to cue into the Bank’s intervention schemes such as the ABP and the Agribusiness, Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) in order to make their own towards the country’s goal of addressing the challenge of rising demand for food, in spite of the progress made in the production of staple food items.
The CBN Governor, who decried the over reliance of the country on crude oil earnings, said the bank, as part of its mandate to ensure price and monetary stability, had to intervene in the agricultural sector in order to diversify the Nigerian economy as well as mitigate the impact of global shock to the economy arising from volatility in the price of crude oil.

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From Uche Usim, Abuja Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor of the Central Bank of…

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