IFAD Pledges Support for Digitalizing Agriculture in Niger Delta

In a significant move to boost job creation for youths and women in the Niger Delta region, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has reaffirmed its dedication to back the federal government’s efforts in the digital transformation of agriculture.

This initiative will be realized through the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises for Niger Delta (LIFE-ND) project. Funded via a loan from IFAD and supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the project holds substantial promise for the region.

To better understand and implement the digital transformation of agriculture, a delegation from the federal government participated in an exchange program with the IFAD-backed Kenya Cereal Enhancement Programme – Climate Resilient Agricultural Livelihoods (KCEP-CRAL) Project in Kenya. This visit showcased the capabilities of ICT tools and strategies in enhancing the lives of smallholder farmers. Insights from this exchange will be instrumental in the Nigerian project’s goal of improving agricultural efficiency, food security, and the socio-economic fabric of local Niger Delta communities through technological advancements.

The IFAD Country Director, Dede Ekoue, lauded the achievements made by KCEP-CRAL during the exchange and expressed the organization’s intent to utilize ICT tools for agricultural growth. Emphasizing the project’s alignment with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s agricultural policy, Bukar Musa, Director, Project Coordinating Unit of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, recognized the indispensable role of ICT in fostering food security, job opportunities, and sustainable economic growth.

Abiodun Sanni, the National Project Coordinator of LIFE-AND, asserted the project’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing agriculture, forecasting a bright horizon for smallholder farmers in the region.

In recent times, the LIFE-ND project has made tangible strides. It has extended support to farmers in the Niger Delta, offering them access to improved hybrid crops and livestock breeds. With its efforts, the project has introduced an estimated gross income value of over 3 Billion into the national economy, excluding potential revenue from yet-to-be-sold produce, despite the challenges posed by natural calamities like the 2022 flood.

With international collaboration and dedicated local efforts, the future of agriculture in the Niger Delta appears poised for a technological renaissance, benefiting farmers, the economy, and the nation at large.


Bloom of Fortune: Nigeria’s Hibiscus Rush Amid Soaring Prices

In just half a year, the value of hibiscus flowers in Nigeria has skyrocketed by over 70%, putting Nigerian farmers on track to earn a staggering N48 billion from exports in 2023.

Recent data from the Association of Hibiscus Flower Exporters of Nigeria highlights that the nation has shipped an impressive 23,796 metric tons, encapsulated in 1,983 40-foot containers. With the prevailing rate standing at N1.7 million for each ton, this crop could soon transform the financial landscape for Nigerian farmers.

As prices blossom, farmers are being swayed towards hibiscus cultivation, leaving behind other traditional crops. In the Jigawa region, Musa Mohammed, a seasoned hibiscus farmer, has observed this shift firsthand. “The numbers speak for themselves. With prices nearly doubling, it’s no surprise that more and more farmers are gravitating towards hibiscus cultivation,” he remarked.

This upswing in demand and price can be linked to Mexico’s decision to lift its export ban on Nigeria’s hibiscus flowers. Today, Mexico stands as the largest importer, consuming about 85% of Nigeria’s hibiscus yield.

For Idris Abubakar, another Jigawa-based farmer, the demand is too hot to handle. He’s been contracting fellow farmers to boost production, revealing, “The demand is surging daily. I’ve expanded my farms and even funded other farmers to meet the escalating demand.”

Historically, a ban on exports to Mexico had driven many hibiscus farmers out of business. But with the ban lifted, not only are they making a comeback, but newcomers are also flocking to capitalize on the lucrative pricing.

Hibiscus isn’t just about numbers; it’s a culturally significant plant. In West Africa, it’s the heart of several products from the beloved zobo drink to jams, jellies, and traditional medicines. The flower flourishes all year round but peaks between November and April. Its cultivation is most robust in areas like Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi, and Kano.

In Mexico, hibiscus takes the form of ‘Agua de Jamaica,’ a cherished drink made by steeping the flowers, mixing them with water, and adding a touch of sugar.

Tunji Lawal, president of AHFEN, beams with optimism for the future. “Nigeria has a unique position in the hibiscus trade with Mexico. Despite setbacks from the ban, we’re making a resilient comeback,” he shared.

With planting season aligning with the rains, the regions readying for this bloom include Jigawa, Katsina, and Bauchi. And once the October harvest begins, the flower remains accessible up to September, ensuring a steady flow of this crimson gold.

Nigeria’s Agricultural Triumph: A Snapshot of 2023’s Leading Exports

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics has announced an upsurge in the country’s agricultural exports. By the second quarter of 2023, exports hit N280.8 billion, closely following the first quarter’s N279.6 billion. Cumulatively, the first half of 2023 witnessed exports reaching N560.4 billion, almost mirroring the total N583 billion from 2022, accentuating the role of forex depreciation.

Given agriculture’s pivotal role in Nigeria, these figures are more than mere numbers. They provide insights into the nation’s economic pulse and global trade positioning.

Here’s a concise breakdown of the top ten agricultural exports for the first half of 2023:

  1. Quality Cocoa Beans: Topping the list at N’ 115,544 Million, they remain globally sought-after, highlighting Nigeria’s dominance in quality cocoa production.
  2. Sesamum Seeds: Second, valued at N’ 105,982 Million, these versatile seeds are approaching the value and importance of cocoa in exports.
  3. Cashew Nuts (In Shell): Securing the third spot, they’re valued at N’ 83,196 Million, finding eager markets especially in countries like India.
  4. Cashew Nuts (Shelled): Reflecting Nigeria’s growing processing capabilities, they’re fourth at N’ 64,631 Million.
  5. Standard Quality Cocoa Beans: Holding the fifth position at N’ 32,590 Million, these beans continue to play a significant export role.
  6. Soya Beans (Excluding Seeds): At N’ 24,102 Million, these are key for oil extraction and animal feed.
  7. Flours and Meals of Soya Beans: A fresh entry, valued at N’ 23,601 Million, they’re gaining traction in both the food industry and animal husbandry.
  8. Other Cut Flowers & Flower Buds (Ornamental Purposes): At N’ 19,887 Million, they underline the rising significance of ornamental horticulture in exports.
  9. Soya Beans Seed: Marking its entrance in the ninth spot at N’ 15,467 Million, showcasing a bright future for this commodity.
  10. Other Cut Flowers & Flower Buds: Earning N’ 13,007 Million, their inclusion further reiterates the increasing demand for ornamental horticulture.

These figures depict Nigeria’s evolving agricultural landscape, pointing to a promising future driven by both traditional and emerging commodities.

Nigeria and Cuba Sign Agricultural MOU to Boost Food Security

In a bid to fortify agricultural ties, Nigeria and Cuba have formalized an agricultural partnership. The Memorandum of Understanding, focused on enhancing food security and advancing agriculture, was signed at the G77 + China Leaders’ Summit. Olusola Abiola, the Director Information of the Vice President’s Office, described this collaboration as a pivotal step to fortify Nigeria-Cuba agricultural relations.

Senator Abubakar Kyari, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, officiated the signing in Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture. Appreciating Cuba’s willingness for the partnership, Kyari emphasized the mutual vision both nations harbor for their populace. He elaborated on Nigeria’s demographic strengths, vast agricultural potential, and land resources, reaffirming President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s mission for food and nutrition security.

The agreement encompasses various areas:

  1. Bio-fortification of crops.
  2. Enhancement of agricultural seeds and seedlings.
  3. Mechanization in agriculture.
  4. Innovative technologies to amplify yields.
  5. Mitigating post-harvest wastages.

Additionally, Nigeria aims to fortify ties with Cuba in poultry, livestock, and fisheries domains. The accord also delves into veterinary medicine, vaccine development, artificial insemination, and pasture development to counteract challenges stemming from inefficient cattle open grazing.

Ydael Jesus Perez Brito, Cuba’s Minister of Agriculture, illuminated on Cuba’s agricultural might, which spans over 500,000 hectares. As a dominant exporter of commodities like tobacco, coffee, and honey, Brito voiced enthusiasm about collaborating with Nigeria. Highlighting Cuba’s agricultural human capital and practices, he ensured the nation’s expertise would aid Nigeria in achieving its agricultural goals.

This partnership promises mutual benefits, encompassing agricultural sustainability, knowledge exchange, and technology transfer. Vice President Kashim Shettima, representing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, led Nigeria’s delegation, which also included H.E. Ben Okoyen, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cuba.

FAO, IsDB, and IFAD Collaborate to Fortify Global Food Security Through Technological Advancement

A landmark partnership has been forged between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to bolster global food security and nutrition. Central to this trilateral pact is the empowerment of rural smallholder farmers, equipping them with innovative, affordable, and adaptable technologies vital for food security.

IsDB’s Vice President of Operations, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, underscored this alliance’s pivotal role in confronting the pressing issues of food insecurity and malnutrition rampant in many IsDB Member Countries. “Through our synergies with FAO and IFAD, we’re in a robust position to pinpoint and implement innovative technologies that can seamlessly dovetail with the IsDB’s Food Security Response Program (FSRP) and various agricultural ventures,” he noted.

AbdulHakim Elwaer, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa (NENA), highlighted the acute food security challenges confronting the NENA region, especially among small-scale agriculturalists. He expressed optimism that this joint venture would be instrumental in deploying technologies across the agrarian value chain, fostering better livelihoods and food security. “This collaboration marks a significant step since the inception of an MoU between FAO and IsDB in 2020,” Elwaer added.

Thouraya Triki, IFAD’s Director of Sustainable Production, Markets, and Institutions Division, pinpointed technology’s transformative potential in agriculture. “In spite of numerous efforts to technologically empower farmers, there’s a pressing demand for bolstered capacities and rapid innovation via partnerships,” she said. Triki envisions this cooperative agreement as a catalyst for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030.

The collaboration is committed to championing smart agricultural technologies and digital tools tailored for sustainable and low-carbon farming. These innovations are poised to bolster resilience, combat poverty, generate jobs, and shield communities from climate change adversities.

In a digital age, the collaborative seeks to leverage state-of-the-art tools and methodologies to capacitate rural families and small-scale farmers to flourish amidst challenges. By fostering agricultural productivity, it also intends to lay the foundation for environmentally-friendly farming practices.

The combined endeavor of FAO, IsDB, and IFAD symbolizes a harmonious fusion of expertise and resources. By integrating next-gen technologies into farming, the partnership aspires to cultivate a sustainable, resilient food ecosystem, heralding prosperity for communities across the globe.

Boosting Agricultural Skills in Nigeria’s South-West Region

The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and Arajek Multi Services Ltd have teamed up to provide specialized training aimed at improving farming techniques for maize, plantain, and oil palm cultivation in Oyo State. This initiative will see 100 farmers from each state undergo intensive training.

Kicking off on Monday at the Federal College Of Animal Health and Production Technology (FCAH&PT) in Ibadan, the workshop will wrap up today. Mr. Rahman Idris, Chairman of Arajek Multi Services Ltd, highlighted the vital role of agriculture in the nation’s economy during his inaugural speech. He indicated that between 65 to 75 percent of Nigerians engage in agricultural practices.

Emphasizing the abundant fertile lands Nigeria boasts from North to South and West to East, Mr. Idris encouraged attendees to make the most of the workshop by actively engaging with the facilitators.

He commended the NAQS team for their invaluable technical support and contributions to the success of this initiative.

Professor Adeboye Omole, the coordinator of the training, emphasized the importance of discipline and urged attendees to participate actively. He appreciated both the Federal Government and NAQS for focusing on equipping youths and women with necessary agricultural skills and lauded Honourable Kolapo Osunsanya, the chairman of Arajek Multi Services Limited, for making the training possible.

Representing Dr. Vincent Isegbe, the Comptroller General of NAQS, Mrs. Bello Hadijat Jumoke welcomed participants, stressing the significance of the knowledge they will acquire. She expressed hope that the training will lead to tangible improvements in agricultural practices in the region.

Federal Government Boosts Yam Cultivation in Kaduna with Improved Seedlings and Inputs

The Federal Government has taken proactive measures to enhance yam farming in Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria, by distributing improved yam seedlings and other crucial agricultural inputs to farmers and extension agents.

Mrs Raheem Adejoke, a Senior Agric Officer at the Federal Department of Agricultural Extension Services, spearheaded the distribution. Adejoke expressed that the initiative primarily aims to ramp up yam cultivation and as a secondary benefit, offset the flood’s adverse impacts on many farmers in the area.

33 farmers are slated to benefit from the distributed inputs, which include improved yam seedlings, fertilisers, and both pre and post-emergence herbicides. Adejoke highlighted the simultaneous emergency empowerment distribution across the Northwest, Northeast, and North Central regions, focusing on staple crops vital for household consumption.

Dr Timkat Nanfa, the Coordinator of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Kaduna, asserted that farming without inputs is counterproductive. He emphasized that quality inputs are the bedrock of successful farming and are essential to achieve improved yields.

Adding to this, Mr Muhammad Rili, the General Manager of the Kaduna State Agricultural Development Agency (KADA), mentioned that the selected beneficiaries, primarily small holder farmers, were those most in need of this support. KADA has plans to monitor the use of these inputs, ensuring they’re used for their intended purpose. Rili issued a warning against those considering selling the received inputs and emphasized KADA’s commitment to ensuring the benefits are genuinely utilized.

One of the beneficiaries, an extension agent named Nasir Abdullahi, pinpointed the cost of inputs as the most significant hindrance to yam farming in Kaduna. However, with the government’s support, he’s optimistic about introducing improved yam seedlings to local farmers and expects a positive reception.

The efforts by the federal government have been appreciated by beneficiaries and stakeholders alike, and it’s hoped that these initiatives will lead to a boost in yam cultivation, strengthening food security in the region.

Nigeria’s Sorghum Boom: From Local Fields to Global Breweries

Nigeria is on the cusp of a sorghum surge, with yearly production set to surpass seven million tonnes. This uptrend is steered by collaborative efforts between the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of Ahmadu Bello University and brewery stakeholders aiming to bolster cultivation and consequently conserve foreign exchange.

Given sorghum’s emergence as a linchpin in a multi-billion dollar market for global beer manufacturing, the drive for its increased cultivation has intensified. As per Statista’s recent figures, Nigeria’s sorghum output hovered around seven million metric tonnes.

Prof Mohammad Faguji Ishiyaku, Executive Director of IAR, shared that the institute’s new varieties have supercharged yields. Farmers can now expect an impressive 1.3 tonnes per hectare, a significant leap from the previous 500 kilograms. Key among these varieties are the early maturing cultivars: SAMSORG 52, SAMSORG 53, and SAMSORG 54.

Biofortified sorghum varieties, currently under IAR’s development radar, promise even greater yields. As Ishiyaku highlighted, sorghum’s versatility across multiple industries, notably beer and animal feed, has spurred investment in its production.

Earlier this year, Mr Hans Essaadi, the head honcho at Nigerian Breweries Plc., underscored the company’s commitment to augment local sourcing, supporting Nigeria’s agrarian development. Collaborations with research institutions, both local and global, are afoot to elevate the quality and yield of local sorghum varieties.

In a strategic move, the African Development Bank (AfDB) allocated $134 million to Nigeria, earmarked for producing key crops, including sorghum. As disclosed by Dr Ernest Umakhihe, Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, these funds will be deployed through the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro Pocket (NAGSAP).

Alhaji Lawal Gada, President of Sorghum Farmers Association of Nigeria (SOFAN), noted Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in sorghum and its burgeoning exports to neighboring nations.

However, with vast cultivable lands at its disposal, analysts believe Nigeria’s annual sorghum yield could touch 13.5 million tonnes. In sync with this vision, the National Association of Sorghum Producers, Processors and Marketers of Nigeria (NASPPAM) is rallying 400,000 farmers for wet season sorghum farming, targeting cultivation across two million hectares.

Nigeria’s Leap in Aquaculture: Launch of the NAAHS 2023-2027

Abuja witnessed the unveiling of the National Aquatic Animal Health Strategy for Nigeria (NAAHS) 2023-2027 by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari. This groundbreaking initiative is directed at confronting the challenges plaguing Nigeria’s aquaculture sub-sector and fortifying the Aquatic Animal Health Services.

A significant move, the strategy aims to boost the international trade of aquatic species like fish, shrimps, and water snails, while also uplifting production, processing, and marketing efforts within the industry.

Notably, this marks the maiden policy under Kyari’s stewardship as the Agric Minister.

Dr. Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (FMAFS), shared this advancement. Represented by Dr. Ime Umoh, Director of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Umakhihe emphasized, “NAAHS offers a comprehensive roadmap to enrich and safeguard fishery production and productivity in Nigeria.”

Further, he highlighted the strategy’s capability to curb the ill effects of aquatic pathogens, safeguarding human health and fortifying the resilience of Nigeria’s marine and terrestrial habitats.

This initiative symbolizes Nigeria’s pledge to the vitality of its aquatic ecosystems, the thriving of its aquatic industry, and the harnessing of the sector’s untapped potentials towards ensuring food and nutritional sustenance.

The Permanent Secretary championed the strategy, calling upon stakeholders to wholeheartedly support and partake in its execution, tapping into the aquatic bounty for Nigeria’s collective benefit.

Endorsing the initiative, Dr. Columba Vakuru, Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, underscored its importance in pioneering research and innovation in aquatic animal health. He spotlighted the grave implications of diseases on aquatic animals, underlining their adverse effects on food, public health, and the equilibrium of aquatic environments.

Kebbi State Joins Hands with IRFDP to Revolutionize Rice and Fish Farming

Kebbi State is taking a giant leap towards enhancing food security by collaborating with the Integrated Rice and Fish Diversification Project (IRFDP). This initiative is set to bolster both rice and fish production within the region.

During the IRFDP team’s recent visit to Birnin Kebbi, Governor Nasir Idris showcased his administration’s dedication to agriculture. He assured his utmost commitment to the project’s success. Represented by Alhaji Bala Tafidan Yauri, Secretary to the State Government, he further urged the IRFDP to extend its reach, covering all 21 local councils across the state.

Prof. Emmanuel Ajayi, the Team Leader, elaborated on the inception of the project, spotlighting its roots in agricultural diversification, especially in the realms of rice and fish farming. The collaboration, which also involves Ebonyi State, is backed by USAID in partnership with the University of Ibadan, Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto, and other associates. Their ambitious vision is to synchronize fish and rice production.

Prof. Ajayi highlighted the reasons behind Kebbi’s selection: its paramount role in the country’s rice and fish sectors, closely followed by Ebonyi State. Beyond enhancing production, a significant aim of the project lies in fortifying the nation’s food security.

Furthermore, as part of this groundbreaking project, numerous stakeholders in Kebbi have undergone training, embracing technology to diversify and elevate rice and fish farming practices.