The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub has announced its first co-investment partnership with WACOT Rice Limited, a Nigerian rice company based in Kebbi State.
The Trade Hub’s grant of $1.48 million will directly support its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project, allowing WACOT to onboard an additional 5,143 rice farmers into its programme designed to improve the livelihoods of smallholders in the region and respond to food security concerns raised due to the pandemic.
“We go down to the grassroots and ensure that (smallholders) are empowered for life,” says Habiba Suleiman, Strategy and Business Development Manager at WACOT. “I’m so positive that this is a huge step in the right direction.”
The average smallholder farmer in Argungu of Kebbi State cultivates about half a hectare of land and earns less than $200 net income annually, which is barely sufficient to cover the needs of a household. With very little access to any form of finance, farmers are often unable to scale, cultivate more land, or harvest better yields. This leads to a perpetual reliance on family labour and subsistence farming for food alone, with little or no savings.
In its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project, WACOT Rice will invest $8.6 million to work with smallholder farmers and maximise every stage of the rice cultivation process. Under this co-investment partnership, WACOT Rice will help farmers access financing, provide extension services, and ensure high quality inputs are used to improve yields and quality. By establishing contracts with the farmers, the company will guarantee the purchase of rice at the end of the harvest from an additional 5,143 hectares of paddy, which will provide a sustainable market moving forward.
“The U.S. government is pleased to partner with the private sector in Nigeria to develop market-driven solutions and sustainably improve food security by supporting local rice production,” said USAID Mission Director, Anne E. Patterson. “With this new co-investment partnership, smallholder farmers in Kebbi State can increase yields and improve the livelihoods of their families.”
This partnership is rooted in the economic potential of the rice value chain in Nigeria. Rice is a major staple for its population of over 200 million people and, in partnership with USAID and its Feed the Future strategy, Nigerian government policy has pushed local production. By supporting smallholder
rice farmers to increase their yields 50 – 100%, this co-investment will help farmers earn more and lift themselves out of poverty, create thousands of more jobs, and attract further private investments in the agriculture sector.
WACOT Rice will be placing an emphasis on women and youth, with at least 50% of the new farmers trained being women and 70% under 30 years old. The Trade Hub promotes women and youth economic inclusion in all its co-investment partnerships to counter systematic exclusion in sectors like agriculture.
“In terms of their earnings, (this project) helps them send their kids to school, to access better livelihoods, to access better healthcare, and to have better nutrition,” says Suleiman.