The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group weekend approved a $134m loan for the National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket program in Nigeria to scale up food production and boost livelihood resilience.
The program will support fast-tracking of the implementation of key policy and institutional reforms and boost private sector participation in agriculture and help increase cereals and oil grains production by seven million tonnes to 35 million tonnes.
The program which aligns with the Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility and will support Nigeria’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine, is expected to increase average cereal yields from 1.42 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hectare during the September 2022-December 2023 implementation period.
The program also aligns with the Bank’s ten-year strategy as it promotes climate-resilient agriculture and targets the vulnerable population, including youth and women.
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.
However, the AfDB said inadequate support for the farmers has confined them to traditional agronomic techniques, resulting in low productivity and limited opportunities for value addition.
Director General of the Bank’s Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow said the program would prioritize support for five strategic crops: maize, rice, wheat, soya beans and sorghum, with a particular focus on wheat value chains.
He said National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket program is anchored in the National Agriculture Technology and Innovation Policy (2022-2027) which aims to modernize Nigeria’s agriculture sector in line with changing global food systems and supply chains.
The program 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 program 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 National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket program would help build the resilience of farming livelihoods, enhance farmers’ access to improved seeds, and strengthen the capacity of industry stakeholders,” Barrow said.
The Bank’s Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Beth Dunford said that “Cushioning the poor from the effects of higher food, and energy costs, requires urgent and sustainable policy, such as increased public expenditure on agriculture.”