The West Africa Trade & Investment Hub Co-Invests With WACOT Rice To Improve Food Security & Promote Local Production In Nigeria

Over 5,000 smallholder rice farmers will be supported in Kebbi state 

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 program 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 labor 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 maximize 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 tremendous 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 by 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 a strong 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 strongly 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.  

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