Nigerian Minister commends SARD-SC wheat achievements; pledges to triple wheat areas to 300,000 hectares by 2017
The SARD-SC Wheat project organized a national field day with local partners and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on 12 March at Alkamawa, Kano State. The Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Honorable Audu Ogbeh was the main guest of honor. The other guests of honor were His Excellency Governor of Kano State Hon Abdullahi Umar and His Excellency Governor of Kebbi State Hon Atiku Bagudu.
The field day was attended by over 1000 stakeholders, including parliamentarians, senior federal and state level government officials, farmers, extension specialists, researchers, NGO representatives, input suppliers, millers, and youth and women groups engaged in project wheat value chain activities, and invited guests from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The Minister said that for nearly 40 years, Nigeria had tried to produce wheat of acceptable quality without success, but that hurdle had now been crossed. The new high-yielding wheat varieties introduced from ICARDA also meet the required end-use quality. As a result, the Nigerian Millers Association officially submitted a written commitment to the Ministry stating that that they will buy all the wheat produced in the country during this season through the new initiative. During the 2016 cropping season, the country is expecting to harvest 350,000 tons of wheat from the total 100,000 ha wheat area, Minister Ogbe stated.
Adding that a “silent revolution” is already happening on farms all across northern Nigeria, the Minister further announced that the country is dedicating 300,000 hectares of land to wheat production in 2017 to significantly reduce overdependence on importation. The Ministry and the Government will thus aggressively continue to support wheat farmers by providing inputs (fertilizer and seed), mechanized operations and equipment such as planters, combine harvesters, motor pumps, and access to credit and links to markets.
At the event, the Honorable Minister disclosed: “Today, Nigeria is spending over US$4.6 billion every year on wheat importation and domestic production accounts for less than 7% of the country’s annual wheat requirements.” He added that with the right technology and the right policy in place and the fact that the country is endowed with land and water resources, this overdependence on wheat importation is “totally unacceptable”.The way to stop this is through transforming rural economies by transforming agriculture.
The Minister expressed appreciation for the significant contributions of IITA, SARD-SC, and ICARDA, in promoting improved wheat technologies in Nigeria, and for organizing the wheat field day. He also praised the African Development Bank for funding SARD-SC.
Kenton Dashiell, DDG for Partnerships and Capacity Development at IITA, representing the Director General, expressed appreciation for the joint collaborative work. He congratulated all involved for a job well done and expressed his desire for more occasions like this to showcase the many achievements of the SARD-SC project.
Speaking at the forum, the Chair of Nigeria’s Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, promised to lead in legislative reforms to support wheat growing saying that the Senate would make legislation to remove obstacles faced by wheat farmers in the country.
SARD-SC wheat coordinator Solomon Assefa of ICARDA also said that with the new high- yielding and heat-tolerant wheat varieties, and excellent work with farmers and value chain actors including the private sector in the milling and baking industries, Nigeria can and will significantly reduce and eventually stop its unsustainable wheat imports, increase income for farmers and stakeholders, create job opportunities for the rural youth and women, and alleviate poverty.
The Minister led the Nigerian high level dignitaries and other invited participants on a tour through the farmers’ wheat fields at Alkamawa. The field day presented an opportunity for farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to interact and discuss ways of further enhancing wheat production, processing, and marketing in Nigeria. The field day was jointly organized by LCRI and IAR of Ahmadu Bello University with the project implementing CGIAR centers ICARDA and IITA.