Nigeria and Togo are currently battling to achieve Zero Hunger. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is driving the process for the two countries.
Ahead of the launch of the new Zero Hunger Project, IITA, in partnership with AfricaRice, held separate meetings with government stakeholders from Nigeria and Togo.
IITA says Zero Hunger Project team held consultations on June 18 and 22, and July 1 with representatives from Benue, Ogun, and Ebonyi states, respectively.
The three-year Zero Hunger Project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will contribute to the Zero Hunger Initiatives (ZHI) within the rice and cassava value chains in the three Nigerian states and two Togolese regions—Plateaux and Kara.
In the first meeting, Zero Hunger Project Lead, Debo Akande, and the Project Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Manager, Oyewale Abioye, discussed the possibility of collaboration with the Benue State Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Timothy A. Ijir, in Abuja.
Akande says IITA’s support on the Project continues the partnership with the state under the Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also IITA Ambassador.
According to him, the Project will focus on cassava in the state and leverage technology and innovation, policy analysis, and policy engagement for technology uptake to achieve its objectives.
The commissioner thanked IITA and IFAD for selecting Benue and focusing on the cassava value chain. He highlighted seed production, off-taking, and processing as the main challenges facing the state’s cassava sector.
At the Ogun State consultations, a joint team from IITA and AfricaRice led by the Zero Hunger Project Co-Lead, Francis Nwilene, of AfricaRice, met with Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, and his team.
Nwilene said the Zero Hunger Forum is an initiative by the World Food Programme (WFP) to support states in Nigeria to achieve food security.
Thanking the Project partners for considering Ogun as one of the beneficiaries, the commissioner remarked on the state’s uniqueness in agriculture because of their proximity to major cassava off-takers in Nigeria.
He cited instances of increasing demands from starch, garri, fufu, and cassava flour factories, which would require improvement in the cassava seed system to meet higher production levels. Issues around reviewing the state’s obsolete agricultural policy were also highlighted as critical areas needing ZHI support.
During the meeting with Ebonyi State’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Chief Moses O. Nomeh, he mentioned that the state was working with USAID to develop a strategic policy on agriculture for the state and will be interested in working with the ZHI further, adding that since the Project will focus on rice in Ebonyi, improving the quality of the processed rice is key.
The state will be interested in introducing the Grain quality-enhancer, Energy-efficient, and durable Material (GEM) Par-boiling technology in rice processing.
Nwilene informed the commissioner that the Project’s capacity development focus will be on productivity enhancement, building farmers’ capacity to access credit from the financial institutions through in-kind value chain financing, and promoting rural entrepreneurship for women and youth. Climate-smart agricultural practices will also be introduced in the farming communities.
One key project engagement approach is through partnership with the IFAD loan-funded Value Chain Development Project (VCDP) in each state to achieve ZHI’s objectives. The ZHI project team had held two separate meetings with the VCDP team in the three states, where they mapped the needs of the VCDP beneficiaries to align them to the ZHI project goal.