[divider style=”solid” top=”25″ bottom=”25″][dropcap]N[/dropcap]igeria on Monday began its long journey to end hunger and achieve food security by launching the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ), a programme initiated by the African Development Bank.
According to the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina “the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones are new economic zones, located in rural areas, to be fully supported by infrastructure (power, water, roads, digital infrastructure, and logistics) that will allow food and agribusiness companies to locate within such zones. This will put them close to farmers in production catchment areas, provide market offtakes for farmers, support processing and value addition, reduce food losses, and allow the emergence of highly competitive food and agricultural value chains.”
The launch ceremony in the capital Abuja, kick-starts the implementation of phase one of the SAPZ program in eight states across the country. The African Development Bank is providing funding of $210 million, with the Islamic Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) jointly providing $310 million. The Nigerian government is contributing $18.05 million.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, in remarks delivered by Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, praised the initiative and said, “if the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones program delivers on its objectives, and we have no doubt that it will, then we would in less than a decade have dealt a fatal blow to food insecurity, create millions of good paying agro-industrial jobs and opportunities and radically improve export earnings from agriculture.”
Adesina, a former minister of agriculture of Nigeria and a World Food Prize Winner, said: “Hunger in Nigeria cannot be justified. Nigeria has the land, with 34 million hectares of arable land with rich and diverse agroecology. It has the water. It has the labor. It has great sunshine. Nigeria must achieve zero hunger. There is no reason for anyone to go hungry in Nigeria.”
To help Africa prevent a food crisis from the Russia-Ukraine war, the African Development Bank launched a $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility to support 20 million farmers to access climate resilient agricultural technologies and produce 38 million metric tons of food valued at $12 billion.
“The African Emergency Food Production Facility provided $134 million to Nigeria, one of the highest levels of support across African countries. I would like to thank the Japanese International Development Agency (JICA) for co-financing this with an additional $110 million. That means we collectively made available $244 million for emergency food production in Nigeria,” the bank group head said.
Noting that the latest Global Hunger Index (2022) ranks Nigeria 103rd among 121 countries facing hunger crisis in the world, Adesina called for “greater action, responsiveness, and delivery to avert a food crisis in Nigeria”.
“Nigeria must decisively tackle insecurity challenges that prevent farmers from going to the farms. Food security needs national security,” said Adesina.
According to the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, “with the disruption of supplies arising from the war, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food imports from Russia and Ukraine, especially for wheat, maize, and soybeans. Urgent actions are needed to prevent a food crisis in Africa.”
He expressed confidence Nigeria will efficiently implement the SAPZ program which will boost food production, reduce food price inflation, and transform the agriculture sector while assuring food security and creating jobs.
The Associate Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development Ms. Katherine Meighan, said her organization is determined to contribute to the overall goal of the SAPZ programme by empowering 100,000 direct beneficiaries including smallholders, small processors, traders and service providers in Ogun and Kano State, with a strong focus on youth and women.
“Our empowerment strategy aims to equip farmers and smallholders to take advantage of the markets created by the SAPZ to sustainably enhance their income through income-generating activities, household food security and nutrition, and resilience to climate change,” said Meighan.
The Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones will develop value chains for selected strategic crops in Nigeria, including maize, cassava, rice, soybean, cocoa, poultry, and livestock products. They will also create millions of quality jobs, especially for youth and women.
Speaking on behalf of the phase one participating states and the Federal Capital Territory, the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade praised the innovativeness of the program and said “the SAPZ program will help Nigeria develop an economy independent of oil. The program is a classical departure from other projects we know.”
The first phase of the program will include seven States: Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Oyo, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The SAPZ program has already garnered huge momentum as an additional 19 State governments have expressed strong interest to participate in the program.
Ministers and other senior federal officials, state governors, private sector and members of the diplomatic corps attended the launch ceremony. During the event, Vice President Osinbajo launched a set of commemorative stamps for the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones. The stamps were designed by Nigerian postal service in conjunction with a local NGO, FLEESD.
In a rallying call around the SAPZ program, Adesina said: “The Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) will help feed Nigeria, transform rural economies, expand fiscal space, fully unlock Nigeria’s agricultural potential, and create millions of jobs.”
“I am delighted that the SAPZs have finally come to pass in Nigeria and across Africa,” said Adesina.