The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved a $134 million loan for the National Agriculture Growth Scheme tagged Agro Pocket Program in Nigeria.
Speaking on the development, the Director General of the Bank’s Nigeria Country Office, Lamin Barrow, said this would scale up food production as part of measures to forestall the looming food crisis.
He noted that the agro pocket program would prioritise support for five strategic crops, including maize, rice, wheat, soybeans and sorghum, with a particular focus on the wheat value chain.
Barrow informed that the AfDB would support the Federal Government in putting in place a robust institutional framework, including the operationalisation of the agro pocket program secretariat as the administrative vehicle to oversee the implementation of the scheme.
According to him, the national agriculture growth scheme would build the resilience of farming livelihoods, enhance farmers’ access to improved seeds, and strengthen the capacity of industry stakeholders.
He added that the programme would support fast-tracking of the implementation of key policies, institutional reforms and boost private sector participation in agriculture.
On her part, the Bank’s Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Beth Dunford, said cushioning the poor from the effects of higher food, and energy costs, requires urgent and sustainable policy, such as increased public expenditure on agriculture.
Also, AfDB noted that the initiative would increase cereals and oil grains production by 7 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes. “ It will also increase average cereal yields from 1.42 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hectare during the September 2022-December 2023 implementation period.
“The programme 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. Food prices have been rising rapidly due to higher volatility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, aggravated by the war.
“The agro pocket 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,” the multilateral bank added.