The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, on Friday, January 19, flagged off WACOT Rice Limited’s 2024 dry season farming input distribution to outgrower farmers in Argungu, Kebbi State.

The out-grower program seeks to increase the quality of smallholder farmer livelihoods via access to required agri-input financing, capacity-building training on Yield Enhancement Techniques (YET), and Good Agronomic Practices (GAP).

The Minister, who also inspected WACOT Rice’s state-of-the-art 250,000-ton mill ahead of its inauguration later in the year, expressed delight with the initiative, noting that it would boost farmers’ productivity and income.

Senator Kyari lauded WACOT Rice and its parent company, Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group, for empowering farmers across various value chains nationwide.

Highlighting TGI’s substantial investments in agriculture and other sectors, the Minister affirmed the alignment of these investments with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope eight point agenda.

“I am impressed with what I have seen. This project is heading in the right direction, utilizing the farm produce from local farmers for raw materials. The government stands ready to support initiatives like WACOT Rice, recognizing their potential to create jobs and improve livelihoods. As part of our strategic focus, we are actively considering creating a farm land for WACOT Rice, further enhancing our agricultural capabilities.” he said.

Chairman of WACOT Rice and Vice Chairman (Africa) of TGI Group, Farouk Gumel emphasized WACOT Rice’s unwavering commitment to Nigeria’s food security. He highlighted the inclusivity of the outgrower program, supporting farmers of all demographics with certified seeds, agrochemicals, and training sessions to enhance productivity and income.

Gumel expressed enthusiasm for hosting special guests at the project site, acknowledging that the general understanding of their initiatives might be limited. He stated, “Whenever we have special guests visit us here, we get very excited. The feedback we receive encourages us to intensify our efforts in production. The community here is peaceful, inclusive, and accepting, and what we’ve achieved is not just a result of hard work but also the love shown by the host community. This encouragement is what propelled us to undertake some of the initiatives we have implemented. If more investors in Nigeria extend their reach into the rural economy and replicate similar projects, our country could gain an unparalleled competitive advantage.”

Expressing gratitude to the Honorable Minister for the visit, Gumel also thanked the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly the President, for dedicating a Ministry to not just agriculture but also food security. He reassured the nation, saying, “We are here to assure him and the rest of Nigeria that we will play our part in bringing peace and prosperity to the nation through our agricultural endeavors.”

Over 10,000 registered farmers including a large number of women and youth in the state, will receive agri-inputs, water pumps, training sessions and extension support during the dry season farming period.

Commenting on the activity, one of the farmers Hajia Nafisa from Augie Local Government area also appreciated WACOT Rice for the initiative.

“Prior to this time, It has always been hard for us carry out our duties as female farmers, but with the intervention of WACOT Rice, we have been able to carry out our farming duties easily because we were given some inputs like fertilizer, water pumps, alongside trainings and guidance.” she said.

Ibrahim Alhassan, a Dabuzama Rice Farmers Association member,  expressed heartfelt gratitude by acknowledging the significant impact of WACOT Rice through its Agri-input loan program. Alhassan emphasized that WACOT Rice’s support has been pivotal. He said, “WACOT Rice’s continuous assistance, from providing essential inputs showcased in the display stand to comprehensive training and capacity building, has transformed our lives”.

Despite these strides, Alhassan shed light on a pressing challenge – the escalating energy cost for irrigation. Foreseeing difficulties sustaining dry-season farming, Alhassan appealed to the Honourable Minister for support. Specifically, Alhassan advocated for assistance in acquiring solar water pumps, recognizing their potential to address the current energy cost challenges.

Furthermore, Alhassan emphasized ensuring that support reaches genuine farmers directly. He proposed leveraging the trustworthy partnership with WACOT Rice to ensure the effective and transparent distribution of agricultural support.