WACOT Rice Limited, a member of the Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group, has successfully concluded the Argungu Outgrower Expansion Programme (AOEP), a collaborative initiative with the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub aimed at enhancing rice production in Nigeria.

The outgrower expansion programme, initiated in 2020, was designed to leverage the company’s existing outgrower programme to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by providing access to essential agricultural inputs, financing, and training on Yield Enhancement Techniques (YET), and Good Agronomic Practices (GAP).

Aside from the provision of support to over 5,000 farmers, notable achievements of the programme include job creation, increased inclusion of youth and women, improved food security, enhanced agricultural yield, sustainable land management, and expanded access to financing, all contributing to the sustainable growth of rice production in Nigeria.

The Program’s closing ceremony, held on Tuesday, February 13, at Fraser Suites, Abuja, featured speeches from dignitaries, including the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi State Governor, Dr Nasir Idris, and the Emir of Argungu, His Royal Highness Alhaji Samaila Muhammad Mera.

The speakers commended the transformative impact of the outgrower programme on the local agricultural landscape.

Having overseen the launch of the Outgrower Expansion Programme during his tenure as Kebbi Governor, Senator Bagudu emphasized the positive outcomes achieved through the collaboration between TGI Group and the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, underscoring the potential of public-private partnerships in driving sustainable development.

He said, “this programme is laudable as it showcases the potential of Kebbi state. We have a history of rice farming but live in an ever-changing environment where you have to respond to issues relating to climate change and environmental challenges with sustainable, inclusive models that can work. This project by WACOT and USAID in Kebbi State has created a successful model that connects effort and opportunity.”

The Kebbi State Governor, Dr Nasir Idris, represented by his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Attahiru Maccido, echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the significant contribution of the outgrower programme to the development of Kebbi State.

He said, “The presence of WACOT and USAID in Kebbi has helped answer various questions and address certain challenges regarding agriculture, and today, we can see over 80% success rate of the initiative. The partnership ending today is one that the state is missing already, and work is ongoing to replicate it in other parts of the state. This emphasizes the partnership between the private and the public sectors in nation-building. Kebbi state is always ready to provide an enabling environment for companies like WACOT Rice, and you would always find a decent Return on Investment.”

Farouk Gumel, Chairman of WACOT Rice and Executive Vice Chairman (Africa) of TGI Group, expressed gratitude to the Minister, Governor, Emir, farmers, and all stakeholders for their support. He reaffirmed TGI’s unwavering commitment to promoting food security and economic growth in Nigeria through substantial investments across various sectors.

“I will start by appreciating our partners on this successful project. This Program started at a challenging time in Nigeria, in 2020, when COVID-19 was manifesting its impact. Despite the odds, this $10 million initiative was aimed at transforming the lives of 5,000 people over four years, and today we can see the impacts it has made.

“I want to assure our partners from the United States that we will continue to push this initiative and ensure that the successes recorded are spread around all other value chains. Together, let’s keep driving positive change and prosperity for all.”

Speaking on the Program’s impact on the Argungu people and community, the Emir highlighted the positive changes to the community, including employment generation and improved living standards for farmers.

He stated, “The Programme has been a beacon of hope for the Argungu people, ushering in a new era of prosperity and empowerment. Through its initiatives, we have witnessed tangible improvements in employment opportunities, uplifting the livelihoods of our farmers and enhancing the overall quality of life in our community. We appreciate WACOT and USAID for transforming our society, economy and the people’s well-being in the Argungun community. This is indeed a collective success.”

Melissa Jones, Mission Director for USAID Nigeria, underscored the significance of the partnership between WACOT Rice and the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, emphasizing the transformative potential of collaborative efforts in driving sustainable development and fostering economic growth in the region.

She said, “With $1.48 million from USAID West Africa Trade Hub, WACOT Rice successfully leveraged $8.6m of their funds, demonstrating their commitment to address the challenges faced. As a direct result of this partnership, WACOT Rice engaged over 7,600 outgrower farmers – far above the original target of 5,000. It provided them with extension services and high-quality inputs to ensure improved rice yields and a quality product.

“We are very proud of your achievements and determination to deliver results under this partnership. We look forward to even greater results for your company. Our collaboration has proven that transformation is possible.”

The Chief of the Party at Trade Hub, Robin Wheeler, also provided insights into the Program’s achievements and contribution to the local economy. He stated, “The USAID’s Trade Hub is one of the largest blended finance initiatives in the region, partnering with visionary private sector companies like WACOT Rice Limited to foster market-driven solutions, enhancing food security through sustainable advancements in local rice production. We are proud of the remarkable outcomes achieved thus far with WACOT Rice, and I look forward to witnessing their continued excellence in the food sector space in Nigeria.”

Habiba Suleiman, Head of strategic partnerships at TGI Group, also highlighted some of the achievements of the outgrower programme. She said, “During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread floods devastating rice farms, our $10 million Argungu Outgrower Expansion Project emerged as a lifeline for distressed smallholders. We surpassed our goals through collaborative efforts and innovative strategies, including leveraging the Wacot Rice Outgrower Program. With a focus on sustainability, inclusion, and job creation, we exceeded expectations, witnessing a remarkable increase in women’s participation, triggering over $19 million in paddy sales, achieving significant yield increases, and generating over 7500 new jobs. Our deliberate efforts in empowering young women as agronomists and field officers have further enriched our community impact.”

Some beneficiaries of the initiative expressed profound gratitude for its multifaceted impact. A male beneficiary, Ibrahim Alhassan, said,” throughout the programme, we got financial advice, which has been instrumental to our business and life. Also, the programme improved our wellbeing and personal hygiene, and we learned new ways to address preventable diseases. And most importantly, my output tripled. I appreciate the organizers of the programme.”

One of the female beneficiaries, Rabiu Umaru, said, “before, women weren’t farming a lot, but now, thanks to WACOT Rice and Trade Hub, we are farming more land than ever before, from half a hectare to 2 hectares. They helped us to manage water better with canals, and they gave us machines to make our work easy. They also helped us to open bank accounts and get money, making it easier to save and spend,”

WACOT Rice cemented its commitment to the expansion of rice production by signing a co-investment partnership worth $10.5 million with the West African Trade and Investment Hub to support the Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project in Kebbi State in December 2020.