By Michael Adaji

USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) co-investment partner, WACOT Rice Limited (WACOT), held a closing out ceremony to mark the successful conclusion of its co-investment partnership. The event, which celebrated three years of dynamic collaboration with the Trade Hub, was held on February 13, 2024, at Fraser Suites Abuja. In attendance were notable dignitaries: Mr. Attahiru Maccido, Chief of Staff and representative of the Executive Governor of Kebbi State; Mr. Farouk Gumel, Chairman of WACOT; Senator Atiku Bagudu, Nigeria’s Minister for Budget and Planning; His Royal Highness, Samaila Muhammed Mera, the Emir of Argungu; and USAID/Nigeria’s Deputy Mission Director, Ms. Sara Werth, who represented the Mission Director, Ms. Melissa Jones. Other attendees included Kebbi State cabinet members, private sector stakeholders, representatives of farmers groups, and Mr. Robin Wheeler, the Trade Hub Chief of Party.

In his remarks, the representative of Kebbi State Governor, Mr. Attahiru Maccido, relayed the Governor’s satisfaction with the outcome of the WACOT-Trade Hub partnership and voiced the state government’s plan to replicate the success across all the local government areas of Kebbi State. “This program which closes out today is one which the Kebbi State Government is beginning to learn from, therefore, we have asked our policy makers and implementers to engage with WACOT to see how we can replicate this across all the local governments areas of our State.” Also speaking at the event were farmers from WACOT’s outgrower program who shared their personal testimonies on how the WACOT-Trade Hub partnership had positively impacted their lives.

A major highlight of the occasion was the panel discussion themed: “Leveraging Private Sector Partnerships for Inclusive Growth.” The panel which was moderated by USAID/Nigeria Senior Trade and Investment Advisor, Ms. Evelyn Ayivor, was an interactive session that provided expert insight as well as new learnings.

In his vote of thanks, the Emir of Argungu, HRH Samaila Muhammed Mera, shared his gratitude to USAID for the Trade Hub-WACOT partnership and expressed his delight at the new jobs and skills that the program had brought to the state: “The program has changed the fortunes of our farmers for better and created jobs for young people who now enjoy direct incomes. Also, the transfer of new knowledge and skills will go a long way towards ensuring food security.”

The success of the Trade Hub-WACOT partnership in the areas of financial inclusion, climate smart agriculture, agroforestry, and gender inclusion, highlight the significance of partnerships in advancing job creation, smallholder livelihoods, and food security in face of uncontrollable external concerns, like the pandemic and climate change. “We are very proud of all the achievements that have been completed and all of the determination and commitment from the leadership here today to deliver these results. Again, we want to celebrate this partnership and look forward to future collaborations,” stated Ms. Sara Werth, Deputy Mission Director, USAID/Nigeria, in closing remarks at the event.