The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub has announced its first co-investment partnership with WACOT Rice Limited, a Nigerian rice company based in Kebbi State. The Trade Hub’s grant of $1.48 million will directly support its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project, allowing WACOT to onboard an additional 5,143 rice farmers into its program designed to improve the livelihoods of smallholders in the region and respond to food security concerns raised due to the pandemic.
“We go down to the grassroots and ensure that [smallholders] are empowered for life,” says Habiba Suleiman, Strategy and Business Development Manager at WACOT. “I’m so positive that this is a huge step in the right direction.”
The average smallholder farmer in Argungu of Kebbi state cultivates about half a hectare of land and earns less than $200 net income annually, which is barely sufficient to cover the needs of a household. With very little access to any form of finance, farmers are often unable to scale, cultivate more land, or harvest better yields. This leads to a perpetual reliance on family labor and subsistence farming for food alone, with little or no savings.
In its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project, WACOT Rice will invest $8.6 million to work with smallholder farmers and maximize every stage of the rice cultivation process. Under this co-investment partnership, WACOT Rice will help farmers access financing, provide extension services, and ensure high-quality inputs are used to improve yields and quality. By establishing contracts with the farmers, the company will guarantee the purchase of rice at the end of the harvest from an additional 5,143 hectares of paddy, which will provide a sustainable market moving forward.
“The U.S. government is pleased to partner with the private sector in Nigeria to develop market-driven solutions and sustainably improve food security by supporting local rice production,” said USAID Mission Director Anne E. Patterson. “With this new co-investment partnership, smallholder farmers in Kebbi State can increase yields and improve the livelihoods of their families.”
This partnership is rooted in the tremendous economic potential of the rice value chain in Nigeria. Rice is a major staple for its population of over 200 million people and, in partnership with USAID and its Feed the Future strategy, Nigerian government policy has pushed local production. By supporting smallholder rice farmers to increase their yields by 50 – 100%, this co-investment will help farmers earn more and lift themselves out of poverty, create thousands of more jobs, and attract further private investments in the agriculture sector.
WACOT Rice will be placing a strong emphasis on women and youth, with at least 50% of the new farmers trained to be women and 70% under 30 years old. The Trade Hub strongly promotes women and youth economic inclusion in all its co-investment partnerships to counter systematic exclusion in sectors like agriculture.
“In terms of their earnings, [this project] helps them send their kids to school, to access better livelihoods, to access better healthcare, and to have better nutrition,” says Suleiman.
About USAID: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.
About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. In Nigeria, Feed the Future focuses on modernizing practices and improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers in five targeted value chains: maize, rice, soy, cowpea, and aquaculture.
About West Africa Trade & Investment Hub: The West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) is a USAID-funded initiative to co-invest with the private sector to generate new private investment, create new jobs, and increase the value of regional and international exports in West Africa.
About WACOT Rice Limited: WACOT Rice Limited (WACOT Rice) is a rice processing company that operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu, Kebbi State, Nigeria. The mill is one of the largest rice mills in Africa and sources paddy from various paddy producing states across Nigeria. WACOT Rice also engages in out-grower farming programs with paddy farmers to boost their yields and guarantees off-take of paddy from farmers through buyback arrangements.