U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard speaks to journalists and stakeholders present at the launch of the co-investment partnership between the West Africa Trade & Investment Hub and WACOT Rice.
Argungu – At a May 19 ceremony in Argungu, Nigeria, U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard joined Kebbi State Executive Governor H.E. Sen. Abubakar Bagudu and private and public-sector stakeholders committed to ensuring food security in Nigeria to launch a co-investment partnership between the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) and WACOT Rice.
The partnership promises to improve the livelihoods of smallholder rice farmers in the country, whose success is crucial to feeding a burgeoning population. Rice is a major staple in Nigeria, but production and supply in Kebbi State, a major producer of rice, has suffered a setback because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the Trade Hub awarded a $1.48 million co-investment grant to WACOT Rice. The company operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu and sources unprocessed rice from across the country. WACOT also engages farmers who produce and supply rice to boost their yields and guarantees off-take of unprocessed rice from farmers through buyback arrangements. The Trade Hub grant will allow the company to add 5,000 additional smallholder rice farmers into its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project launched to increase local production. The co-investment will create thousands of new jobs, increase yields by more than 50 percent, and help farmers earn more.
In her remarks, Ambassador Leonard highlighted the importance of partnering with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions to improve food security, reduce poverty, and create jobs, particularly for women.
“We know the challenges faced by women farmers in owning lands and accessing finances and inputs—despite women being key to making a significant impact for future generations,” the Ambassador said. “We hope this activity will improve the livelihoods of women farmers and their families in Kebbi State.”
Joining Ambassador Leonard and the Governor at the event were Rahul Savara, Group Managing Director for Tropical General Investments, the parent company of WACOT Rice, and other notable stakeholders.
The Trade Hub grant to WACOT Rice was made possible through Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative that works with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors. In Nigeria, Feed the Future focuses on modernizing practices and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in five value chains: maize, rice, soy, cowpea, and aquaculture.
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 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 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 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.