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Zero Hunger by 2025: Nigerian states urged to embrace cassava, focus on 3 crops

State governments have been advised to focus on crops and livestock where they have comparative advantage.

This advise came as part of key recommendations and resolutions by the Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum (NZHF) rising from its third quarterly meeting in Maiduguri, Borno state on Friday night.

The forum advised states to embrace cassava, and select at most 3 crops and one livestock for which they should give priority. It also advised that the resolutions be quickly implemented towards the attainment of Zero Hunger by the year 2025 in the five pilot states comprising Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ogun and Sokoto and beyond.

The Communique presented by Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General (Partnerships for Delivery) at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), was signed by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former President and chair of the NZHF, and the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.

L-R—Chair of the Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum, Chief Obasanjo; Managing Director, Yintab Strategy Consults, Dr Babafemi Badejo, and Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, IITA, Dr Kenton Dashiell during a tour of facilities at the NZHF meeting in Borno

The resolutions, and recommendations contained in the communique are as follows:
1. There is need for States to focus on crops/livestock where they have comparative advantage. States were encouraged to select at most 3 crops and one livestock for which they should give priority.
2. While large scale industries are good for food processing at scale, the Forum proposed that attention should also be given to small and medium agro-industries as a linkage between smallholder farmers and large industries.
3. The Forum recognised the efforts of the Nigerian Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry to address financial constraints faced by farmers. Consequently, it was agreed that invitation be extended to the CBN for attendance of subsequent NZHF meetings.
4. The Forum commended the CBN for the financial assistance offered to a private sector in Benue, Titus Agbecha, for the operation of his soybean processing factory.
5. The investment of Borno State Government in mechanisation was well received. Members of the Forum called on the State to set up appropriate mechanisms that would ensure farmers’ access to the machines. It was strongly recommended that the option of establishing agro-service centres using the public private sector approach should be adopted to ensure sustainability. It was agreed that there was the need for the Borno State to train operators on the use of machines such as tractors, and to train mechanics for repairs and maintenance.
6. The efforts on the manufacturing of drip irrigation equipment by the Borno State were applauded, and the Forum urged the State Government to market the technology to other States in Nigeria generally, and within its zone in particular.
7. The Forum identified cassava as a poverty fighter, and a crop that could help the State in job creation for youth and women. Consequently, the Forum proposed that the State Government should commit investments in the cassava value chain.
8. To attain sustainable development and continuity of programs, the Borno State Government was strongly advised as a matter of urgency to create a window for the inclusion of the public private partnerships in all its development interventions, and to establish small laboratory for analysis and quality assurance.
9. The State’s investment in education was considered excellent and it was agreed that the Government sustain the momentum to ensure that every child has access to quality education up to secondary school level freely and compulsorily as soon as the present facilities under construction are completed.
10. The Forum commended the IITA for its engagement with States through technical backstopping on various projects such as weed management in cassava, yam aeroponics, and the donation of seeds. Other partners that received commendation were the World Food Program (WFP) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
11. The proposal by FAO to join forces and support the NZHF was well received and appreciated.
12. The Forum agreed that the next meeting be held during June 2018 by Sokoto State.
13. The Forum commended the presentations from all the States on the progress being embarked on towards the attainment of Zero Hunger, and the steps being taken by Ebonyi State in addressing the issues raised by the Forum during the previous meeting.

The NZHF is a peer review/advisory mechanism formed by former President Obasanjo with IITA as a technical partner in response to calls by the United Nations for countries to achieve Zero Hunger by 2020. It was inaugurated in 2017.

Apart from representatives of the 5 Pilot States, others from Bauchi, Enugu, Nasarawa, and Oyo attended the conference.

Other participants comprised the technical partner to the NZHF, IITA; World Food Program (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the private sectors, farmer groups, members of the Borno State traditional council, and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

State executives at the meeting were the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; Deputy Governor of Borno State,  Maman Usman Durkwa; Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe; and the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga. The Governor of Benue State was represented by the State’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. James Abua.

Each of the pilot States made presentations reflecting what the States are doing towards achieving Zero Hunger, and how the previous NZHF meetings in Benue and Ebonyi influenced their actions. The meeting also heard a testimony from a private sector player (a soybean processor in Benue State), Titus Agbecha, on how the NZHF’s meeting in Benue positively impacted the operations of his factory.

A field visit was conducted to Farm Center, Seed Multiplication Center, Machinery Shade, Drip Manufacturing Center, Girls’ Schools, Industrial Layout, and the State’s University to have a first-hand experience of the practical steps the Borno State Government has taken towards the achievement of Zero Hunger.

A 20-minute video that presented information on several other achievements that were not visited included a new Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp with drip irrigation for additional food production, poultry production, fish production, and special programs for youth and women in agriculture.

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