By Jimoh Babatunde
A N300m investment to set up community seed enterprises to increase wheat production in Nigeria was yesterday, announced by Olam, and its subsidiary Crown Flour Mill Limited (CFM).
The 10-year project is expected to strengthen agricultural production in northern Nigeria’s wheat farming belt and underlines Olam’s commitment to supporting the country’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency in food production.
This wheat value-chain project is the outcome of extensive high-level consultations with key stakeholders, following the successful inaugural Olam Green Land Webinar Series held in March.
It will involve a partnership with key stakeholders including the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), and Dr Filippo M Bassi, Senior Scientist, Durum Wheat Breeder of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The project will be about a trial of new heat-tolerant varieties of wheat and improved agronomic practices using a participatory approach that directly engages farmers.
It will also engage at least 10 female farmers’ associations to become true drivers of change for their communities by training women to lead community-based seed enterprises. These enterprises will produce and make available high-value seeds to farmers in their local communities.
The female farmers’ associations will be trained on the most advanced agronomic practices for wheat cultivation so these can provide valuable advice to local growers.
Periodic feedback sessions will be scheduled between the women farmers, the research organisations and the value chain stakeholders on the status of cultivation to identify areas for change and innovation. This simple concept of “seeds and thoughts” is aimed at facilitating the adoption of new technologies and increasing economic opportunities for rural women.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Ashish Pande, Managing Director of CFM: said, “To ensure the long-term viability of the wheat sector in Nigeria, it is critical to identify and support the development of high-yielding local wheat varieties. This project will further stimulate the federal government’s drive towards the attainment of economic growth, the country’s agricultural research capabilities, employment generation, community development and the economic empowerment of women in Nigeria.”
Also speaking on the partnership, Dr Kachalla Kyari Mala, Principal Research Officer, Lake Chad Research Institute, said: “The Institute is delighted to be a part of this intervention, as it represents a laudable private-sector financial support and contribution to all the work done and other ongoing research endeavours by the LCRI in the area of wheat development.”
The “community-based or village-based seed enterprises” to be employed by Olam on this project is a scalable strategy developed originally for Ethiopia by ICARDA’s scientists, where it has shown great success. ICARDA has since expanded its application to the river systems of Sudan, Senegal and Mauritania.