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US Envoy, Kebbi Gov Launch New WACOT Rice To Improve Food Security

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The United States Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, last Wednesday, joined the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Bagudu and private and public-sector stakeholders committed to ensuring food security in Nigeria, to launch a new co-investment partnership between the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub and the indigenous firm WACOT Rice.

A statement signed by the US Mission in Nigeria, and made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt, said that 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 the $1.48million co-investment grant, which will allow WACOT to add 5,000 additional smallholder rice farmers into its special 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 per cent, and help farmers earn more.

In her remarks, Amb Mary Beth 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 envoy said.

“We hope this activity will improve the livelihoods of women farmers and their families in Kebbi State”, she added.

Joining the envoy and the governor at the event were the Group Managing Director for Tropical General Investments, Rahul Savara and other notable stakeholders.

It would be recalled Tropical General Investments is the parent company of WACOT Rice.

However, Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative and works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors.

In Nigeria, Feed the Future focuses on modernizing practices and improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers in five value chains: maize, rice, soy, cowpea, and aquaculture.

WACOT Rice operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu.

The mill is one of the largest rice mills in Africa 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.

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Senators Fault Buhari’s Planned Farm Settlements

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Some senators have expressed concerns over plans by the regime of President. Muhammadu Buhari, to establish farm settlements in each of the 108 senatorial districts in Nigeria.
They noted that any arrangement to acquire land by the Federal Government at the moment without giving details of what it would be used for, might face stiff resistance from various communities.
The President had last month, directed the National Agricultural Land Development Authority to set up the integrated farm estates in 108 senatorial districts nationwide.
Already, the policy has been greeted with criticisms from the leadership of the various ethnic groups in the middle belt, and southern part of the country, describing it as an attempt in disguise, to create grazing areas for cattle.
The Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urhoghide, said the Federal Government should give details of the project before approaching state governments for land allocation.
He said, “We are in the Senate to represent our people. I know what my people want
“What we quarrel against is open grazing; we are not against ranching. We are not saying that a Fulani man that has a herd of cattle cannot come to the South to do the business of ranching but he cannot come to carry out open grazing.
“Grazing has two effects. It leads to wanton destruction of farmland. You cannot use animal husbandry to destroy crop farming. There are also criminal cases associated with it including murder.
“If the Federal Government is coming to get land in my state for ranching, it is okay because we need beef, which would be richer, when it is from the ranching system.
“However, the government should make its intention very clear on the policy to avoid major clashes and crisis.”
Similarly, Senator Abba Moro, representing Benue South in the red chamber said government could make arrangements for herders to do the business of ranching but not at the  expense of the farmers.
He advised the Federal Government to go to the drawing board and come up with a modern arrangement to make ranching the way to go.
He said, “When government policies are viewed with suspicion, when citizens lack trust in government policies, then something is wrong.
“Until we address the root causes of conflicts between herders and farmers, and genuinely come out with the right way to go through dialogue, any policy that is thrown at the citizens will be looked at with suspicion which would cause some level of tension.

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Senator Wants Improved Network For Results Transmission

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The Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Kalu, says  Nigeria requires 95 per cent of national network coverage to enable electronic transmission of election results in the country.
Kalu said this in an interview with The Tide source yesterday in Abuja.
Recall that 52 senators on July 15 voted against electronic transmission of results in the forthcoming general election while 28 voted for and 28 absentees.
The senators insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be compelled to seek clearance from Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) while the National Assembly would have to approve the verdict of NCC.
Kalu, insisted the current network coverage was inadequate.
“I have never been against transmission of results , I only said we don’t have adequate coverage where we live,this is the issue.
“We have coverage, but it is not adequate.
‘Like Abia North Senatorial District where I come from, there is no adequate coverage, may be 43 per cent coverage, so how are we going to do that.
“ I believe in electronic transmission,but I want to quickly urge the NCC to deploy their technology to ensure wider coverage; I believe in that process because it is transparent.
“ I don’t want to listen to officials who want to buy equipment and make commissions, I am telling myself the truth, if we even have a coverage of 95 per cent it will be okay, but we have below 50 per cent in the entire country.
“I am not talking about my constituency.
“ It wasn’t a party decision to vote against e transmission and not a clique decision, it was out of my conscience.
“ I can only do what I will do that will benefit all Nigerians,” Kalu said.

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Igbo Stakeholders Decry Absence Of S’East Govs At Forum

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The absence of four Governors of the South-East in the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting held last Thursday in Enugu has been strongly condemned by members of the Concerned Igbo Stake-holders Forum (CISF). 
The leader of the group, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa told newsmen in Enugu that there was no justifiable reason that would be enough for these governors to be absent in a meeting of such magnitude.
According to him, it was wrong particularly coming at a time when the region is battling socio-economic and security concerns stemming from the sit-at-home order issued by the proscribed separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
His words: “The absence of the Governors of Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Anambra States leaves a lot to question the commitment of these governors to the growth and advancement of the South-East in missing a crucial meeting held within their geopolitical zone.
He further described as very disturbing the conspicuous absence of the Anambra Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, or a representative from the state at the meeting. 
Okenwa said that the body language of the South-East governors in recent times leaves no one to doubt that these governors have magnified their interest above that of the region and Ndi-Igbo in general.
“Their gaze at the forthcoming elections in 2023 is becoming an unbearable distraction for them in delivering their mandate to the people,” he also lamented.
The group, therefore beckoned on Ndi-Igbo, regardless of political party affiliation, to unite and formidably negotiate a favourable space in the political scheme of things.
According to him, when this is done, we will ensure an unhindered growth and development of all Igbos, he added.

By: Canice Amadi, Enugu

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