Rice coy, USAID complete Argungu $10m out-grower expansion programme

WACOT Rice Limited, a member of the Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group, has successfully concluded the Argungu Out-grower Expansion Programme (AOEP), a collaborative initiative with the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub aimed at enhancing rice production in Nigeria.

The out-grower expansion programme, initiated in 2020, was designed to leverage the company’s existing out-grower programme to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by providing access to essential agricultural inputs, financing, and training on Yield Enhancement Techniques (YET), and Good Agronomic Practices (GAP).

Aside from the provision of support to over 5,000 farmers, the programme’s notable achievements include job creation, increased inclusion of youth and women, improved food security, enhanced agricultural yield, sustainable land management, and expanded access to financing, all contributing to the sustainable growth of rice production in Nigeria.

The Program’s closing ceremony, in Abuja recently, the former governor of Kebbi State, having overseen the launch of the Outgrower Expansion Programme during his tenure, Senator Bagudu emphasized the positive outcomes achieved through the collaboration between TGI Group and the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, underscoring the potential of public-private partnerships in driving sustainable development.

He said, “this programme is laudable as it showcases the potential of Kebbi state. We have a history of rice farming but live in an ever-changing environment where you have to respond to issues relating to climate change and environmental challenges with sustainable, inclusive models that can work. This project by WACOT and USAID in Kebbi State has created a successful model that connects effort and opportunity.”

The Kebbi State Governor, Dr Nasir Idris, represented by his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Attahiru Maccido, highlighting the significant contribution of the out-grower programme to the development of Kebbi State. 

He said, “The presence of WACOT and USAID in Kebbi has helped answer various questions and address certain challenges regarding agriculture, and today, we can see over 80% success rate of the initiative. The partnership ending today is one that the state is missing already, and work is ongoing to replicate it in other parts of the state.

“This emphasizes the partnership between the private and the public sectors in nation-building. Kebbi state is always ready to provide an enabling environment for companies like WACOT Rice, and you would always find a decent Return on Investment.”

The Chairman of WACOT Rice and Executive Vice Chairman (Africa) of TGI Group, Farouk Gumel, expressed gratitude to the Minister, Governor, Emir, farmers, and all stakeholders for their support.

He reaffirmed TGI’s unwavering commitment to promoting food security and economic growth in Nigeria through substantial investments across various sectors.

“I will start by appreciating our partners on this successful project. This Program started at a challenging time in Nigeria, in 2020, when COVID-19 was manifesting its impact. Despite the odds, this $10 million initiative was aimed at transforming the lives of 5,000 people over four years, and today we can see the impacts it has made. 

“I want to assure our partners from the United States that we will continue to push this initiative and ensure that the successes recorded are spread around all other value chains. Together, let’s keep driving positive change and prosperity for all.”

Melissa Jones, Mission Director for USAID Nigeria, underscored the significance of the partnership between WACOT Rice and the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, emphasizing the transformative potential of collaborative efforts in driving sustainable development and fostering economic growth in the region.

She said, “With $1.48 million from USAID West Africa Trade Hub, WACOT Rice successfully leveraged $8.6m of their funds, demonstrating their commitment to address the challenges faced. As a direct result of this partnership, WACOT Rice engaged over 7,600 out-grower farmers – far above the original target of 5,000. It provided them with extension services and high-quality inputs to ensure improved rice yields and a quality product.

“We are very proud of your achievements and determination to deliver results under this partnership. We look forward to even greater results for your company. Our collaboration has proven that transformation is possible.”

The Chief of the Party at Trade Hub, Robin Wheeler, also provided insights into the Program’s achievements and contribution to the local economy. He stated, “The USAID’s Trade Hub is one of the largest blended finance initiatives in the region, partnering with visionary private sector companies like WACOT Rice Limited to foster market-driven solutions, enhancing food security through sustainable advancements in local rice production. We are proud of the remarkable outcomes achieved thus far with WACOT Rice, and I look forward to witnessing their continued excellence in the food sector space in Nigeria.”

Habiba Suleiman, Head of strategic partnerships at TGI Group, also highlighted some of the achievements of the outgrower programme. She said, “During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread floods devastating rice farms, our $10 million Argungu Outgrower Expansion Project emerged as a lifeline for distressed smallholders. We surpassed our goals through collaborative efforts and innovative strategies, including leveraging the Wacot Rice Outgrower Program. With a focus on sustainability, inclusion, and job creation, we exceeded expectations, witnessing a remarkable increase in women’s participation, triggering over $19 million in paddy sales, achieving significant yield increases, and generating over 7500 new jobs. Our deliberate efforts in empowering young women as agronomists and field officers have further enriched our community impact.”