Archive for December 20th, 2017

A hard row to hoe for Nigeria to reach food self-sufficiency

On the outskirts of Nigeria’s northern city of Kano is bustling Dawanau, West Africa's largest grain market. Fortunes change hands here daily, with sacks of millet, sorghum, and cowpeas loaded onto trucks for delivery to countries as far afield as Chad, Mali, and Senegal.

But away from the hubbub of Dawanau, the smallholder farmers who produce more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s food face an uphill battle to maintain that supply.

Northern Nigeria’s vast plains are ideal for agriculture – and rice is an especially lucrative crop. The staple is a must-have at any social event and a cornerstone of some of the country’s most popular dishes, including the ubiquitous spicy favourite, “Jollof”.

Nigeria is both the largest rice producer in Africa and the continent’s biggest importer. The supply shortfall is made up with imports – mainly from Thailand and India – valued at more than $8 million per day.

As with rice, so with wheat, maize, and other grains: Nigeria, with a population of 190 million, is a significant producer, but also a net importer.

So given its abundant arable land, why can’t Nigeria support its farmers to grow more food and plug the foreign exchange drain?

The answer lies in the dominance of oil. Until the country’s oil boom in the 1970s, agriculture was Nigeria’s economic mainstay, able to meet both local demand as well as generate export earnings.

Crude oil changed that. With staggering amounts of easy money sloshing through the political system, agriculture languished.

Today, Nigeria’s annual food import bill is around $20 billion.

But a combination of dwindling oil revenues and dollar shortages has persuaded the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to make agriculture a priority again.


Under the slogan of “We must produce what we eat”, the government is encouraging agribusiness as a way to drive economic growth, and as the path out of poverty and food insecurity for millions of smallholder farmers.

The government has set ambitious targets of becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2018, and turning a net exporter by 2020.

To create incentives for domestic production, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has restricted the allocation of dollars for the importation of a series of food items, and hiked import duties – from 10 to 60 percent in the case of rice. It has also restricted imports across land borders to crack down on smuggling.

When Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, announced earlier this year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production, it seemed to vindicate the government’s approach.

The Dangote Group plans to produce one million tonnes of parboiled milled rice over the next five years, equivalent to 16 percent of domestic demand.

Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos-based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill in August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, and Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output.

A number of government initiatives are in place to promote small-scale agriculture. They include the CBN’s $300 million Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, introduced in 2015 to provide cheap loans and input subsidies for hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

The World Bank is also supporting the government’s agricultural transformation strategy with a $200 million loan to support small- to mid-scale rice production.

The government’s grow-your-own push seems to be working. Cereal production has increased, despite the impact on farming of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, and rice yields are also up, helped along by higher rice prices.

Hard work with little help

But most Nigerian farmers still struggle, noted Mahmoud Daneji, managing director of the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.

He is critical of the government’s top-down approach. “You may have a very laudable programme, but in as much as there is no input from the potential beneficiaries, it will definitely fail,” he told IRIN.

Daneji ticked off a list of problems farmers face that includes the lack of access to quality seeds, fertiliser, effective agricultural extension systems, and access to credit for those who need it.

Despite the raft of initiatives aimed at boosting output, farmers still typically work with their bare hands in fields lacking irrigation, live in areas with poor roads that limit their access to markets, and are facing a growing threat of climate change without advice on how to adapt.

In a survey last year, farmers cited the lack of fertiliser as their biggest problem by far, despite a long-running government input programme. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they were unaware of any government interventions aimed at helping them.

Abdulrashid Magaji, Kano State chair of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told IRIN that’s because the bulk of government programmes rarely reach their intended target. They go instead to “political favourites and close associates of politicians,” he alleged.

For example, the CBN launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending in 2013 to increase access to bank credit.

But this year only 3,700 farmers out of 523,000 in Kano are on track to receive the loans. The vast majority are unaware of how to access the much-needed financing through NIRSAL, said Magaji.

Nigeria’s disconnected farmers have to rely on middlemen, reducing their profits, because of a broken value chain, inadequate storage facilities, and a lack of organised market information systems.

“Here, our farmers are left on their own,” said Jibrin Jibrin, director of the Centre for Dryland Agriculture at Kano’s Bayero University. “Economists from the World Bank will tell you not to protect the market, but the system doesn’t work for our farmers.”

Dangote’s rice and tomatoes

Dangote’s rice initiative is taking on some of these issues. Its “outgrower scheme” plans to provide inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, as well as training for nearly 50,000 medium and smallholder farmers who then provide their land and labour.

The company says it will pay the farmers the average market price for their rice at harvest, after recouping the cost of the inputs it provided.

But the majority of the smallholders who spoke to IRIN in Kano were unconvinced by the scheme. They doubted they would really get a fair price, and that they could meet the company’s quality control standards.

Some pointed to the failure of an earlier Dangote project, a $13 million tomato paste factory set up in Kano last year, as reason to be concerned.

The plant is currently lying idle even though it signed deals with some 5,000 farmers to supply the tomatoes that would be turned into an annual production of over 400,000 tonnes of paste. 

On paper it made perfect sense. Nigeria produces some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes each year, tomato paste is an ingredient in most Nigerian meals, and, with the government threatening to ban imported paste, a local factory seemed an investment winner.

But farmers were unable to produce the quality and quantity of tomatoes the state-of-the-art plant needed.

Firstly, a pest, the Tuta absoluta moth, wiped out much of the harvest. But then it was the same old underlying problems – a lack of fertiliser, poor irrigation, low quality seed, difficult roads and no cold storage – that really undermined progress.

The poverty of rural infrastructure means Nigeria’s post-harvest losses could be as high as $9 billion annually – much of that burden falling on small-scale producers.

Since the 1970s there have been a raft of high-profile government campaigns to fix agriculture. Incrementally, Nigeria seems to be slotting the pieces into place, but getting to the final stage – a country able to feed itself – still eludes policy-makers.

“I pity myself, I pity farmers, I pity the association, because we have a lot of problems,” said Magaji, Kano chair of the farmers’ union. “Sincerely speaking, we have a long way to go.”


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Un nouvel indice sur le bien-être animal vient bouleverser les classements précédents

Le Kenya et la Tanzanie émergent en tant que leaders mondiaux en matière de bien-être animal SYDNEY, le 19 décembre 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Le Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI), ressource mondiale d’éducation interactive, suit la performance en termes de bien-être animal de cinquante pays — sélectionnés parmi les plus grands producteurs mondiaux de produits issus d’animaux d’élevage ( […]
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Ugandan MPs Clear Way for Museveni to Seek Re-election

KAMPALA Ugandan legislators voted late Wednesday to amend the country's constitution to allow 73-year-old leader Yoweri Museveni to extend his rule, potentially guaranteeing him a life-time presidency.

A provision in the current constitution limits the age of a presidential candidate at 75 years, which would have made Museveni ineligible to stand at the next polls in 2021.

At the end of Wednesday's daylong House debate, which capped a protracted and violence-marred process to remove that age limit, MPs voted 315-62 in favor of the amendment.

"The bill passes," said speaker Rebecca Kadaga after announcing tally results, prompting raucous celebrations from the mostly ruling party MPs who favored the bill.

Earlier in the day, two lawmakers were dragged away and detained when they tried to enter parliament, as the divisive debate proceeded in the chamber.

Police had blocked some legislators from entering the building, and live television footage showed two of them being driven away in security vehicles. Both opposed the bill.

The legislators blocked by police were attempting to enter parliament to serve court documents on Kadaga, who was presiding over the debate.

The document called on her to appear in court at 2 p.m. in respect of "the irregular suspension of our members of parliament," independent lawmaker Wilfred Niwagaba told a local television station minutes before he was detained.

Six MPs � all opposed to removal of the age cap � were suspended from parliamentary proceedings on Monday for alleged disorderly conduct and refusing to heed the speaker's instructions.

The bill to amend the constitution was introduced in parliament October 4 by a Museveni loyalist, after two consecutive days of brawling in the debating chamber between those opposed and those in favor, supported by security personnel.

On the second day, security personnel � who some MPs said were soldiers from an elite military unit � entered the chamber and violently ejected at least 25 MPs that the speaker had suspended from proceedings for alleged misconduct.

Second extension for Museveni

Wednesday's vote was the second time Ugandan parliament has changed the constitution to allow Museveni to extend his rule. In 2005, they voted to remove a limit of two five-year terms, which blocked him from standing again.

The bill also extended the length of a term for MPs to seven years from the current five. The limit of two terms was also re-imposed for the president, although that only means Museveni would be limited to two more terms, starting with the 2021 election.

"Are you not seeing what happened in Zimbabwe? Do we want his excellency to end like Gaddafi of Libya?" opposition legislator, Gilbert Olanya, who opposed the amendment, said in Wednesday's debate as he attempted to persuade colleagues to reject it.

Several African leaders have amended laws designed to limit their tenure. Such moves have fueled violence in countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Initially hailed for restoring political order and fostering economic growth, Museveni has lately come under mounting pressure fueled by runaway corruption, and accusations he uses security forces to maintain his grip on power.

Both military and police personnel were heavily deployed around parliament this week, which opposition MPs say was meant to intimidate members.

Source: Voice of America

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Zimbabwe’s President Vows Reforms, Credible Elections

HARARE Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday vowed to ensure the rule of law, fight corruption, enact laws that attract investors and conduct free and fair elections next year. But the opposition says the country's new president and his government are no different from the old regime of Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa pledged that Zimbabwe would unveil a "robust" re-engagement policy and open up to foreign investment, as he delivered his first State of the Nation address since taking office nearly a month ago.

The president's remarks come as he prepares to head to South Africa Thursday to meet with potential investors.

Mnangagwa also sought to reassure Zimbabweans about the integrity of elections, expected in 2018.

My government is committed to entrenching a democratic society driven by the respect for the constitution, the rule of law, mutual tolerance, peace and unity. To this end, [the] government will do all in its power to ensure that the 2018 general elections are credible, free and fair.

However, the president's special adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa told the media last weekend that the ruling ZANU-PF party would use the military to ensure victory next year.

The International Commission of Jurists told VOA that Mnangagwa � who came into power on the back of the army � must not rely on the military for policing Zimbabweans as the country prepares for the elections.

Opposition skeptical

Tendai Biti, a member of the opposition People's Democratic Party and a former finance minister, says many Zimbabweans are worried about the military's involvement in politics and that Mnangagwa's Cabinet had been militarized by having two retired generals, including the one who announced the army had taken over state institutions.

We have nothing per se against the military, but we know that the essence of the rule of law and constitutionalism is that of democracy, and democracy is a government for the people and by the people. So the people that are ultimately decisive in our country are ordinary citizens who have the right to choose men and women who will serve them. You cannot make a transition from a barrack to a public office and we are concerned about that, Biti said.

Nelson Chamisa, the vice president of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, says the new government has nothing to offer Zimbabweans.

We are only confident that we will form the next government, we know it and Mr. Mnangagwa knows it. We are going to be the next government - that is why they are panicking. But even if we form the next government, it is going to be a very good dispensation for Mr. Mnangagwa and his team. We will be very inclusive and tolerant of the opposition, Chamisa said.

Mnangagwa is expected to appoint former head of the army Constantino Chiwenga as his vice president after retiring him this week pending redeployment.

Source: Voice of America

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