The SARD-SC Wheat project organized a national field day with local partners and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on 12 March 2016, at Alkamawa, Kano State, under the patronage of Nigeria’s President, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. The other two dignitaries, who were also guests of honor at the event, were the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu.
The field day was attended by over 1000 stakeholders (about 700 male and 300 female), including parliamentarians, senior federal and state level government officials, farmers, extension specialists, researchers, NGO representatives, input suppliers, millers, and youth and women groups engaged in project wheat value chain activities, and invited guests from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh said that for nearly 40 years, Nigeria had tried to produce wheat of acceptable quality without success, but that hurdle had now been crossed. The new high yielding wheat varieties introduced from ICARDA also meet the required end-use quality. As a result, the Nigerian Millers Association officially submitted a written commitment to the Ministry stating that they will buy all the wheat produced in the country during this season through the new initiative. During the 2016 cropping season, the Minister stated that the country is expecting to harvest 350,000 tons of wheat from the total 100,000 ha wheat area,adding that a silent revolution is already happening on farms all across northern Nigeria.
The Minister further announced that the country has dedicated 300,000 hectares of land to wheat production in 2017 to significantly reduce overdependence on importation. To that effect, he said that his Ministry and the Government will aggressively continue to support wheat farmers by providing inputs (fertilizer and seed), mechanized operations and equipment such as planters, combine harvesters, motor pumps, and access to credit and links to markets.
At the event, the Honorable Minister disclosed: “Today, Nigeria is spending over US$4.6 billion every year on wheat importation and domestic production accounts for less than 7% of the country’s annual wheat requirements.” He added that with the right technology and the right policy in place and the fact that the country is endowed with huge land and water resources for wheat production, this overdependence on wheat importation is “totally unacceptable”, and the way to stop this is through transforming rural economies by transforming agriculture.
The Minister expressed appreciation for the significant contributions of IITA, the SARD-SC project, and ICARDA, in the promotion of improved wheat technologies in Nigeria, and for organizing the wheat field day. He also praised the African Development Bank for funding the SARD-SC project which is strategic to Africa.
Kenton Dashiell, DDG for Partnerships and Capacity Development at IITA, representing the Director General of IITA, expressed appreciation for the joint collaborative work that is being undertaken with other project partners to see celebrations on a day like this. He congratulated all involved for a job well done and expressed his desire for more occasions like this to showcase the many achievements of the SARD-SC project.
Speaking at the forum, the Chairman of Nigeria Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, promised to lead in legislative reforms to support wheat growing saying that the Senate would make legislation to remove all obstacles being faced by wheat farmers in the country.
The Executive Director of the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Oluwasina Olabanji, and other speakers concurred that Nigeria is on the right path to becoming wheat self-sufficient because of the recent successful collaboration between the LCRI, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), and ICARDA and its partners in the SARD-SC project, which led to the release and dissemination of several high-yielding and heat-tolerant wheat varieties (such as Norman, Reyna 28, Reyna 15 CROW’S’) with grain yields of up to 5-6 t/ha, contrasting with the countries’ average yield of 1.5-2 t/ha. These results are shifting opinion and convincing policymakers that domestic production is a viable solution for significantly reducing the unsustainable wheat imports and progressively meeting national wheat requirements in the very near future.
SARD-SC wheat coordinator Solomon Assefa of ICARDA also said that with the new high yielding and heat-tolerant wheat varieties, and excellent work with farmers and value chain actors including the private sector in the milling and baking industries, Nigeria can and will significantly reduce and eventually stop its unsustainable wheat imports, increase income for farmers and stakeholders, create job opportunities for the rural youth and women, and alleviate poverty.
The Minister led the Nigerian high level dignitaries and other invited participants on a tour through the farmers’ wheat fields at Alkamawa where they observed and commented on the impressive performance of improved wheat varieties in farmers’ fields. The field day presented an opportunity for farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to interact and discuss ways of further enhancing wheat production, processing, and marketing in Nigeria. The SARD-SC wheat field day at Alkamawa was jointly organized by LCRI and IAR of Ahmadu Bello University in partnership with the project implementing CGIAR centers ICARDA and IITA.