How Nigeria produces food from the desert dunes


Recently, experts said that there’s no time in recent years is the novel Desert-to-Food project, an agro-based programme, which aims to convert the menace of desertification in the northern fringes of the country and the affected areas into food basket become more relevant than now that the country is witnessing a slump in the price of crude oil with its attendant effect to the economy.

For the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to diversify the country’s economy from one dependent on oil to agriculture, it cannot ignore the novel idea of Desert-to-Food project that has been in incubation for while now. An initiative of FramanAgridev West Africa Limited, a Nigeria-Israeli private sector concern (in consortium with 201 Israeli, European and American companies), Desert-to-Food project was designed to transform the Nigerian economy in a manner capable of surpassing oil earnings through revolutionary agricultural techniques. The venture is also expected to take care of the country’s food needs and provide enormous opportunity for foreign exchange earnings through exports.

With the unstable oil prices and the resultant measures by government to be less dependent on the revenue from the sector, experts are of the opinion that Desert-to-Food and its subsets have the potential to displace the ‘black gold’ as the economy’s number one foreign exchange earner.

This thought was corroborated by the group project co-ordinator, Emeka F. Mba, who while giving progress report on the project recently, said that upon conception in 2006, the programme was well received by the federal government sequel to its articulation of a continental initiative christened the Green Wall Sahara Programme adopted by the African Union (AU) in Libya, as a continental approach to the battle against the Sahara desert.

An integrated response to the ravages of desertification in Africa, the Green Wall Sahara as adapted by Nigeria, is aimed at not just saving the arid and semi-arid lands in the affected states, it is also using the Desert-to-Food project as an economic engine that will ensure the conversion of the affected areas into fertile farmlands and give a boost to the economy, in addition to ensuring the sustainability of livelihood.

The focus of the project is on the entire northern region, comprising: The eleven frontline states directly affected by desertification, namely Adamawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Kebbi, Borno, Sokoto, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Jigawa and Zamfara States; as well as buffer states of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara and Taraba.

It is a tripartite arrangement, involving FramanAgridev, the Government of Nigeria, which is contributing counterpart funds and International technical partners with donor and multilateral organisations who have endorsed the various components of the programme. In addition, they are providing financial and technological backbone for the implementation. With active support of Israel and the United States of America, “the global political weight behind this programme can be easily determined”

Mba explained that the project has two broad components: one of which comprises large-scale commercial agriculture development activities. This is designed to cultivate about 35,000 hectares of land per state, especially desertified lands, applying well-tested technologies. Furthermore, he stated that agro industrial centres would be established in each state with storage facilities (such as silos) for food preservation, as well as processing and packaging equipment and other factors needed for the development of the commercial farming centres.

The produce from these centres, which among others will include field crops, green houses, dairies, animal husbandry, poultries and fisheries, are targeted at the local and export markets. Part of this component is massive afforestation using commercial trees to promote renewable energy and produce raw materials for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

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