The Punch reports that with the price of rice hitting the roof in recent times, Nigeria can expect relief as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that it was funding six agricultural commodities value chains with emphasis on rice production. Yam production was also included in the project. Dr Audu Grema who is the senior programme officer, agriculture in the West African office of the foundation revealed this on Tuesday, September 13 in Abuja.
He said Nigeria will soon be self-sufficient in rice production and listed some agricultural projects of the foundation to include CARI-Project (rice) which was aimed at improving rice production productivity, pest control, and variety enhancement. Grema said this project was being implemented in Cross River, Niger, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Plateau Edo and Ebonyi states.
He explained that the Cassava Value Addition Project was based in Abeokuta at the University of Agriculture.
“We also have a big yam project where we are working with private farms around Abuja, Kaduna, Niger, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Akure to enhance yam propagation technology through seeds. We have a huge portfolio of agricultural investments in Nigeria. We are work on maize, rice, yam, cassava and crop-livestock interface.”
“We have four strategic cassava investments that we think are critical that we are funding across Nigeria. In agriculture, we do not approve projects except if it has a small holder connection. Anything we fund must have a connection with enhancing the status of small scale farmers.”
He explained that the foundation was also working in public health, integrated vaccine delivery, routine immunisation revival across many states. On the reports that the richest man in the world was a major propagator of Genetically Modified Organisms, the programme officer refuted the claim. He said:
“Gates has no interest to promote agribusiness, so we are denying that we did not bring GMOs into Nigeria. Bill and Melinda Gates are not farmers; they are not into agricultural services; so, to think they will promote GMOs just to promote their businesses interest is very wrong.”
“I will be in complete denial that we have nothing to do with these big commercial agricultural farms that have been cited in some of the articles in Nigeria. The foundation does not have anything to do with GMOs even in Nigeria and abroad. No connection with the big industrial agricultural concerns which people are alluding to. People making such assertions are morally wrong.”
He applauded the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the Green Alternative and said this will fight poverty and boost food security. The rumour that the federal government in conjunction with Dangote was going to circulate genetically modified rice first appeared in Radio Biafra and other Biafra-related pages where they claimed that the rice was aimed at killing Nigerians. In a statement issued on September 3, Radfo Biafra claimed that
“Dangote and Nigerian government have flooded Nigerian market with GMO rice, please note: eating GMO rice is as worst as eating rice laced with rat poison popularly known as sniper in Nigeria, that is extremely dangerous to human body.”
The government denied the rumour and explained that the agreement with Dangote was actually signed during administration of Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 and in 2016, Dangote “cultivated over 8,000 hectares in Hadejia, Jigawa state, creating over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for farmers who are the major beneficiaries of the scheme.”