The SARD-SC Wheat project organized a national field day with its local partners and Federal Minister of Agriculture on 12 March 2016 at Alkamawa, Kano State under the patronage of his Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari who was ably represented by the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Honorable Audu Ogbeh.
The field day was attended by over 1000 stakeholders, 700 men and 300 women, including parliamentarians, senior federal and state level government officials, farmers, extension specialists, researchers, NGO representatives, input suppliers, millers, youth and women groups engaged in project wheat values chain activities, and invited guests from ICARDA.
The Minister revealed that for nearly 40 years, Nigeria had tried to produce wheat of accepted 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 and as a result, the Nigerian Millers Association officially submitted a written commitment to the Ministry stating that that they will buy all the wheat produced in the country during this season through the new initiative. During the 2016 cropping season, the Honorable Minister stated that the country is expecting to harvest 350,000 tons of wheat from the total 100,000 ha of wheat areas.
The Minister further announced that the country has dedicated 300,000 hectares of land to wheat production in 2017 to significantly reduce over dependence on importation. To that effect, his Ministry and the Government will continue to support wheat farmers by providing inputs, mechanized operations and equipment and access to credit and markets.
At the event, the Minister disclosed: “Today, Nigeria is spending over US$ 4.6 billion every year on wheat importation and domestic production accounts for less than 7 percent of the country’s annual wheat requirements.” He added that this dependence on wheat importation was ‘totally unacceptable,’ and the way to stop this would be through transforming rural economies by transforming agriculture.
The Minister highly appreciated the significant contributions of the SARD-SC project, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in the promotion of improved wheat technologies in Nigeria, and for organizing the wheat field day. He also praised the African Development Bank (AfDB) for funding the SARD-SC project which is strategic to Africa.
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 legislations to remove all obstacles being faced by wheat farmers in the country.
The Executive Director of the Lake Chad Research Institute, Dr Oluwasina Olabanji and all other speakers concurred that Nigeria is on the right direction to become wheat self-sufficient because of the recent successful collaboration between the Lake Chad Research Institute, 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 yield 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 convinced policymakers that domestic production is a viable solution for significantly reducing the unsustainable wheat import and progressively meet national wheat requirements in the very near future.
Speaking during the forum, the SARD-SC wheat coordinator Dr. Solomon Assefa said that with the new high yielding and heat tolerant wheat varieties, and excellent work with farmers and value chain actors including the private sectors in the milling and baking industries, Nigeria can and will significantly reduce and eventually stop the unsustainable wheat import, increase income for farmers and stakeholders, create job opportunities for women and youth and alleviate poverty.
The field day presented an opportunity for farmers, policy makers and other stakeholders to discuss and interact 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.