The Representative of the Honorable, Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development
The Country Director, Syngenta Nigeria, Dr. Shachi Sharma
Distinguished Invited guests
Members of the press
All other protocols observed
Good evening all. I want to start by saying thank you for coming to this signing ceremony. Some really wonderful, talented people have worked very hard for many weeks to put this memorandum of understanding—MOU—together. As I look around the room, I see it is filled with invaluable champions and allies.
I see humanitarian, development, and government representatives. I see advocates who recognize that the face of hunger is a moral issue, and one of great importance to our shared security and prosperity.
It is an exciting time to be here in Nigeria, to witness how true public-private partnerships develop between the government, the private sector, and international development partners. The MOU between USAID/Nigeria and Syngenta Nigeria that we will sign today exemplifies the type of shared efforts needed to spur modernization and growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
President Obama, in his inaugural address in 2009, committed the full power, ingenuity, and resources of the United States government to end hunger. He saw that for more than 20 years, agriculture funding across the developing world had been on the decline, leaving countries ill-prepared to cope with the growing challenge of food insecurity.
The greatest impact is felt in the bellies of starving children crying every night with hunger. Without nutritious food, their bodies cannot grow, and their minds cannot develop. Their life-long potential is forever undermined.
As one of his first foreign policy acts, President Obama launched the Feed the Future Initiative in 2010 in 20 countries. This initiative combines the expertise of various U.S. government agencies, including USAID, with that of other international partner organizations and private sector firms. Together, our goal is to work with host country governments like Nigeria to spur inclusive agricultural sector growth, boost nutritional outcomes—particularly among women and children—and increase investment in the sector.
In Nigeria, the Feed the Future Initiative is aligned with the federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda. Together, we partner to develop agribusinesses, improve skills, strengthen extension services, support capacity, and implement good policies. Our teams are not only teaching farmers how to plant, but also helping them learn how to run successful businesses. That means forging public-private partnerships to make sure the entire chain—from farm to market to table—is profitable. This is how value is added in the sector, how jobs are created, how investments grow, and ultimately how the goals of transforming the sector are achieved.
I am truly excited about the contribution of Syngenta’s expertise as one of the world’s leading agribusinesses and partnering with it to benefit the 80 percent of Nigerians that work in the agricultural sector. This directly supports the government of Nigeria’s Growth Enhancement Support program, improving the efficiency of input and service procurement, and getting inputs to the farmers that need them in the right quality, quantity, time, and place.
We all know that cocoa farmers in Nigeria are having an increasingly difficult time eking out a good harvest from their aging tree crops. In Ivory Coast and Cameroon, Syngenta addressed this problem. They combined technology with training and engagement. It is this same mix of approaches that could yield success in Nigeria.
We also know that Nigeria is feeling the effects of climate change and undergoing desertification at one of the fastest rates in the world. This leads to resource conflict, poorer harvests, and a lower quality of life. Syngenta helped Kenya overcome these challenges by extending low-cost technologies and introducing locally adapted improved seeds that are drought resistant. Nigerian farmers are hungry for this knowledge, and I am proud to count Syngenta as an ally and eager to see this partnership help farmers prosper in a changing environment. Together we will yield innovative approaches to serve Nigerian farmers to the best possible degree.
Through this partnership, consumers and farmers will both emerge as the big winners, as there will be more raw materials of higher quality, attractive prices, and appropriate to local tastes, standards, and preferences.
By being here today, there is no doubt that we have the tools: massive capital, cutting-edge innovations, high-impact partnerships and—perhaps most importantly—unprecedented leadership, especially by the honorable minister of agriculture and rural development. The rest is up to us—the leaders and partners in this room and across Nigeria to step up and focus our interventions. The people of Nigeria deserve nothing less than the full commitments of our partnership and the highest quality inputs and knowledge available.