(as prepared for delivery)
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; His Royal Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, Emir of Kano; all other protocols observed. Good morning and welcome to the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. government is pleased to host this launch to support our Feed the Future presidential initiative. Feed the Future agriculture programs accelerate production, improve processing, and increase firms’ marketing capabilities. We also assist with expanding investment opportunities, including microfinance. Nigeria is one of the most innovative, dynamic, and entrepreneurial countries in the world. The U.S. government is proud to partner with the private sector for the good of the Nigerian agriculture sector.
Together, we are creating a new model of development. This model includes working with international organizations, civil society, local governments, researchers, and the private sector. In turn, these partnerships help feed a growing population with access to fewer natural resources.
Many young people see jobs in agriculture as old-fashioned. They think these jobs lack opportunities for economic benefit and career advancement. In reality, the agricultural sector offers huge potential for job creation for young people. In Sub-Saharan Africa, up to 70 percent of young people live in rural areas and half of the youth labor force works in agriculture.
Feed the Future is working with the private sector to support young, innovative farmers and entrepreneurs in Africa. In the face of increasing challenges to agricultural sustainability, our work with the private sector is vital. Partnering with the private sector is a win-win. We seek to increase investment at all levels, boosting Nigerian incomes.
A changing world requires innovation. A growing and urbanized population demands more and better quality food. Transforming the agriculture sector to meet these changes is a must. Dealing with effects of climate change remains a critical challenge.
Innovators and entrepreneurs represent the key to solving these challenges. Entrepreneurs drive economic growth. They overcome barriers and will play a major role overcoming poverty. The U.S. government will help achieve these goals by supporting cutting-edge projects meant to spur entrepreneurship.
Today, we celebrate two new USAID/Nigeria partnerships with very exciting enterprises under this program: Babban Gona and Hello Tractor.
Babban Gona wasfounded by Kola Masha. Raised in Nigeria, Kola attended college in the United States. After school, Kola worked for several years in the United States, returning to Nigeria, his home, sharing the knowledge he had gained. He saw the need to develop agriculture and smallholder farming in Nigeria, and is focused on filling that need.
Babban Gona addresses economy of scale problems for smallholder farmers by forming cooperatives called “trust groups.” These trust groups help maize, rice, and soybean farmers attain larger economies of scale. Babban Gona provides member farmers with services improve crop yields and lower production costs. Over the next two years, Babban Gona will help more than 20,000 small holder farmers in five states increase yields and potentially increase their income up to 30%.
The second partnership is with Hello Tractor, founded by a young entrepreneurial American, Jehiel Oliver.
In Nigeria, a majority of smallholder farmers do not have access to machinery that can reduce labor requirements and increase crop yields. Our partnership with Hello Tractor seeks to change this situation. Hello Tractor will build a network of tractor owners who can be summoned to assist farmers on a “just-in-time” basis. As a result, smallholders will have access to affordable farm machine services to increase productivity.
Hello Tractor specifically focuses on training youth as “agri-entrepreneurs” who will manage tractor rental services in rural areas. It also works with Union Bank of Nigeria to develop and market low-cost financing products so these agri-entrepreneurs can purchase tractors with credit and start new businesses of their own. The success of this partnership will support Hello Tractor sales, while providing 115 young people with an opportunity to build businesses in providing tractor hiring services. Improved access to tractor services will allow 24,500 small holder farmers across three states to boost their productivity and gain higher revenues for their households.
With these partnerships, the U.S. government’s Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program will provide training, financing, and mentoring opportunities to experienced entrepreneurs to young agricultural entrepreneurs alike.
We will continue to engage the public and private sectors in a meaningful and comprehensive way to strengthen the agriculture sector in Nigeria. The resulting strategic alliances with the private sector speak to core business interests while also addressing critical development objectives.
I want to thank all of you for being a part of this event. Thank you for joining the U.S. Mission in Nigera and Feed the Future to launch these new private sector partnerships in Nigeria. We look forward to their success in the years to come, and to the continued growth of the Nigerian economy. Thank you.