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A paradigm shift for conflict-affected rice producers in rural Borno

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The Jere Bowl is an irrigated land mass formed by the flow of the Ngadda River in Jere local government area (LGA), Borno State, in Nigeria. Susceptibility to flooding, resulting in a perennially moist soil even during dry season, makes the area favourable to rice cultivation.

In communities like Zabarmari and Gongulong located in the Jere Bowl, farmers plant rice on very large scales twice a year – during both rainy and dry seasons. While rice cultivation thrives, villagers, especially women, earned a living along the rice production value chain, working as parboilers, millers and marketers. However, the competitive advantage of rural actors in the value chain is attenuated by challenges, such as the absence of mechanization, poor knowledge of modern rice processing and packaging methods, and limited access to markets. The situation was further worsened by a decade-long regional armed conflict, which has dislodged farmers from their communities and worsened food security conditions. “Even before the crisis, most people who come to buy rice paddy did not let us parboil for them. The crisis has made business harder and patronage poor”, said 50-year-old Falmata Mustapha, a rice processor from Gongulong.

Old but not gold

“Wufatu is the only method of processing rice that we know”, she said. An age-long local technique of processing rice paddy before milling, wufatu is a common practice among rural rice processors in Jere. Rice paddy is boiled for 24 hours, sun-dried for three days and milled to remove the bran layer and husk.

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Wufatu is a cumbersome and resource-consuming process. Falmata shared that she uses at least 200 litres of water and about NGN 1 000 (USD 3) worth of firewood to process 50 kg of rice, making the process environmentally unsustainable and expensive. Wufatu also subjects women to health hazards as they constantly monitor the boiling paddy, exposing them to firewood smoke. “If I process a lot of rice, I usually have to treat cough”, she explains, stating she does not know if she has health issues as a result of over-exposure to smoke and the absence of functional health centres where she can be examined.

Rice processed in this way is considered substandard in markets, particularly outside Jere, where consumers have other options. The rice paddy is not washed before boiling and residue from pesticides and stones can remain. Boiling the paddy for 24 hours also makes the end product less nutritious, tasteless and with an unpleasant smell.

A sustainable rice parboiling method

“The new method is very different. I am amazed because it makes rice parboiling easy”, Falmata said. In the method shared by FAO during a training for 80 women and 20 men from Gongulong and Zabarmari in May 2019, rice paddy is washed three times after harvest, soaked in lukewarm water for 18 hours under room temperature and steamed for 30 minutes.

The technique, which is locally adaptable in rural areas, requires less resources, time and it is prepared using locally available iron pots with false bottoms. It also keeps the rice naturally tasty and preserves the nutrients. To process 50 kg of rice, the new method helps beneficiaries save up to 72 hours of manpower, about 90 percent savings in cost of firewood and 95 percent in water usage (10 litres). This makes the method more environmentally sustainable than the local method.

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“I will attract customers with low prices now that cost of production is lower.” Falmata is convinced that the new method will increase her profit margin. She and other members of her cooperative group plan to ‘dominate’ the market with the new rice they produce by initially selling at a lower price point. FAO also provided the beneficiaries with the required kits to practice the new method.

Strengthening the value chain

Usually, Falmata and her colleagues could only mill their rice in Zabarmari, where milling is done using old machines with limited capacity. Rice produced by these machines, reports say, is not entirely whole, often broken and still containing stones and other particles. To further strengthen rice production value chain in the area, FAO provided a 300 kg per hour capacity rice miller and a power generator to each of Gongulong and Zabarmari communities. The machines are modern – they mill, destone and polish the rice.

Another two groups of five youths were selected in an own-operate approach to run the milling machines in each community. They will provide the services at a cost to rice parboilers like Falmata. FAO’s support to value chains in Borno will be extended to other LGAs, considering historically valued crops in each LGA. To promote community ownership and asset protection, all beneficiaries were selected in collaboration with community leaders.

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Building resilience

“Efficient agriculture value chains system – enabling rural dwellers to be actors beyond farms – is a catalyst for resilience building in rural areas”, said Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria. In Borno, the capacity of conflict-affected populations to restart their livelihoods and withstand future shocks is enhanced if they are empowered to play profitable roles in agriculture value chains. As the efforts of the Government of Nigeria to restore calm across the region goes on, FAO’s objective is to support vulnerable smallholders for self-reliance. FAO is implementing this assistance as part of a European Union Trust Fund (EUTF) support targeting smallholders and agro-preneurs in Borno with capacity development programmes, start-up kits and access to finance opportunities.

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Dugbe market inferno: ‘Cause of fire unknown, what we have lost are not quantifiable’ – Victim

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One of the major victims of the Wednessday’s Dugbe market fire incident in Ibadan, Mr. Dapo David, has disclosed that the major cause of the inferno was not yet known, contrary to speculations that it occurred while a welder was working on partitioning of one of the shops.

Dapo made this disclosure on Thursday, when the Oyo state governor, Engr Seyi Makinde  visited the scene.

According to the victim, “Concerning the cause of the incident, people will say all sorts of things, don’t mind them. No welder will come here without my consent, even the tenants. We cannot say specifically the cause of the fire outbreak.

“Most of the shops were under lock, as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. That caused the high rate of destruction. If the shops were not locked, it would not have been much. On what we have lost here, they are not quantifiable for now.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that Makinde commiserated with the victims of the Dugbe inferno and promised to get to the roots of the incident.

The governor, who described the incident as unfortunate and heartbreaking, maintained that the State would find means, despite the challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, to give palliatives to those that were affected by the inferno.

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He, however, stated that there was the need for the State to have a Disaster Management Endowment Fund that will address such unforeseen contingencies.

He said: “I commiserate with the people that are affected. At such a time like this, this is the least of the things that we expect because we still are battling with COVID-19 and its social and economic impacts.

“So, we believe there is a need for the State to have an endowment fund for disasters. If such an endowment exists, right now, we would have given an immediate palliative to the people concerned.

“Meanwhile, we will try our best to see what we can do within the challenges we are facing.”

The governor said that at a time the State is still fighting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, such an unfortunate occurrence like the Dugbe fire disaster was surely going to overstretch the state government.

He also admonished shop owners and residents of the State to always apply precautions and safety measures within their environments so as to avert unforeseen circumstances.

Earlier, the South-West Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Silaku Lugard had told the people that NEMA would liaise with the Federal Road Maintenance Agency to do an assessment of items lost and provide the necessary assistance for the victims.

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He said: “As soon as I finish my own assessment, I will do my own recommendation based on what I have seen and send to them (in Abuja).  And I can assure you that I will never send an assessment that they won’t work on. So, they will surely work on it.

“I want to console all of them, particularly the man who owns a pure water company. He has lost so many millions. I know that it is difficult for the government to really give back all they have lost, but I wish that God will provide ways for them to start and come back to life.

“We, on our own part, will liaise with FERMA to see how we can do some awareness creation and bring some insurance company to work with them so that they won’t start all over again.”

 

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Dangote Fertiliser commences pre-testing of $2bn plant ahead of inauguration

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Dangote Fertiliser Limited has begun countdown to the inauguration of its $2 billion Granulated Urea Fertiliser  complex located in the Dangote Free Zone.

With a capacity of 3 million tonnes per annum, the plant has been classified as the biggest project in the entire fertiliser industry history in the World. Siapem of Italy is the Engineering, Procurement and Supervision (EP) Contractor for the project, while Tata Consulting Engineers, India, is the Project Management Consultants (PMC) for the project.

At this time, several critical sections of the plant are going through various stages of pre-commissioning and test-run. Virtually all the section of the plant such as Central Control Room, Ammonia and Urea Bulk Storage, Cooling Tower, Power Generator Plant, Granulation Plant, have all been completed and are going through pre-testing.

Already, Dangote Feritiser has started receiving gas supply from the Nigerian Gas Company and Chevron Nigeria Limited under the Gas Sale and Purchase was Agreement to supply 70 million standard cubic feet per day (Scf/d) of natural gas to Dangote Fertiliser Limited.

The project, which will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in construction and related fields, will provide a major boost to the agricultural sector by significantly reducing the importation of fertiliser in Nigeria and ultimately removing the need for imports when plant is in full production.

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Group Executive Director, Strategy, Portfolio Development & Capital Projects, Dangote Industries Limited,  Devakumar Edwin said Nigeria will be able to save $0.5billion from import substitution and provide $0.4 billion from exports of products from the fertiliser plant. “Thus, the supply of fertiliser from the plant, will be enough for the Nigerian market and neighbouring countries,” he said.

Edwin said:  “I am happy that by the time our plant is fully commissioned, the country will become self sufficient in fertiliser production and even have the capacity to export the products to other African countries. Right now, farmers are forced to utilise whatever fertiliser that is available as they have no choice, but we need to know that the fertiliser that will work in one State may not be suitable in another State, as they may not have the same soil type and composition. The same fertiliser you use for sorghum may not be the fertiliser you will use for sugar cane.”

He stated that the Dangote fertiliser project, which is estimated to gulp $2billion is the largest granulated Urea fertiliser complex to emerge in the entire fertiliser industry history in the world, with its three million tonnes per annum capacity.

He pointed out that the fertiliser complex, which is sited on 500 hectares of land has the capacity to expand as it is only occupying a small fraction of the allotted portion.

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Edwin added: “The management of the complex are confident that the fertiliser business will deliver reasonable profit to the company and its shareholders as it is projected that population growth and the need for food production will jack up the consumption of Urea fertiliser beginning from 2020 when production of the production would have commenced in earnest.

“The current consumption of Urea estimated at a dismal 700,000 tonnes per annum by Nigerian farmers is said to be due to very poor usage and is believed to be the cause of poor product yield, which threatens food security in the country.

“By 2020, Nigerian population is projected to increase to about 207 million which would lead to increased food production. Estimates points out that around five million tonnes of fertilisers are required per year in Nigeria in the next five to seven years bifurcated into 3.5 million tonnes  of Urea and 1.5 million tonnes of NPK while current production levels in Nigeria are at 1.6 million tonnes by 2019.”

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Dangote boosts South East economy with N63billion investment

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Dangote Group has in the last five years invested over N63bn in the South East with the purchase of over 3,500 units of locally assembled Shacman trucks at the production plant of Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company (ANAMMCO), Enugu.

The order was delivered over a period of five years after Dangote Group signed an agreement with Transit Support Services (TSS), a subsidiary of ABC Transport PLC.

The partnership started in 2016 with an initial order of 350 Trucks by Dangote and as of today no fewer than 3,500 trucks have been supplied to Dangote from the ANAMMCO plant. Each of the trucks costs over N18m.

Apart from being the single largest buyer of the locally assembled trucks, the patronage by Dangote Group has revived the ANAMMCO plant, a vehicle assembly facility commissioned in 1980 by the Federal Government in partnership with Mercedes Benz.

Speaking at the weekend after a tour of the expansive ANAMMCO plant which was filled with Dangote trucks undergoing semi knocked down (SKD) production, Chairman of TSS, Mr. Frank Nneji said if not for Dangote’s magnanimity and his commitment to empower local manufacturers, the ANAMMCO plant would have remained perpetually moribund.

According to him, the revival of ANAMMCO was made possible by Dangote’s patronage “in identifying a plant that has capacity in the south-east, in Enugu to give us the opportunity to produce trucks locally instead of importing them.”

He said, “And of course you know what it does for us here in the South East. For more than seven years this plant was shut down. There was no activity here until we made an agreement with Shacman group and started skeletally. But we were only to start full step production when we offered the logistics solutions to Dangote and the production facility of ANAMMCO way back in 2016. That was the time we signed agreement for the first 500 units of trucks.”

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Nneji who added that 90 per cent of trucks produced at ANAMMCO plant were for Dangote said the patronage has also brought back Onne Port in Rivers State which he disclosed has handled over 3000 containers since ANAMMCO was resuscitated.

He said, “ANAMMCO like I told you is a plant that was commissioned in 1980 by the Federal Government, it used to be in collaboration with Mercedes Benz. Of course you know what has happened to the auto industry. We had gone down over a long period prior to the inception of the automotive policy.

“What we are saying in ANAMMCO coming back is actually as a result of this auto policy. This is one of the benefits. And the second thing is the benefit of Dangote’s patronage in identifying a plant that has capacity in the south-east, in Enugu to give us the opportunity to produce trucks locally instead of importing them.

“And of course you know what it does for us here in the South East.

For more than seven years this plant was shut down. There was no activity here until we made an agreement with Shacman group and started skeletally. But we were only to start full step production when we offered the logistics solutions to Dangote and the production facility of ANAMMCO way back I 2016. That was the time we signed agreement for the first 500 units of trucks.

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“What this initial capacity surge did was to ensure that all the staff of ANAMMCO who had been at home had to come back to work. Some local suppliers, lubricants, electrolytes and the rest of them also had to come back to doing business. And it goes even further than that because we are in Enugu, we used the Onne Ports to bring in these goods. You know many people are complaining that Onne Port is moribund, no good is coming. Of course we directed all the containers here and from 2016 up till now courtesy of Dangote, the Onne Port has handled more than 3000 containers coming to this place.

“So you see how we can spur capacity by utilizing our local capacity that is available and this is courtesy of Dangote and the patronage and each time we had approached Dangote, we said, ‘look if you are going to do this number of trucks, it is important that the Shacman apart from its quality, we are also representing a firm that has production capacity in the South East in the stake of ANAMMCO.’ That is how Dangote is keeping the South East automobile sector working.

“According to the National Automotive Policy, Enugu and Nnewi has been designated as the automotive centre for the South East in this axis. This is because of the stay of ANAMMCO over a period. They have acquired a lot of technical capacity. There is also a training school that produces technicians, training young school leavers here.

“So this is what we are doing here. This place is busy producing quality trucks with Dangote as the largest single patron. 90 per cent of the trucks produced here are for Dangote.

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“Totally here we have done 3,500 units for Dangote. Additionally the trucks used at the refinery are also Shacman trucks. Because of the quality of Shacman trucks Dangote also patronizes that for the refinery.”

General Manager, Media, Dangote Group, Mr. Sunday Esan said the group is satisfied with the Shacman Trucks churned out from Onne Ports, adding that the partnership would last for a long time as the group continues to expand across its various business segments.

Esan added that as the Dangote refinery comes on stream, the group would require more trucks hence the sustained relationship with TSS/ANAMMCO.

According to him, the massive investment in the south-east is contrary to the assumption that Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the President/CEO of Dangote Group is not patronizing local manufacturers.

“This is why he agreed we should come and see how ANAMMCO plant has come alive, the impact he has made in the country and the employment this patronage has generated,” he said.

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