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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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$1.5m Prize Pool: Top 10 Finalists of “Africa’s Business Heroes” Grand Finale Announced

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The 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH)  prize, a flagship philanthropic program created by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), has selected the top 10 finalists, who will pitch at the competition’s grand finale in November, for a chance to win a share of a US$1.5 million prize pool.

The ten outstanding entrepreneurs – half of whom are female – have been selected from over 22,000 applications across all 54 African nations, following several rounds of rigorous evaluation. With an average age of 34 years, the top ten represent eight African countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, and their businesses span key industries such as agriculture, fashion, education, healthcare, renewable energy, and financial services.

“I continue to be amazed by the passion, resilience, and vision of Africa’s entrepreneurs, and I look forward to meeting these ten extraordinary businesswomen and businessmen at the finale. I am excited to learn more about how they are driving positive change and progress across the continent,” said Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group.

The passion, excellence, and diversity of the finalists reflects the DNA of the competition. The ABH program will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and allocate US$100 million, over a ten-year period, in grant funding, training, mentoring and learning initiatives, access to key networks, and to develop a vibrant entrepreneur community to support Africa’s future business leaders. This is a testament to the Jack Ma Foundation’s long-term commitment to support Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“The 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes competition has been incredible. The quality of the entrepreneurs and their ideas has been exceptional and this is a testament to the talent that exists across the continent. I am extremely excited to follow the rest of the competition and see who will come on top as the 2020 African Business Hero!” said Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, ABH semi-finale judge and Founder of soleRebels, Garden of Coffee and Tefftastic.

“It’s been fascinating to be part of this unique initiative. From the start, I was struck by the diversity of people and projects involved, with the finalists providing almost even split of talented men and women from all over Africa. This competition has shone a light on our continent, and helped to showcase African solutions to African problems. As someone who knows how challenging it is to boot-strap their own business, I was heartened to see that many of the entrants are entirely self-funded, and have shown great determination, ingenuity and spirit to get this far. All the finalists are truly deserving of the opportunity they have been given. Jack Ma represents the very best in global entrepreneurship, so I am delighted to have been involved in such a fantastic project.” commented Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, ABH semi-finale judge and Founder and Chairman of APO Group.

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On November 13th and 14th, Africa’s Business Heroes will host its Grand Finale, and winners of the 2020 ABH prize will be announced on November 14th, 2020.

During the online Grand Finale pitch, the top ten Heroes will present their business ventures, as well as their vision and leadership profile, to the finale judging panel that includes: Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Group; Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and Founder/CEO of The Chair Centre Group; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group; and Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the finalists to finesse their pitches and leverage the in-depth training, learnings and insights that they have gathered along their ABH journey, culminating in the finale. All of this will be part of ABH brand-new business entertainment televised show, due to air in five episodes from November 21st to December 19th across Africa. The show will give the audience exclusive access to the real-world stories of the entrepreneurs of this edition, following them as they go head to head in the finale, and unveiling the key insights and advice shared by the finale judges, alongside the best moments and experience of the competition. By showcasing the huge talent of the contestants, ABH hopes to talk to the entrepreneurial spirit of startups and small businesses in Africa and around the world, inspiring them to pursue their aspiration and turn their ideas and solutions into concrete business ventures.

 

Meet the Top 10 finalists:

Abdulai A Dasana, CEO & COO, Amaati Company Limited (Ghana)

“We nourish the world” – Amaati is a social enterprise whose mission is to build sustainable communities through the use of an extinct and neglected crop called Fonio. The company is led by Abdulai A. Dasana, an agricultural technologist with a decade of experience in finance, banking and SMEs, and with a vision to revolutionize the agriculture sector to benefit the most vulnerable.

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Aboubakar Karim, CEO & Founder, INVESTIV (Côte d’Ivoire) 

“Technology and passion for agriculture” – INVESTIV is an Ivorian company whose mission is to help build the future of African agriculture by leveraging innovative technologies to support smallholder farmers throughout Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa. The company is led by Aboubakar Karim, a 25 years old agro-economist.

Axel Emmanuel Gbaou, CEO & Founder, Le Chocolatier Ivorien (Côte d’Ivoire) 

“Cocoa revolution in progress” – Le Chocolatier Ivorien manufactures and offers Africa-made, handcrafted and quality chocolate, promoting sustainable cultivation techniques and a fairer distribution of income in the cocoa chain through a direct partnership with female growers. The founder Axel, who started his career as a banker and established the company in his mother’s kitchen, holds a degree in International Public Law, and a Master’s in Taxation.

Chebet Lesan, Founder & CEO, Bright Green R. Energy (Kenya) 

“Revolutionizing Africa’s kitchens” – BrightGreen Energy produces life-saving fuel bricks that reduce the cost of cooking for underserved communities across Africa and save forests. The company is led by Chebet Lesan who has a background in Leadership from The University of Cambridge, Product Design from The University of Nairobi, Supply Chain Management from Rutgers School of Business and a Business-Design Fellowship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-lab.

Cyrille Nkontchou, Founder & Chairman, Enko Education (Cameroon)

“Your launchpad to the best universities” – Enko Education operates the largest single network of private schools in Africa that teaches the International Baccalaureate curriculum to democratize access to quality international education for African youth. The company was founded by Cyrille Nkontchou, an economist by training with extensive experience as a fund manager, a banker and a consultant.

Ethel Mupambwa, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Moneymart (Zimbabwe)

“Creating wealth; changing lives”- Moneymart is a Zimbawean based microfinance institution that offers tailor-made business loans to MSMEs and individuals who live off the power grid to access quality solar-lighting-kits. The company is co-led by Ethel Mupambwa, who has nine years of experience in finance and is a Level 2 Chartered Financial Analyst Candidate.

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Dr. Emma Naluyima Mugerwa, Founder, MST Junior School (Uganda) 

“Little seeds, big dreams” – MST Junior School is a Primary School with a unique approach and learning model. It aims to equip the pupils with unique skills to solve agriculture issues such as food insecurity, waste mismanagement and malnutrition. The school was established by Dr. Emma Naluyima, a vet, farmer and educator with a desire to train young people and change their lives through Modern and Purposeful Farming.

Joan Rukundo Nalubega, CEO & Founder, Uganics (Uganda) 

“Buy a soap – save lives” – Uganics is a social business that manufactures life-saving organic anti-malaria soap to address malaria, which kills millions of people every year, and sells around the world at a high profit margin to subsidize sales to poor populations at the same price as regular soap. The company is led by Joan Rukundo Nalubega, a Malaria survivor and a social entrepreneur with a vision to fight Malaria.

Mame Diarra Bousso Gueye, CEO & Founder, Diarrablu (Senegal) 

“Artisans & algorithms for a conscious lifestyle” – Diarrablu is a Senegalese fashion tech company merging African artisan traditions with technology to empower African artisans and build an ethical and sustainable fashion future centered around ancestral African craftsmanship. The company is led by Diarra Gueye who has experience in finance, mathematics, and design and recently completed her Master’s at Stanford University with a focus on creative mathematics.

Oluwasoga Oni, CEO & Co-Founder, Mdaas Global (Nigeria) 

“Unlocking diagnostics for Africa’s next billion” – MDaaS Global builds and operates modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centers in clinically-underserved communities starting in Nigeria to provide a world-class patient experience at highly-affordable prices. The company is led by Oluwasoga Oni, an MIT-trained system engineer.

 

 

 

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Naira strengthens against dollar

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Barely 24 hours, the Naira was forced to a downward trajectory by dollar scarcity, it bounced back, closing at N477 to a dollar at the parallel market in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Pound Sterling and the Euro traded at N608 and N550, respectively.

The Naira, however, weakened marginally at the investor’s window, losing one point to close at N386 to a dollar.

The volume of trade at the window shrunk by 1.83 million dollars when compared to Tuesday, to close at 18.44 million dollars

The Nigerian currency exchanged at N381 to a dollar at the official CBN window.

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Oyo govt. will continue to support SMEs, Olaniyan assures

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The Deputy Governor of Oyo state,  Engr. Raufu Olaniyan has reassured the state’s government commitment to supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in the state,

The deputy governor gave the assurance at the Commissioning of a new shopping mall ATM located in the Oke Ado area of Ibadan.

Olaniyan noted that small scale businesses with adequate support have the potential to be a major employer of labour.

He reiterated the state’s government desire to support entrepreneurs who chose to do business in the state, stressing that the present administration has put necessary machinery in place to make doing business in Oyo state stress free.

Alhaja Adeogun Tunrayo Muslimat,  owner of ATM mall had earlier informed that her desire to set up business in the state aside profit was also borne out of her avidity to support the government in the area of job creation, and also boost the economy of her home state.

 

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