By NBF News
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By Favour Nnabugwu
Nigeria and 11 other have been earmarked to benefit from a World Bank's West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) assisted regional agricultural project just as 1.5million Nigerian farmers are to benefit from the project.

The other countries include Ghana, Mali. Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Gambia and Niger.

The WAAPP project is expected to assist farmers in agro-processing and value addition for agricultural products. The first phase of the project was approved in 2007 and has since provided Ghana, Senegal and Mali with agricultural research systems and regional research coordination and Monitoring through the West African Council for Agricultural Research and Development.

Mr Abdoulaye Toure, WAAPP Task Team Leader said 'Nigeria is expected to play a key role in championing this regional agricultural programme to scale up research and technology adoption to enhance agricultural productivity in the West Africa sub-region. Many of the participating West African countries are looking up to Nigeria for leadership in the project'.

Toure said that the project has started yielding results in some participating African countries such as Mali where technologies developed for rice has increased farm productivity from 2 to 9 tons per hectare while Nigeria's farm productivity currently stands at 2.5 tons per hectare.

Nigeria's share in WAPPP is $51 million out of the $300 million approved for the 12 Countries in the West African sub region.

Out of the US$ 51million allocated to Nigeria, US$30 million will come from the ECOWAS sub-region with the balance of US$ 15 million from Nigerian IDA and US$6 million from free grants from the Global Food Crisis Response Programme (GFPR). The implication is that Nigeria will pay back only the interest-free US$15 million to the IDA in 40 years with a grace period of 10 years. Nigeria contributes between 60-65 % of ECOWAS funds.

Board of the World Bank has already approved Nigeria's participation in the program which is expected to help Nigeria increase productivity and create direct employment for about 1.5 million Nigerian farmers, especially youths and women.

Agriculture is a priority for Nigeria towards the attainment of Vision 20-20-20. Reports show that currently food import bills in Nigeria are high while productivity of Nigeria's agricultural commodities are very low when compared to other countries in the sub-region. The goal of WAAPP is to encourage integrated development of agricultural research into the Technology Generation and Dissemination continuum throughout the region.