Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State has reiterated his commitment to sustain relations with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), and other development partners to boost the production capacity of Small Holder Farmers in the State.
He gave the assurance made when he received the National Coordinator and Chief Executive AUDA-NEPAD, Princess Gloria Akobundu, and the Chief Executive Officers of Spades and 3D-AG at the Government House, Minna.
While Spades is an American company that works on massive afforestation and intends to invest $2.5 billion in Niger and four other states as a pilot scheme, 3D-AG, on the other hand, is a Canadian company that brings together requisite Information Technology (IT) firms to enhance the performance of smallholder farmers.
Governor Sani-Bello acknowledged that the state has lost a lot of forest reserves due to the illegal felling of trees, a situation he said is exposing the state to desert encroachment.
He however decried the negative attitude of some people towards afforestation, stressing that there is the need for the Spades to provide ways to encourage tree planting among people so as to change the narrative.
The governor also advocated community participation and private sector approach with a view to achieving the desired objective of planting and nurturing trees.
He thereby directed the Commissioners for Finance, Investment, Agriculture, Environment and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to meet with the Spades to discuss areas of interest and draw a road map on the process so as to ensure success of the project.
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In a presentation, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Spades, Dr. Raymond Menard, described afforestation as a sure way to restore the lost glory of the soil hence the desire of the firm to invest $2.5 billion in five states of the federation including Niger State as a pilot project.
He said the project which would run for the next 10 years would create job opportunities to thousands of people.
Dr. Menard disclosed that to fast-track its implementation, the State Government has already provided land and a technical team as well as submitted all the requisite data for the take-off of the project.
He assured that there would be incentives for tree planting and nurturing.
The CEO of 3D-AG Jeffrey Wexler, also in his presentation, said the company is a consortium of the most innovative Agro-Space in the world.
According to him, “the firm works with the most renowned agricultural technology that can help smallholder farmers harvest larger and healthier farm produce.”
Earlier, the head of the delegation and National Coordinator and Chief Executive AUDA-NEPAD, Princess Gloria Akobundu said Niger State is the first among the four pilot states that the Spade initiative is commencing.
She expressed hope that the Spade incentivised afforestation was apt in view of the current environmental threat posed by desert encroachment.
While appreciating Governor Bello for his proactive approach to developmental and economic growth of the state and Nigeria at large, AUDA-NEPAD CEO assured that her office would continue to support bilateral partnerships and investments beneficial to Nigeria and its citizenry.