The Food Africa project by Kaduna State Government in conjunction with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund (UN SDG-F), Sahara Group and Roca Brothers is to promote food security.
PT: An estimated 1.3 billion people are living in extreme poverty worldwide. How much of a threat would you say this situation is to our communities?
COLE: Poverty is a serious threat not only to communities, but to nations and the world as a whole. On a daily basis, people die from starvation, primarily due to poverty. Every day, the gap between the rich and poor keep growing. Poverty has been at the heart of most of the strife, crisis, violence and conflicts in many regions of the world.
Recent World Bank reports revealed that about 3 billion people (almost half of the world’s population) live on less than $2.50 a day, while more than 1.3 billion others live in extreme poverty conditions (less than $1.25 a day). In addition, over one billion children globally live in poverty.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says poverty kills about 22,000 children everyday. These statistics are very disheartening. The Food Africa project is our modest effort provide sustainable solutions to reduce the threat to humanity. The project will enhance the campaign against poverty on a massive scale, given the involvement of local, regional and global partners.
Sahara Group’s multiple partners with public and private sector organisations to implement economic empowerment programmes within and beyond its locations worldwide.
Most of the projects provide avenues for skills acquisition for indigent and disadvantaged beneficiaries to promote inclusion and socio-economic growth.
PT: The Food Africa project came with a focus. What was that?
COLE: The Food Africa project is a product of partnership between Sahara Group, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals-Fund (UN SDG-F) and the Kaduna State Government. The aim of the project is to empower the people of Kaduna State and alleviate poverty through food security.
The project was conceived after the UN SDG-F took interest in the private sector as a prospective contributor to the success of sustainable development goals. After observations in several countries across the world, many private companies carried out very successful and thriving corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects with little or no involvement of the host governments.
The agriculture initiative aims to integrate the entire food value chain, involving the farmer, wholesaler, retailer and consumer, using a forward/backward integration approach. That would help improve the farmers, their farming techniques and reduction in farm produce wastages, to provide sustainable source of food security, poverty eradication, skill acquisition and social inclusiveness.
The target for the project is to impact a minimum of 500,000 beneficiaries (30 per cent direct beneficiaries and 70 per cent indirect beneficiaries); providing families with better nutrition and livelihood opportunities estimated to benefit from the project over a five-year period.
PT: What roles are partners involved in the project playing?
COLE: The UN SDG-F, Sahara Group, UN specialized agencies, Kaduna State government and Roca Brothers of Spain, which was recently given award as the best restaurant in the world, are our partners.
The SDG Fund and Sahara Group would be responsible for the project design; together they would provide the bulk of the co-financing, mobilize matching fund contributions and oversee the preparation of the work plan in agreement with all partners.
The two will jointly chair the biennial trustees committee; assume overall oversight of the project implementation; provide guidance to the project management office, and oversee the appointment and development of capacities of the processing facility management.
Specifically, the UN specialized agencies would assume responsibility for technical assistance in their core areas of expertise and implement those activities agreed upon in the work plan, including feasibility, baseline and market studies, training of farmers, cooperatives and farmer-based organizations, occupational and safety and health.
The Roca Brothers would contribute to overall technical oversight to the project and provide technical expertise, including the sharing of best practices in resource efficiency, recycling and recovering of waste as secondary resources to help optimize the operations of the processing facility.
They would also play a key role in establishing the Centre of Excellence, through “training-of-trainers” modality to build the capacity of a team of local trainers and contribute to the communications and advocacy campaign.
The Kaduna State government would provide the land where the facility would be constructed and other arable land within the identified local government areas, in addition to access to utilities and all-year round armed security for the facility.
The state government would collaborate with other state-level stakeholders to improve local infrastructure, including rural roads to allow access to the facility and farmland, and would share relevant policy information, databases, etc. at its disposal.
They would also play a vital role to assist in identifying potential farmers that would take part in the out-growers’ scheme.
PT: Recently, Sahara Group unveiled the extrapreneurship framework for corporate responsibility. How would this help realise the Food Africa project goal?
COLE: The extrapreneurship framework is a cross sectoral collaboration that creates and connects young people with business interests in emerging markets through skills training, mentoring and access to a network of committed stakeholders.
It is a platform for partnership between the various stakeholders to provide trainings and mentoring services to rural farmers in Kaduna state, to help them develop and improve their farming techniques and methods to meet global standards, provide a platform to learn and understand the business and commercial aspect of agriculture value chain as well as also providing access to a network of committed product off takers.
Considering that Sahara Group has over the years nurtured businesses from incubation to maturity, we have, along with our partners, designed and developed an appropriate framework during the project conceptualization to ensure ownership by beneficiaries, hence guaranteeing sustainability. The project beneficiaries would be empowered with the right skills, training, resources and network connections to guarantee the sustainability of the project.
PT: How’s Sahara Group promoting the use of its extrapreneurship platform?
COLE: The concept is gradually unfolding. We are currently collaborating with Kunle Afolayan, an award winning filmmaker, on a project tagged: ‘Grooming film Extrapreneurs with Kunle Afolayan’.
The project was designed to provide a platform for youth in Nigeria to channel their creativity and innovation in film making, to celebrate entrepreneurship in Nigeria using the theme: My Nigeria, My Platform. Seeing Nigeria through an entrepreneur’s eyes.
Interested budding film talents are expected to send in 15-minute documentaries that highlight the story of Nigerian entrepreneurs, with a focus on how their activities are providing sustainable solutions, creating employment and promoting the nation’s socio-economic development in.
Sahara Foundation is also in partnership with ENACTUS Nigeria to create a platform that would identify and reward business ventures, while also improving the efficiency of extrapreneurs, to ensure growth and sustainability. This will be achieved by granting young and innovative individuals with business interest access to a network of mentors and angel investors who will guide them to success.
PT: Would the Food Africa project extend to other parts of the continent?
COLE: The successful implementation of the project in Kaduna State has given us the confidence that the project could succeed in other locations in Nigeria and ultimately in other places in African.
At the moment, we are working with the UN SDG-F another UN agencies in Africa to develop the required network to make this happen. We expect that the Food Africa project would ultimately become a global model.
PT: What does Food Africa project mean to Nigeria?
COLE: The enthusiasm by the local farmers in Kaduna speaks it all. They are eager to learn new ways to improve their work through collaboration to achieve the big picture of sustainable productivity for the benefit of all.
We commend the Kaduna State government for providing the foundation and support for the project. Everyone is excited about the expected outcomes from the project. Sahara Group and other partners remain committed to record a resounding success that could be replicated anywhere.
Considering Nigeria’s position in Africa, it would afford us the opportunity to equally lead efforts to stimulate stronger commitment and enthusiasm in other parts of the continent towards the attainment of the critical development action