Category Archives: Environment

Africa’s Rhinos – us it better to trade horn to save rhinos

Global Geneva

The air buzzed with the sound of an electric saw. Next to me a 2,000kg white rhino slumped on the ground. When the saw fell silent, I was handed a heavy, greyish brown lump of horn. “That’s worth about $40,000 in Vietnam”, I was told. Poached rhino horn can now fetch as much as $65,000 per kg. By weight it is more valuable than gold or cocaine. The high price and massive demand in Vietnam and China have fuelled a poaching epidemic that has swept southern Africa. About 1,300-1,500 rhinos are killed each year for their horns – over 6,000 since 2009.
But I was not holding poached horn and the huge male white rhino next to me was not dead. I had just witnessed the painless dehorning of a rhino on the huge farm of South Africa’s leading private rhino owner, John Hume. The rhino had been darted to sedate it, held down by four strong men, and blindfolded to avoid stress. Then its two horns were cut to within a couple of inches of their base. It took just ten minutes from darting for the rhino to climb back slightly unsteadily to its feet and shamble off into the veldt.

John Hume has 1,446 rhinos on his 8,000ha ranch near Klerksdorp in South Africa. The latest addition was a male calf born there on 28 December 2016. This was the 1,000th rhino bred from animals owned by Hume over a period of 25 years. South Africa’s total population is around 20,600 but it has been hit hard by years of heavy poaching in Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal and on private reserves and game farms.
Increased security, tougher sentencing of poachers and improved intelligence and the creation of high intensity protection zones in Kruger are working to reduce poaching there and to slightly cut the overall level of poaching in South Africa. In 2014, 1,215 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa. This was reduced to 1,175 in 2015 – about 65 per cent of those poached are killed in Kruger.
Kruger’s chief ranger, Nicholus Funda, told me when I met him at the Park that they hoped to keep the number killed in the park below 700, which should lower the national figure to around 1,000 (458 were killed in Kruger between January and late August). No firm figures have been released by the South African Department of the Environment for 2016, but Albi Modise, a spokesperson for the department said on 27 December that the final number would show a reduction on previous years. While the overall figure is likely to be slightly lower for the country as a whole, there are signs that the focus of poaching is shifting because of increased security in Kruger.
When I visited Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in September, the head of rhino security, Cedric Coetzee, told me that they were experiencing a worrying rise in poaching. Incursions by poachers had risen from two a week to two a day in the previous 18 months. On 27 December 2016 Musa Mntambo, a spokesperson for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which runs the Park, said that 159 rhino had been killed in the province during the year compared with 97 in 2015. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi had borne the brunt of the increase.
Any minor advance in South Africa is being offset by increased rhino poaching. In Zimbabwe and Namibia, which also hold significant proportions of the 20,378 white rhino and 5,250 black rhino remaining in Africa, according to Save the Rhino and to the South African conservationist John Hanks. The numbers poached in Namibia have risen in recent years, reaching 80 in 2015 having been down at 25 the year before; 2016’s death toll has not been released. Zimbabwe lost 50 rhinos in 2015, double the previous year’s level.
Why is rhino horn so expensive and so much in demand? It has been utilised in Chinese traditional medicine for millennia and is also used to carve cups, libation vessels and other artefacts popular with China’s prosperous elite. But the booming market is in Vietnam among wealthy businessmen. They give horns as gifts to wealthy clients or prospective business partners, and serve it in wine at banquets. Many Vietnamese believe it is a cure for hangovers and cancer – though there is no evidence to support either claim. It is a luxury commodity that reeks of wealth and power. Demand has risen rapidly over the last ten years and shows no sign of abating.
International trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977, when CITES (The Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) voted to ban all export-import trade in rhino horn to conserve dwindling wild rhino populations in Africa and Asia; South Africa, due to breeding successes, has been allowed by CITES to export live white rhino in certain cericumstances, such as restocking parks elsewhere.. This did not mean that domestic trade was banned in all countries but it did attempt to stop horn being exported from Africa – where rhino numbers were decimated in the 1970s and 1980s. But increasing prosperity in the major markets for horn in the Far East has caused a horrific rise in poaching. This is despite that fact that rhino horn is basically compacted hair (keratin) – with no medicinal properties and without even the aesthetic appeal of ivory.
Despite this, demand is high and the ban is not stopping poaching. High security in key national parks, shoot-to-kill policies and attempts to uncover the criminal syndicates that thrive on the high price of horn have only limited effect and appear to be shifting the focus of poaching rather than seriously reducing it. Most wildlife and conservation NGOs rigidly oppose any suggestion of a legal trade to meet demand and so reduce the appeal of poached ivory.
Speaking at a debate with private rhino breeder John Hume at the Royal Institution in London in August 2016, Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation spoke for many NGOs when he expressed total and absolute opposition to any legal trade. Hume countered with an argument in favour of trade in horn from dehorning rhinos and natural mortality, that would not involve harming rhinos.
As I witnessed on Hume’s ranch, dehorning is painless and does no harm to the animal. Rhinos can be dehorned every 18 months, producing about 0.5-1 kilo of rhino each time. Currently, such horn and horn from natural mortality is collected by private owners who dehorn and by national parks and kept it is under tight security. It cannot be sold or traded. South Africa, which has more rhinos than any other country but also the worst poaching problem, banned domestic sales in 2009. Hume is fighting a court case to overturn that. He wants the right to trade in rhino horn to bring in funds for rhino conservation, anti-poaching and also for community projects.
Proponents of trade in horn argue that dehorning rhinos protects them from poachers and could, if a legal, regulated trade was sanctioned by CITES, provide substantial funds for conservation of rhino and their habitats, more sophisticated anti-poaching techniques and funds for rural development to make rhinos an asset for rural populations (whose poverty is often a driver for recruiting local men as poachers). In September 2016, CITES voted down a request by Swaziland for a limited legal trade in natural mortality ivory from its small population of rhino, so the pro-trade lobby has a fight on its hands in trying to get CITES agreement for a trade in horn.
Both black rhino (CITES appendix 1 listing) and white rhino (appendix 2 listing) are listed by CITES in categories that do not permit trade in horn or other products (with the exception for live South African white rhino already noted). On 8 February, 2017, following earlier court and appeal court decisions lifting the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horn, the South African Environment Minister published draft regulations for the domestic trade in legally acquired rhino horn, which would also allow the export for “personal” rather than commercial purposes of two rhino horns by persons holding the necessary South African permits and import permits from the country to which they would go. It remains to be seen if this will be fully adopted and how it will affect the poaching epidemic in the country and how CITES will react.
David Cook (formerly director of the Natal Parks Board, and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi senior ranger), believes poaching isn’t declining, it is just shifting location and developing new strategies. In the 1960s, Cook worked closely with renowned conservationist Ian Player to save the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi s white rhino, the last in the region. This operation was responsible for the survival of the white rhino in southern Africa and the enabled the restocking of southern African parks, conservancies and private game reserves. Cook told me that a regulated trade to meet demand legally at a fixed price below the current level and without risk of prosecution for retailers or buyers should be part of a cocktail of measures to further the conservation of rhinos.
While I understand the position of the conservation NGOs and their desire for an ultra-ethical stance on trade in wildlife products, there is an equally strong and ethically-based argument that regulated, non-lethal trade in horn could reduce poaching. It will never totally stop it but could reduce it to a level where rhino numbers increase and funds from legal sales produce a sustainable form of conservation that benefits rhinos and local communities through income from rhino horn. It is Benthamite utilitarianism against a Kantian categorical imperative. The argument by anti-trade that a legalised trade would encourage demand is a strong one, but only if one ignores that there is already considerable demand and rhino numbers are falling fast and consistently. Demand reduction is not working, so a legal trade won’t worsen the situation, it might just reduce poaching sufficiently so that numbers recover rather than keep falling. Trade in non-mortality rhino horn could reduce poaching, though I have no illusions it would stop it completely. Misplaced altruism will not save the rhino. Regulated sustainable-use strategies could.
Professor Keith Somerville teaches at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent, is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (University of London) and is the author of Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa (Hurst and Co, November 2016) and Africa’s Long Road Since Independence (Penguin, January 2016).

Tanzania’s elephant crisis fuelled by corruption

Marjan Centre Blog

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Tanzania’s elephants suffer a staggering decline as corruption-driven poaching bites

By Professor Keith Somerville, author of Ivory. Power and Poaching in Africa (Hurst, 2016)

Tanzania has one of the largest savannah elephant populations in Africa with an estimated 42,871 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census report released in 2016, which is about 12% of the continent’s population.  This makes it all the more worrying for the future of elephants that since 2007, Tanzania’s elephant population has suffered a catastrophic decline of 60% in numbers – double the rate of decline of Africa as a whole.

Why such a staggering fall in numbers?  The answer is simple and is an indictment of  the country’s wildlife authorities, law enforcement system and government – corruption and poverty.

The killing of elephants, harvesting and smuggling of tusks is a complex but flexible network that operates with political protection and impunity from arrest for the king-pins of the criminal syndicates that work with international smuggling rings (that also trade in drugs, guns and people) to export poached ivory.  Added to this is the role of Chinese workers, diplomats and businessmen in exploiting the elephants and the opportunities for corruption to feed high demand for ivory in China and elsewhere in East Asia.

Underfunding of conservation, poor pay for wildlife department staff and ubiquitous corruption in the police, public bodies and among the political elite have created an environment in which the illegal ivory trade has thrived.  The criminal syndicates have bought political protection by bribing senior politicians and government officials, which has enabled them to commission poaching, supply guns and ammunition to poachers, make “safe” the smuggling of ivory within Tanzania and then work with corrupt port, customs and airport officials to smuggle the ivory out.

One recent Tanzanian Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Khamis Kagasheki, tried to combat this naming by MPs from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party as among those helping poachers and accusing a former party secretary-general and Defence Minister, Abdulrahman Kinana of involvement in poaching and smuggling. Far from being applauded by the then president, Jakaya Kikwete, he was sacked as minister.

Kagasheki’s disclosures and investigative work by the Environmental Investigation Agency revealed a massive spider-web of corruption linking poachers, criminals, smugglers and Chinese gangs, with the latter having gradually taken over the export end of the operation pushing out the existing networks of indigenous smugglers, especially those in the large Tanzanian Asian and Afro-Shirazi business community in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar (for more details of the networks please see below).

The catastrophic decline in elephant numbers in Tanzania has seen numbers fall from about 109,000 in 2009 to just under 43,000 when the census took place there in 2015. Taking into account an annual birth rate of 5%, this means over 85,000 elephants have died – the majority of these were poached.  Natural mortality will have made up a couple of per cent of deaths a year, legal trophy hunting a little more and shooting of ‘problem’ elephants a relatively small number.

This shows that in the last ten years, scores of thousands of elephants have been poached for their tusks.  The majority have been killed in the Ruaha-Rungwa, Malagarasi-Muyovosi and Selous-Mikumi eco-systems, where two-thirds of the elephants have been killed. A very high rate of killing is also evident in northern Mozambique’s Niassa-Ruvuma area, bordering Tanzania and where Tanzanian gangs operate with little let or hindrance from the Mozambican security forces and Tanzanian border officials.

There were over 34,000 elephants in Ruaha–Rungwa region in 2009; however, this fell to 20,000 in 2013 due to poaching before plummeting further to just 8,000 in 2014. The famed Selous Game Reserve, billed as Africa’s largest game reserve, is actually a shadow of its former self; its once thriving population has fallen from 45,000 to15,00 in the same period and UNESCO had added the reserve to its ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list.

(For more details of the networks please see Keith Somerville, ‘Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa’, London: Hurst, 2016; and Environmental Investigation Agency, ‘Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants’).

Professor Keith Somerville is a Research Associate at the Marjan and a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent. He is also author ‘Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent’ (London, Penguin, 2017).

The second part of Professor Somerville’s examination of poaching in Tanzania will look at the historical background.

South Sudan – EU pledges $82m in emergency famine aid

Sudan Tribuneseparation

February 22, 2017 (JUBA) – The European Commission has announced an emergency aid worth €82 million in the wake of the declaration of famine outbreak in South Sudan.

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European flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels (Reuters Photo)

At least 100,000 people, aid agencies said, are facing starvation in parts of the country while 4.9 million of them need urgent humanitarian assistance.

“The humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan is entirely man made. Urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. I have seen for myself the impact of this crisis when visiting South Sudan and neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and I’m ready to return to the region,” the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said in a statement.

“Crucially what matters is that all parties allow humanitarian organisations to have immediate and full access to do their job and deliver aid. Ultimately it is only by laying down arms that the country can be rebuilt and that the hopes that came with independence can be fulfilled,” it adds.

The new EU humanitarian aid package will be used for the most urgent needs in the country and help neighbouring countries cope with the massive influx of refugees.

To date, the European Commission has reportedly made more than €381 million available to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan since fighting erupted in December 2013 in areas such as health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, education as well as shelter and protection.

The EU is one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid in South Sudan, having provided over 40% of all humanitarian financing to support life-saving programmes in 2016.


UN asks f9or $4bn for famine relief in Africa and Yemen


By Rodrigo Campos | UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS More than $4 billion is needed by the end of March to help nearly 20 million people who risk starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Citing armed conflicts and climate change as part of the reasons for the food emergency, Guterres led a call for $5.6 billion in funding for humanitarian operations in the four countries this year, of which $4.4 billion are needed by the end of next month “to avert a catastrophe.”

“Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far,” said Guterres, about two cents for every dollar needed.

“We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying.”

Armed conflicts are having devastating humanitarian consequences, said Guterres, calling climate change a “key enhancer” of the humanitarian problem.

Last week, the U.N. World Food Programme’s chief economist told Reuters more than 20 million people in the four countries were at risk of dying from starvation within six months.

U.N. chief Guterres said Wednesday women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

“Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan,” Guterres said. “Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are facing a tragedy.”

Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have died as part of a two-year-long conflict, is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, Guterres said, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing immediate help.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior U.N official said more than seven million people face starvation in Nigeria’s insurgency-hit northeastern region and around Lake Chad.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Africa – why are there still famines?


Women hold their babies as they wait for a medical check-up at a Unicef-supported mobile health clinic in Nimini village, Unity State, South SudanReuters

The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. There have also been warnings of famine in north-east Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Why are there still famines and what can be done about it?

What is happening in South Sudan?

UN agencies say 100,000 people are facing starvation in South Sudan and a further 1 million there are classified as being on the brink of famine. This is the most acute of the present food emergencies. It is also the most widespread nationally. Overall, says the UN, 4.9 million people – or 40% of South Sudan’s population – are “in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance”.

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot.

The basic cause of the famine is conflict. The country has now been at war since 2013 and more than 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

As World Food Programme country director Joyce Luma says: “This famine is man-made.”

“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch,” says Mr Tissot.

Crop production has been severely curtailed by the conflict, even in previously stable and fertile areas, as a long-running dispute among political leaders has escalated into a violent competition for power and resources among different ethnic groups.

As crop production has fallen and livestock have died, so inflation has soared (by up to 800% year-on-year, says the UN) causing massive price rises for basic foodstuffs.

This economic collapse would not have happened without war.

What does the declaration of famine mean?

The UN considers famine a technical term, to be used sparingly. The formal famine declaration in South Sudan means people there have already started dying of hunger.

More specifically, famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. These are:

  • at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope;
  • acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%;
  • and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.

Other factors that may be considered include large-scale displacement, widespread destitution, disease outbreaks and social collapse.

The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or anyone else, but does bring global attention to the problem.

Map showing scale of malnutrition

Previous famines include southern Somalia in 2011, southern Sudan in 2008, Gode in the Somali region of Ethiopia in 2000, North Korea (1996), Somalia (1991-1992) and Ethiopia in 1984-1985.

The possibility of three further famine declarations in Nigeria, Somali and Yemen would be an unprecedented situation in modern times.

“We have never seen that before and with all of these crises, they are protracted situations and they require significant financing,” World Food programme director of emergencies Denise Brown told the Guardian. “The international community has got to find a way of stepping up to manage this situation until political solutions are found.”

What can be done in South Sudan?

In the immediate term, two things would be necessary to halt and reverse the famine: More humanitarian assistance and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies to those worst affected.

Camp for displaced people in South SudanAFP   Many South Sudanese are living in makeshift camps, having been displaced by the fighting

UN agencies speak of handing out millions of emergency livelihood kits, intended to help people fish or grow vegetables. There has also been a programme to vaccinate sheep and goats in an attempt to stem further livestock losses.

But, says Ms Luma, “we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security”.

The areas where a famine has been declared are in parts of Unity State seen as sympathetic to the rebels.

Unity state, South Sudan

Some UN officials have suggested President Salva Kiir’s government has been blocking food aid to certain areas. There have also been reports of humanitarian convoys and warehouses coming under attack or being looted, either by government or rebel forces.

Although it denies the charges, President Kiir has now promised “that all humanitarian and development organisations have unimpeded access to needy populations across the country”.

But apart from that, there has been no indication that the huge suffering of civilians will prompt South Sudan’s warring parties to stop fighting.

Why are there food security crises elsewhere?

The common theme is conflict.

Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia are all places where fighting has severely disrupted stability and normal life.

In Yemen, a multi-party civil conflict has drawn in regional powers, causing widespread destruction, economic damage and loss of life.

Nigeria and Somalia have faced insurgencies by extremist Islamist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab, respectively, leading to large-scale displacement of people, disruption of agriculture and the collapse of normal trading and market activities.

Yemenis collect water from a donated source amid continuing disruption of water supply in the impoverished coastal village on the outskirts of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, on February 20, 2017AFP   Yemenis have suffered disruption to water supplies

In some cases, conflict has compounded pre-existing problems.

Yemen has long-standing water shortages and successive governments have been criticised for not doing more to conserve resources and improve the country’s ability to feed itself. (Even before the conflict started, nearly 90% of Yemen’s food had to be imported, Oxfam says.)

In other cases, shorter term climatic factors may be relevant.

South Sudan and Somalia have both been affected by a months-long drought across east Africa.

How is it different for more stable countries?

In Kenya, the government has declared a national disaster because of the drought and announced a compensation scheme for those who have lost livestock.

The Kenya Red Cross has been making cash payments, distributing food vouchers and aid and helping livestock owners sell off weakening animals before they die.

In pictures: Kenyans share their dinner to save livestock

This kind of ameliorative action is much less possible or likely in countries riven by war.

A mother feeds her malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, NigeriaAP   The Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria has left the area on the brink of famine

UN assistant secretary general Justin Forsyth told the BBC: “Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017. There is enough food in the world, we have enough capability in terms of the humanitarian community.

“In South Sudan, [the UN children’s agency] Unicef has 620 feeding centres for severely malnourished children, so the places where children are dying are places we can’t get to, or get to only occasionally. If there was access, we could save all of these children’s lives.”

The US-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies says 19 African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Of these, 10 are experiencing civil conflict. Eight of these are autocracies and the source of 82% of the 18.5 million Africans who are internally displaced or refugees, the ACSS says.

South Sudan famine – Kiir promises access to civilians as famine bites

Star (Kenya)

Kiir promises safe access to civilians as South Sudan famine bites

Feb. 21, 2017, 3:00 pm

Women carry sacks of food in Nimini village, Unity State, northern South Sudan, February 8, 2017. /REUTERS
Women carry sacks of food in Nimini village, Unity State, northern South Sudan, February 8, 2017. /REUTERS

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Tuesday promised aid agencies safe access to hunger-stricken civilians, a day after his government declared a famine in parts of the war-ravaged country.

South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013 and the United Nations said on Monday it was unable to reach some of the worst hit areas because of the insecurity.

“The government will ensure all the humanitarian and developmental organisations have unimpeded access to the needy population across the country,” Kiir said in a speech to parliament.

Nearly half of South Sudan’s 11 million people will lack reliable access to affordable food by July, the government predicts, because of the fighting, drought and hyperinflation.

South Sudan has been hit by the same east African drought that has pushed Somalia back to the brink of famine, six years after 260,000 people starved to death in 2011.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, on Tuesday said nearly 1.4 million children were at “imminent” risk of death in famines in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

South Sudan is rich in oil resources. But, six years after independence from neighbouring Sudan, there are only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas. In the fighting, food warehouses have been looted and aid workers killed.

The conflict has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the United Nations to warn of a potential genocide.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had set up an emergency intervention in northern Mayendit county to help malnourished children. One in four children in Mayendit had acute malnutrition, MSF said.

“Providing healthcare is a major challenge in such a dangerous context: people are constantly moving to seek safety,” MSF said on Twitter.

Nigeria – Osinbajo discusses rice and wheat production with ministers and governors


Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday presided over a meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat as part of the Federal Government’s efforts aimed at enhancing food security.

Those who attended the meeting included four state governors — Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa); and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, also attended.

Bagudu later told State House correspondents that the meeting reviewed the government’s wheat programme and what could be done to increase production.

He said, “This is the meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat and we reviewed the wheat programme and what we can do more to support states in order to increase production of wheat.

“We also want to ensure that our farmers who have responded to the call are supported in terms of getting good price for their output in order to sustain their interests.

“We reviewed where we are with rice production. The Acting President noted with satisfaction all the efforts by different stakeholders to attain sufficiency in the shortest possible time.

“The Acting President assured us that the Federal Government would continue to support the drive towards self-sufficiency in food security. He said the government, of necessity, would support the farmers, the millers and other stakeholders involved in the value change.”

When asked to confirm the claim that Nigeria is the second largest producer of rice in the world, the governor said he did not have the data.

He, however, said farmers had responded and about 32 states had shown readiness to increase production.

“I think we have done very well. We have remarkable increase in the number of states that have produced wheat from the last season.

“Last season, we had about five states but today we are hearing reports from about 11 states and the increase in output per state is quite significant as well.

“So, we believe that with sustained trajectory that we are seeing, we will be able to achieve our self-sufficiency,” he added.

Copyright PUNCH.