Valuable land for food farming – the problem of rural exodus – the GrowExpress project “together for sustainability” – in conversation with Thomas Wegener, decathlete and international manager from Berlin / Germany
The stormy development of Nigeria due to oil discoveries a few decades ago did not do the local agriculture any good. Africa’s largest economy is in Nigeria: 200 million people and 40 percent of the population are at risk of poverty. Over 70 percent of the population works in agriculture and in the southern part of the country the focus is on agriculture, in the north on cattle breeding. The country is the largest producer of yams (food and medicinal plant) and cassava (manioc) and the fourth largest cocoa producer. In 2015, the member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda “Sustainable Development Goals” with 17 goals for ending poverty and hunger.
This economy, which is considered to be the largest and fastest growing in Africa, has reduced domestic production of food and neglected its structures because of the possibility of importing food. The political situation has changed. While the ideal of urban life and a strong rural exodus prevail among the population and large parts of the food are imported, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to re-cultivate the fallow land.
GrowExpress: Together – not against each other
After scientific discussions with the university in Ibadan, the following concept has been developed: together and not against each other. As part of an award procedure, the GrowExpress Group was able to prevail and was awarded the contract for the management of a large vacant state property in the fertile plains of the OYO National Park, which is located south of the Niger with 4180km, the third longest river in Africa.
As part of the concept, the land was cultivated and returned to agriculture by removing the ecologically unworthy bushland that had arisen in the last few decades. With the involvement of local forces, who also benefit from these economic activities through education, respect and income, international investors were found who are working together to restore agriculture in one of the most fertile parts of West Africa in the state of Nigeria.
Under the leadership of Thomas Wegener, long-time international manager, the Chinese company inView as well as German and American investors invested in Nigeria. Why invest in the middle of an undeveloped area? Thomas Wegener is asked this question again and again. He knows his way around Nigeria, the large country in West Africa, in the city of Lagos, which stretches from the Gulf of Guinea across the lagoon of Lagos, and was regularly there before Corona. The piece of land for the project is 200 km inland from the megacity of Lagos. Lagos is by the sea where life is bustling. Poverty and wealth are so close together, a city of extremes that at the same time exudes hope for a better future. Rapid growth is characterized by dozens of construction cranes that are creating new office towers and hotels. The population hopes for a better life in the city and is leaving the rural regions for it. Lagos is designed for 8 million inhabitants, but 20+ million people live there and 700,000 more people are drawn to the city every year. The idea of the GrowExpress farm project combines economic efficiency with social responsibility. Thomas Wegener on this: “The local situation is that there is a lot of unused land in Nigeria that has been fallow for 70 to 100 years. This is due to the rural exodus. Most farmers flee to the cities for better employment. What remains are single women and children who make their way through life with small farms. GrowExpress is committed to clean up these large areas of land in a gentle way and to start organic farming. GrowExpress as a partner started with further education and training, support from the preparation of the agricultural land to sowing, harvesting and marketing. „
Sustainable Development – Respect – Development Efforts
The GrowExpress farm concept envisages not dismantling local structures, but rather respecting them. This means that the previous small-scale farming, which was dependent on human strength, will be retained. The population can, however, receive funding and knowledge transfer here, because there is usually not a lack of diligence but rather of know-how. In particular, irrigation, multi-field farming, fertilizers and the use of modern seed quality have not prevailed in the smallholder management of the individual families. The contact persons are often the women, who keep the families together in the internal structure and who ensure family cohesion despite the male predominance on the street. The land used for agriculture for the GrowExpress farm project is free, which means that it was not previously in the hands of companies or people who are now being displaced. After the soil analysis and the clearing of ecologically not valuable bushland, crop rotations are selected and agriculture is mechanized. The people in charge of the Nigerian state support the farm project and fixed offtake agreements have been concluded so that the economic dimension of agriculture is secured.
Thomas Wegener on this: “Our motto is: Don’t play off against each other, don’t say we’re Germans or we’re Chinese, but act together for the good of humanity and the local people. Why shouldn’t a fertile country like Nigeria produce large parts of its food itself, stop the rural exodus, strengthen local structures and thus counter economic upheavals after the end of the oil age? German, American and Chinese investors have come together here to show that a great and good goal can only be achieved with respect and mutual understanding.“
Conclusion: Nigeria, a country with an ancient history, difficult trials and fates, looks to the future: helping people to help themselves
Nigeria has been the official partner country of German development cooperation since its democratic development in 1999. Education and training as the key to self-help and project developments with sustainability requirements for a self-determined future. The priorities for the programs of German government development cooperation focus in particular on the sustainability of economic development, energy policy advice, professional training in agriculture and the construction industry. The partnership between Saxony-Anhalt and the Nigerian state of Osun is a good example with the aim of training and continuing education for specialists and young professionals in the agricultural sector. Help for long-term self-help – The „Osun-Germany Agricultural Cooperation“ project aims to promote the attractiveness of agriculture for young people through training through active learning in so-called „Best Practice Farms“ in exchange and from one another. The GrowExpress farm project focuses on education and training, good seeds, high-yielding harvests and the marketing of products for an attractive life in the country.
Verantwortlich im Sinne des Pressegesetzes:
Managing Director – GrowExpress Ltd.
Cocoa House, Dugbe
The GrowExpress Ltd. Office is in Nigeria, Cocoa House, Dugbe, 200263 Ibadan. The Cocoa House, completed in 1965 with a height of 105 meters, was once the tallest building in Nigeria and the first skyscraper in West Africa. It is located in Dugbe, which is one of the main industrial parks in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. GrowExpress Ltd. cultivates an estate of 800 hectares about 200 km north of the megacity Lagos in Nigeria. Further information at: https://growexpress.org
Kingsley Ekwueme – Managing Director
Cocoa House, Dugbe
200263 Ibadan, Nigeria