Rice City: A Ray of Hope
Nigeria is a country often cited for her diversity primarily due to hosting over 250 ethnic nationalities. This diversity has attributed to much ethnic, social, and religious dissonance throughout the country, also reflected by the demarcation of the nation’s 36 states into six geopolitical zones: South-south, South-West, South-West, North-West, North-Central and North-East.
Non-inclusive behavior and the overall disadvantages of disparity have been the result of ethnic multiplicity which often impacts on national growth. Many tend to view ethnic collaboration with mistrust. However, this narrative is changing; individuals foreign to other parts of the country are becoming more inclusive, taking more integrated steps in actualizing entrepreneurial aspirations by way of local investments and proactive engagement with local communities.
"Rice City: A Ray of Hope" is an encompassing story, that begins with the story of Mr. Retson Tedheke which exemplifies a form of private collaboration that enhances national integration.
This collaboration emanates from the agricultural policy of the government, and the need to provide localized solutions to existing economic challenges such as; high rate of unemployment, and dwindling revenue faced by the nation.
Mr. Tedheke, a native of the South-South region’sDelta state and a Niger-delta ex militant, initiated an innovative collaboration with communities in Hadari Emirate district in Kokona LGA of Nasarawa State within the North-Central geo-political zone. The initiative has given rise to what is today called, “The Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society” (NFGCS) with its membership cutting across ethnic boundaries. The NFGCS currently maintains over 10,000 members, and engages over 300 locals during the planting season and over 500 at harvest time.
With an initial membership of about 30 people, a parcel of land measuring 3.5 hectares and a start-up capital of 1.5million Naira (4,500USD)- sourced from a local a peer-to-peer lending platform known as the Kia Kia Bit Limited- this group witnessed their vision of working a farm become a reality.
Today, the farm center sits on a large expanse of land measuring about 3000 hectares that houses integrated farm components such as livestock, crop production, ranching and rice milling plants among others worth over 1 billion Naira (2.8million USD).
Mr. Tedheke identifies himself as a detribalized Nigerian. He stated that “I’m building a community of Nigerians who are not interested in religion, ethnicity, and tribalism. For the record, it is better to be a farmer than a militant.”This uncommon display of patriotism and hopes to empower others in developing a sense of oneness has earned him my profound admiration.
Photos by Sadiq Sarumi and Article by Okanimee George-Okoye