Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday urged the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to forge a strategic partnership with the Nigerian government to enhance agricultural productivity, improve nutrition and strengthen the education sector.
He premised his request on the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and the urgent need to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices to ensure food security for Nigeria’s growing population.
“We are investing heavily in agricultural innovation and best agricultural practices to enhance productivity. However, we need the expertise and resources of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate our progress,” Shettima said when he received a delegation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation led by the President of its Global Growth & Opportunity Division, Mr Rodger Voorhies, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Senior Special Assistant to the VP on Media and Communications, Stanley Nkwocha, revealed this in a statement he signed on Wednesday titled ‘Education, skills development panacea for ending poverty, hunger in Nigeria – VP Shettima.’
He also identified education and skills development as a panacea for addressing poverty and hunger in Nigeria, urging the Foundation to support President Bola Tinubu’s gender empowerment initiatives.
Shettima argued that the programmes which are focused on the girl child are critical to Nigeria’s drive to alleviate poverty.
He expressed his appreciation for the foundation’s significant contributions to Nigeria, particularly in the areas of polio eradication and primary healthcare delivery.
While stating the importance of education and skills development in addressing poverty and hunger, he urged the foundation to collaborate with the Nigerian government in expanding access to quality education and further providing opportunities for skills development, particularly in the agricultural sector.
“By the end of the century, we are projected to be the most populous nation on earth. This demographic bulge can be transformed into a dividend or a disaster.
“Investing in education and skills development is crucial for ensuring that our growing population becomes a source of strength and not a burden,” he stated.
He reiterated his call for a strong partnership between the Federal Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expressing confidence that such a partnership could yield transformative results in addressing Nigeria’s agricultural, nutritional, and educational challenges, paving the way for a more prosperous and sustainable future for the nation.
The VP reasoned, “If a nation is not independent in food production, it remains a dependent nation.
“So, I am soliciting your partnership and attention. Join us in our drive towards combating poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa as you did in Southeast Asia.”
Earlier, Mr Voorhies, said he and his team were in the country to strengthen existing collaborations with Nigeria and also seek other areas of partnership with the new administration especially in priority sectors.
He commended the Tinubu administration’s agenda on food security and healthcare delivery while acknowledging the VP’s leadership and commitment to nutrition and agricultural transformation.
Voorhies also assured the VP of the foundation’s commitment and readiness to support efforts aimed at achieving set goals and objectives.
Present at the meeting were Jeremie Zoungrana, outgoing Country Director of the foundation; Uche Amaonwu, Interim Country Director; Chief of Staff, Nutrition, Carol Welch; Senior Programme Officer, Agriculture, Audu Grema and Senior Programme Officer, Policy and Advocacy, Katja Schiller Nwator.