65,000 Nigerian farmers to benefit from N9bn MasterCard intervention

… Alluvial to help farmers double yields, build credit history to access loans

65,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria are to directly benefit from quality land, seeds, fertilizers, mechanization, and storage over the next two years, as part of a new program to achieve sustainable recovery and build resilience from the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched by the Mastercard Foundation, the program focuses on building food security and increasing digital and financial inclusion within the most vulnerable farming communities.

The program, which is aimed at helping the country reverse the pandemic’s impacts on food security and bolster it even further, will support more than 3 million people while helping farmers increase their farm productivity and incomes. It is expected to “tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty through a $20.4 million commitment by the Mastercard Foundation”, read a statement. Out of the 65,000 target beneficiaries, BusinessDay exclusively learnt that 80 percent of them will be women and there is also a conscious effort to ensure many new farmers are introduced into agriculture through the program.

To achieve this, Mastercard is working with Alluvia, described as a highly scalable private sector response to decades of failure by various parties to tackle one of the world’s most pressing issues: food security. It deploys an innovative business model that provides comprehensive support to small farm enterprises and smallholder farmers.

The Mastercard Foundation’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program will be implemented in partnership with Alluvial Agriculture, and enable participants to significantly improve yields, increasing from 2.5 tons of rice per hectare to 4.5, for example, or from 1.5 tons of maize to 4 tons.

“Farmers must be at the forefront of helping us recover from this crisis,” said Chidinma Lawanson, country head, Nigeria, at the Mastercard Foundation. “This is a sector where there is tremendous potential, not just to create food security, but to enable work. But this isn’t just about recovering from the impacts of the pandemic; it’s also about building long-term resilience in the agricultural sector so that it can withstand the effects of emerging and future issues—like climate change.”

Dimieari Von Kemedi, managing director of Alluvial, told BusinessDay that the organization is working with CIAT and IITA, in introducing best agronomic practices to farmers and in the case of maize and soybean, exploring new improved varieties that can be introduced in the country.

“We are going to be doing some seed multiplications around new varieties which we have brought in from Mexico for the maize,” he said.

The project provides 50 percent of the cost of mechanization and 75 percent of inputs and the balance will be paid by the farmers at the end of the season when off-takers would have also been secured to purchase their harvests.

“Assuming we were planting only rice at a modest 4 tons per hectare, this would be 260,000 tonnes of rice produced by this project in one season,” said Kemedi. “This is being done at serious scale”.

Alluvial’s innovative business model provides comprehensive support to smallholder farmers, including training, technology, land preparation, irrigation, input supplies, and market access. The company achieves this by organizing adjacent farms in community blocks. This means that tractors, for example, can efficiently plow each of the smallholdings, saving weeks of toiling by hand.

“With this tremendous support from the Mastercard Foundation, and expertise from numerous valued partners, Alluvial is transforming the approach to tackling hunger and poverty by channelling resources into sustainable food production as opposed to transitory food aid,” said Kemedi. “We invite all farmers, agriculturalists, and others to join us in one of the world’s most pressing endeavours.”

Using technology accessible from low-tech mobiles, Alluvial is also providing training and peer-to-peer advice on farm and market information, including rating providers of inputs and services. Alluvial’s Market Information and Digital Payment System also enable fast and secure electronic payment through the Farmer Network Digital Payment System. Farmers can purchase from vetted providers of seeds and other inputs and services and securely receive payments by direct transfer.

Alluvial, according to Kemedi, is hoping to sustain this beyond the 2-year support from MasterCard foundation and is already working with a group of banks who are registering the farmers. By virtue of working with on the project, the banks would see firsthand if the operations have been successful or not.

“That apart from anything else is to help the farmers build a credit history,” said Kemedi, and to be able to approach banks on their own for subsequent funding and being attractive to other groups of investors.

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