• Monday, May 27, 2024
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APPEALS project: Changing Lagos agricultural narrative

APPEALS project: Changing Lagos agricultural narrative

Nigeria’s agriculture has long been known to hold great promise and has historically been the country’s major source of revenue and foreign exchange earner.

In the 1960s and 70s agriculture was Nigeria’s main driver of economic growth and development. However, the discovery of crude oil a few years after Nigeria’s independence changed its agricultural narratives, prompting the country to lag in the production of almost all food crops and commodities.

However, succour came when the government began making efforts to tap opportunities across the agricultural value chains to create millions of jobs and earn foreign exchange amid shortages.

As a result, the government began stimulating social-economic development through agriculture and crucial in its drive is the Agro Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) project – a World Bank-assisted initiative, implemented through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in six participating states – Lagos, Cross River, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, and Kogi.

It is a six-year project expected to run between 2017 and 2023. Within six years of introducing the APPEALS project in Lagos – home to roughly 22 million people, the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers across the poultry, aquaculture, and rice value chains has been enhanced.

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For aquaculture, APPEALS Lagos has exposed fish farmers to modern practices, enhanced their access to quality feeds, improved brood stock, bridged infrastructural gaps, and provided them with viable financing among others.

One of the modern aquaculture practices introduced to fish farmers in the state under the project is cage culture – a practice that involves growing fish in existing water resources while being enclosed in a net cage that allows free flow of water.

The technology enable fish farmers to tap opportunities in Lagos’s vast network of aquatic resources and extensive coastline while also boosting their productivity.

Nigeria’s aquaculture production is predominantly pond-based (earthen or concrete), due to their relatively low cost. The pond-based infrastructure isn’t allowing fish farmers to fully tap opportunities in tilapia production, according to experts because tilapia breeds intermittently.

But with the cage culture technology introduced by APPEALS Lagos, farmers in the state are now tapping opportunities in the production of the fish. The project has enabled them to boost productivity and expand their markets.

“Tilapia is not new but most farmers did not get it right when farming it because what they were doing was raising it in earthen ponds or concrete ponds,” said Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo, project coordinator of APPEALS Lagos at a recent farm tour.

“Tilapia breed intermittently and this makes most of the fries in small ponds not mature in due time,” she said.

To address the problem, she said APPEALS Lagos partnered with the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research and the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research in New Bussa to develop a monosex culture of tilapia.

She noted that over 180 cages have been built, promoted and concentrated on two water bodies in Afowo and Epe areas of Lagos.

“Today beyond even the Lagos state investments, some private investors have come here to set up their cages,” she said.

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“People come from Benin, Togo, and Ghana to buy our fish. When we talk about food security, I think we are moving at the right step.

She said through the Lagos APPEALS project, aquaculture, poultry, and rice farmers in various clusters across communities had been supported with good access roads, farm inputs, cages, water tank treatment plants, and cottages to preserve freshness.

Speaking also, Sejiro Michael Tojinu, president of the Lagos State Catfish and Allied Farmers Association said the farmers’ only contributed 10 percent to the entire investment in the two waterways locations in the state.

According to him, the project has transformed the community as it has spurred other businesses across the value chain. He noted that before the initiative tilapia production was not profitable for the few farmers cultivating it owing to their highly prolific nature of the fish which most farmers cannot control.

“But the intervention has introduced a technology that helped us now and it has become a profitable business. We get as high as 30 or 40 percent return on investment,” he said.

The project also built a cottage fish processing centre for various fish farmers clusters in the state. The centres have blast freezers and other cooling facilities that help maintain the quality and freshness of the fish.

For poultry production, the project has supported farmers with improved poultry feeds and other critical inputs, making them produce all year round.

According to Sagoe-Oviebo, in the poultry sector, farmers in the state have been supported, and the productivity for broilers of farmers has increased from an average of 2kg to between 2.5 and 2.8kg in six weeks adding that egg production has recorded a tremendous boost.

“Before now, farmers used to produce broilers during festive periods but with our support, they now produce all year round as they can now blast freeze it and sell when they want to,” she noted.

Oluwatoyin Oloyede, the coordinator of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA) Farmers at Ojo Barracks stated that the project has been very impactful and that jobs have been created for women and the livelihoods of farmers have been improved through the support from APPEALS.

She commended the state governor and the World Bank for the initiative that has supported women in earning an income to support their families.

In rice production, APPEALS support has helped farmers double their yield per hectare from an average of 2 tons to 4 tons. Under the initiative, women and youths were trained on how to turn broken rice into flour, cakes, kunu, and noodles through value addition.

“Also, the rice husk is used as a substrate for mushrooms and to make briquettes – low in benzopyrene level for fish farmers to use to smoke their fishes,” the project state coordinator said.

“We did capacity building on agronomic practices on how to ensure that they do not just plant properly but adhere to spacing and use the right pesticides and fertilisers on their farms to help them achieve maximum yield,” she stated.

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“When you talk about food security, nutrition-sensitive technologies and climate-smart technologies, Lagos APPEALS has done wonderfully well,” she added.

She appreciated farmers across the fish, rice, and poultry value chains while urging them to own the project, adding that Microfinance Bank has been established to support them with second-level financing.

Rafael Hunsa, state chairman, RIFAN said APPEALS has been doing so much beyond farmers’ expectations.

According to him, the project has supported farmers with critical inputs while building their capacity on good agricultural practices.

“Before the intervention, we were farming for consumption but through their support, we are producing at a commercial scale,” he said.

“I have been able to send my children to school as my income has improved since 2019 when they started supporting us.”