BusinessDay

Agriculture: How value chain programme impacted positively on Nasarawa farmers

In less than two years of the implementation of the FG/IFAD – Value Chain Development Programme in Nasarawa State, some of its beneficiaries have commended the timely intervention of the programme, which has cushioned the adverse effect of food scarcity and improved the living standard of rural farmers in the state.

The Value Chain Development Programme is a 6-year project that is being implemented in phases across nine states of the federation, focusing on rice and cassava value chains to reduce rural poverty and increase food security in the country, as well as to enhance and accelerate economic growth of rural households on a sustainable basis.

The nine states implementing the FG/IFAD-VCDP are: Nasarawa, Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kogi, Niger, Ogun and Taraba States.

The programme, according to IFAD-VCDP is basically to address cases of post-harvest losses, environmental degradation, limited access to productive assets and inputs, inadequate financial services and low productivity.

While attention is placed on agricultural commodity value chain to tackle constraints associated with rice and cassava production, emphasis is also placed on the mandate of VCDP to enhancing productivity, processing and access to markets as well as to expand income generating activities and to create employment opportunities.

In Nasarawa State, it is estimated that about 17, 480, comprising of 15,000 small holder farmers, 1680 processors and 800 traders are the target groups for the direct beneficiaries, while 22, 000 farmers will indirectly benefit from the infrastructural developments of the programme.

And within the space of two years into the programme implementation in the state, about 7,000 small holder farmers, small scale processors and traders, that comprises of women and youth benefited from the programme, which has largely improve their living condition as a result of the massive yields of farm produce, modern equipment support and market infrastructures.

However, in driving the Federal Government – IFAD initiative to rural areas, especially to the targeted farmer groups, five local government areas of Lafia, Karu, Doma, Wamba, and Nasarawa have been selected to pilot the programme in line with its mandate.

The whole essence was to promote agricultural production, processing and enhance productivity, access to markets and opportunity to facilitate improved private sector engagements on a sustainable basis.

The beneficiaries, not withstanding, are engaged to embark on dry and wet season farming to ensure that the state meet its target for rice and cassava production.

Some of the benefiting farmers’ organisations that shared their experience with our correspondent in Lafia thanked the FG/IFAD-VCDP for impacting positively on their lives through its intervention and pledged their resolve to meet the global target of food security in the state.

One of the farmers’ groups, Afakpo Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Lafia, the state capital, said it has harvested 7.5 metric tons of rice per hectare between the 2020/2021 dry season farming, which is far above the international standard of 4.5 metric tons per hectare.

Another beneficiary from Wamba Local Government Area of the state, United Sisters Multi-purpose Cooperative Society, now boast of N25 million haven received infrastructural support from the value chain development programme in the second phase to improve their cassava business.

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The group shared an amazing tale from grass to grace, and are today counting their gains for the improvement in market enterprise, where it moved from almost nothing to a 25-million-naira worth cassava marketing group.

In 2021, VCDP donated 14 market stalls and 10 market stores to the United Sister in Wamba to improve their cassava marketing enterprise.

“Before now, we used to hawk cassava round Wamba markets on every market day which was very stressful and less profiting. But today, we have our modern market stalls located at the heart of the market where people come to buy cassava from us without us having to suffer.

“Apart from that, during rainy season, we used to lose a lot, because rain usually wet our cassava flour. But today, we don’t mind if rain continue to fall every market day, because, we are very safe,” says Rachael Kpemishi Samuel, the group’s secretary.

 

Dinatu Ishaya in her expanse of rice farm in Doma Local Government.

As at today, the United Sisters buy 300percent more goods than they used to buy as a result of the market stores available in abundance to house their commodities.

Before now, the group is always threatened to buy cassava in large quantity because of the lack of a safe place to store them. And as a result, “we used to buy very little which we store in the houses of our members. But today, we are no longer scared of buying in large quantity.”

“Currently, we have 23 bags of cassava in our store which we bought at 24,000 naira each as well as 5 bags of rice bought at the rate of 23,000 each, besides other products,” said the group’s Chairperson, Mary Ojah.

Apart from boosting sales and easing storage, the market stores and stalls provide additional source of income to the group. The group rented out 10 stores at the rate of 25,000 naira per year. This means a total of 250,000 naira for all the 10 market stores per year. Similarly, 10 out of 14 market stalls were rented out at the rate of 10,000 naira each per year which also means a total of 100,000 per year. By implication, United Sisters benefit an additional 350,000 annual income from market stores and stalls rented out to other business owners.

Having realised its appreciable success in cassava marketing, the United Sisters took the bold step of diversifying their income by venturing into soap production using aloe vera, palm kernel oil, carrot, cucumber, Vitamin E, amongst others.

Accordingly, the group launched the United Sisters’ Beauty Soap which is currently sold at 2,000 per one. In a month, an average total of 70 soaps are produced thereby yielding a monthly average income of 140,000 naira and an annual income of 1.680 million naira.

Governor Abdullahi Sule who was impressed by the activities of the group, donated to them the sum of 2 million naira to boost their activities.

The impact of that donation is, according to the Chairperson, May Ojah best compared to the huge impact of the first rain which ignites every seed on the soil and sets the tone for a bumper harvest.

The group invested 1 million naira and shared 100,000 naira to each of the 10 members to start up individual businesses as a way of improving the lives of individual members. The impact of 100,000 naira distributed to each member in just about a year is enormous and best summed up in the words of the President of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala thus: “investing in women is smart economics…”

Another beneficiary, Dinatu Ishaya of Alagye community in Doma local government of the state is an example to women that success is possible for women who take agriculture seriously.

Dinatu Ishaya is indebted to VCDP for the intervention, saying in just one year, she made a whooping sum of N2.5 million from her 3 hectares farm, where she harvested 100 bags of rice (100 kg sized bag) and sold each for N25,000.

The 50-year-old mother of 8 who is the Treasurer of Salama Okolo Multipurpose Cooperatives Society in Alagye community of Doma LGA, which gained entry into the VCDP beneficiary data base in 2020.

The group enjoyed interventions from VCDP including inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, herbicides, as well as series of trainings on best agronomic practices, business management, etc.

After a careful adoption of the VCDP technology, she harvested 100 bags in the same farmland she used to harvest an average of 55 bags.

A group photograph of Ozanawa farmers’ group in Doma

“I was so surprised when we harvested it because I was not expecting the gap to be so much like that. I used about N1.5 million to build a house at Ube near Akwanga Local Government Area from the proceed. I also used N200,000 to buy a bajaj motorcycle to assist me in going to the farm. Then I spent about N600,000 on the education of my children while about N400,000 was reinvested in my rice farm.”

She expressed gratitude to VCDP for liberating her from poverty, saying “I am very very grateful to VCDP for the support given to me. I thank the government for bringing the project and I say may God bless them.”

For Ozanawa Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Doma local government area of the state, a group comprising of men, women and youths that have been surviving on monthly contributions from its members, and generate profits from their investments, was one of the beneficiaries of VCDP in the state that embarked on dry season farming.

“When we met FGN/IFAD – Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) in 2020, our story started changing almost immediately. The coming of VCDP was indeed the beginning of our turn around,” says the Chairman, Ongburu Ari Ogiri.

The Ozanawa Multipurpose Cooperative Society is one of the nine farmer organisations that benefitted from the dry season intervention of VCDP and for the first time in history ventured into dry season rice farming.

“We cultivated 5 hectares and achieved 5.4 metric tons per hectare. At the end of the harvest, we got 202 bags of paddy rice (120 kg per bag).”

Ongburu narrated further that members of the group were overwhelmed by the massive result achieved within a very short period and how they have grown in less than one year encounter with VCDP.

“We concluded that VCDP is that messiah we have been waiting for. Our group has become a talk of the town. Since we started in 2002, we have never seen anything close to this. VCDP is so wonderful and we are grateful to them,” he said.

The story is just beginning. What happened to the 202 bags of paddy rice is the most interesting part.

“We the members had a meeting and decided that we need a rice processing centre to be located in the heart of Doma town in order to process and package rice for the entire Doma population and hopefully, Nasarawa State at large.

“Our target is to achieve this latest in the next five years. So we decided to sell all the rice and realised 5 million, 50 thousand naira (N5,050,000),” he said.

From the testimonies, it is clear that the value chain development programme has come to salvage the rural farmers from nothing to sufficiency, as according to the mandate of IFAD is to impact positively on rural people.

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