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Why implementing states of Value Chain Development Programme must meet target, by Eremie

Why implementing states of Value Chain Development Programme must meet target, by Eremie

Samuel Eremie, the Technical Team lead of the FGN/IFAD joint Implementation Support Mission of the Value Chain Development Porgramme (VCDP), recently visited Nasarawa State to evaluate the performance and level of implementation of the programme in the past three years of its participation. In this interview with Solomon Attah, our correspondent, Eremie said that Nasarawa was in the right track of achieving VCDP objectives in improving farmers’ income, contributing to Nigeria’s economy, food security, among other issues. Excerpts:

You are in Nasarawa State leading a team to assess the VCDP. How would you describe the performance in the field so far?

Well, the mission is an implementation support mission jointly mounted by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the implementation of value chain development programme. The visit to Nasarawa State is only part of the complete mission which actually covers nine states participating in the programme.

The team had earlier visited Ogun State to represent the old six states in Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) and we visited Nasarawa State to represent the three new states participating in VCDP. We have been in the state for three days and we wrapped up our discussion with Nasarawa State to continue with the implementation support mission.

So far, we have really been impressed with what we have seen in Nasarawa State, which has participated only for the last three years. We have seen some of the achievements they have made in terms of improving the incomes of the participants in the project and trying to contribute to food security in Nasarawa State.

So, without going into the details, and as we inform the Governor, His Excellency, Nasarawa State is in the right track as far as achieving the objective of VCDP is concern.

Can you share some of the core mandates of VCDP programmes?

The core objective of VCDP is to raise the incomes of producers, processors and marketers in the Cassava and Rice value chains. Incidentally, Nasarawa state has comparative advantage in both value chains, because it is the fifth largest producer of rice in the country and we were informed by the Governor that Nasarawa State is the second largest producer of Cassava in Nigeria as well.

Our focus is on women and youths and this is for two reasons; investing in women, we know is investing in the entire family and in the overall economy.

Secondly, investing in youth goes beyond the economy benefits to handling restiveness in society. We believe that the mandate of VCDP is really adequate and very appropriate not only for Nasarawa State alone but for the whole of Nigeria.

In trying to address this mandate, there are three major components involved in VCDP. The first has to do with market development, which has two components; one is addressing market infrastructure and the other one is addressing capacity building of the participants in the market system.

The second component deals with agricultural production and productivity. This is where agricultural technology is introduced to the participants in the projects to improve the production and processing of Rice and Cassava.

This component also deals with building the capacity of the farmer’s organisations in the three major areas. The third components have to do with programme coordination and management. This is where we talk about management, we talk about monitoring and evaluation, we talk about the financial management, procurement and related issues.

Can you get the precise number of youths and women who have benefitted in the programme?

We have a target of 9000 households for Nasarawa State. So far, they profiled about 7000 households. The target is that, the outreach should be minimum of about 45% to women and 35% to youth.

Broadly, what we are saying is, out of the 9000, 45% should at least be women, you can go beyond that, which means, not more than 55% men and youth to make the total of 100% of the 7000.

But as a minimum 35% both male and female should be youths. I don’t know whether you get the 9000 total, but at least 45% women and out of the 9000 35% should be youth both male and female, because we believe very strongly reaching out to women and to youth will have double benefits both in production, marketing, processing and the social side of it to take the youth out of trouble, so that there can be peace in the environment here.

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So far, any challenge encountered in the implementation?

We got to know about three areas of challenges; first of all is the counterpart funding and we got the assurance from the state Governor that this issue will be resolved, because when we paid His Excellency a courtesy call, he said, he had even invited the Accountant General to come for the meetings we had and as we finished the meeting, he gave us assurance that, the State programme Coordinator is going to see the Accountant General.

We believe very firmly that the counterpart issue of 2021 and 2022 has been resolved. We also thank the Governor for the 2019 and 2020 counterpart funding which had been released and the project has been using to this point.

The second challenge is with the farmers/herdsmen conflict, which we understand affects all the five participating local governments, from Karu to Wamba, Doma to Lafia and to Nasarawa. So, all the local governments participating are affected by this.

But the Governor also assured us that he has put in place a mechanism to ensure that continuous dialogue takes place between farmers and herders. And he is insisting that there must be forward movement in this direction because without security there won’t be food security either.

The third one is the social aspect of it. In some communities, it was identified by the communities’ leaders that some men were not willing to allow women to have full access to project land resources, to project input and so on, and this is where the GALS, meaning Gender Action and Learning System was deployed.

This is the part of the project and its application has actually reduced the tension surrounding full participation of women in community activities and in economy activities, so that they can give their full contributions.

In fact, we got very pleasing stories that some families that were at the point of devoice, through using the GALS approach, they had been brought back and they are very thankful to the project for introducing the GALS approach, because the GALS approach brings all the members of the household together and show the importance of their working together, discussing and reaching joint agreements on how they can make progress economically and socially within the family.

How has this been able to boost security challenges in the country?

Of course, that is very clear. If you look at what has happened in the first phase of VCDP, VCDP has contributed so much to the reduction of importation of rice and this has been acclaimed not only in Nigeria but outside the country, and in particular the participation of the CAF, the CAF is Commodity Alliance Forum where you have all the key stakeholders in VCDP coming together, and these key stakeholders are the off-takers, the producers and the marketers.

Now, the experience we had so far is that the off-takers want to ensure supply to the processing facilities and to be able to engage with the producers to the extent of even contributing to the counterpart contribution that the producers ought to make as far as they are contributing to the marching ground, because there is a marching ground facilities when some producers are unable to make their contributions to the marching ground, you find the off takers willing to make their contributions to the marching ground so that they take off these contributions at the end of the season when the producers have produced and handed over their produce to the off-takers.

So, we found this a very meaningfully contribution to the food security, food production, and yields have increased, from an average of 1.5 tons to up to 5 tons in many locations. This is a welcoming development for food security and to economy independence in Nigeria, reducing food importation especially of rice. We are still working on cassava to improve the production of Cassava and to establish the same relationship with the off takers that has been established for the rice value chain.

What is the contribution of VCDP to the country’s GDP?

You talk of agriculture contribution to GDP is still not as high as it used to be, but in terms of value chain contribution to GDP, we are right now talking of more than N500 billion. That is direct contribution of VCDP to the GDP of Nigeria, and this is increasing, because VCDP has gone beyond rainfed production to irrigated production, which means two or three crops of rice can be produced.

Off course, for cassava, this opportunity is not that strong, because cassava still requires about 9 to 12 months before full production takes place. So, we see considerable hope that VCDP will contributes not only to the economy in terms of saving on import but also to the GDP and food security.

During your visit, the issue of low disbursement of funds to targeted beneficiaries in the implementing states was raised, which may likely affect the project…?

Yes! What we were saying doesn’t pattern to Nasarawa State alone. We are talking of the overall project which covers nine states. The message is, there is an urgency for all participating states to really ramp up their efforts.

And this has two prongs; the first prong is the counterpart funding, because without the counterpart funding the project will not be able to draw down on the loan from IFAD. The other aspect of it is to make sure that, we are scaling up on the success stories that have been already been generated. We need to reach out to more.

For instance, if in Nasarawa State we have a target of 9000, and right now, we only covered, in terms of outreach, we have reach out to 2000 plus and we have only 2-3 years to go.

Then we must redouble our efforts. If we don’t do that, during the mid-term review taking place in November, IFAD has the right to cancel funds that has not been utilised.

This is why I stressed that there is an urgency and we must try to move ahead, redouble our efforts so that we can meet the target before the closing date of December, 2024, which is a little more than two years from now.

So, what are we looking at going forward?

That is why we were in Nasarawa. We have tried to understand the challenges, we have helped them also in trying to resolve the challenges; so, what we are expecting is that there would be redoubling of efforts in order to meet the target.

What we are expecting from them will be redoubling effort in order to double the target.