The impact, experiences, and lessons from AGRA programs in Nigeria featured prominently during key discussions at a recent webinar for private and public partners under the umbrella of the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (PIATA).
Various panelists made presentations on the progress of implementation of the five-year AGRA Nigeria Strategy to catalyze agricultural transformation and improve the productivity and incomes of about 1.5 million smallholder farmers in Kaduna and Niger States. AGRA and partners collaborated with the federal and state governments with a particular focus on rice, maize, cassava, and soybean value chains.
The webinar, titled Catalysing and sustaining inclusive agricultural transformation: experiences and lessons from the field, was held on 27 April 2021 and hosted by Dr. Kehinde Makinde, AGRA Nigeria Country Manager. It was moderated by Dr. Charles Iyangbe, Senior Agricultural Economist, USAID Nigeria.
During a presentation on PIATA’s impact on the seed and input distribution sector in Kaduna and Niger States, Dr. Folarin Okelola of the Nigeria Agricultural Seed Council noted improvements such as the wider availability of breeder and foundation seed as a result of the support for seed companies. Whereas only research institutions had previously been involved in the production, two private companies are currently involved in the production of early generation seeds for maize, soybean, and rice while over 30 seed companies now commercialize seeds, compared to six, before the PIATA engagement.
“AGRA’s support has strengthened the capacity of the Seed Council and enabled agencies to enforce the seed and fertilizer surveillance regulations, and there is better compliance with regional and international standards,” said Dr. Okelola.
Expounding on extension and consortia development, Prof. Sani Miko, the Country Director of Sasakawa Africa Association/SG2000 Nigeria, gave an inventory of the improvements observed in farmers’ yields, new skills and coverage of extension workers, storage infrastructure as well as a critical mass of community-based agents augmenting the public sector extension service.
The PIATA intervention has seen an improvement in the ratio of extension workers in Kaduna and Niger States respectively, with the ratio improving from 1:4000 to 1:300 in Kaduna State, and from 1:5600 to 1:500 in Niger State.
“The introduction of the private sector-led extension approach led to regular, better quality training for extension personnel; so, we have seen better agronomic practices and other value-chain activities,” said Prof. Miko. He added that there has been a 30 percent increase among maize farmers and an 80 percent increase among rice farmers adopting new seed varieties.
The information and awareness efforts have been strengthened by training about 4000 Community Based Agents (CBA), who in turn cascaded the training to over 800,000 thousand farmers.
Hope Fidelis, a Diploma holder in Library and Information Science, is one such CBA, who joined the program in 2019 in Kaduna. At the time of joining, his yield maize was only 18 bags per hectare this improved to 45 bags per hectare upon the adoption of improved hybrid seeds. He told webinar participants that he had trained over 300 farmers and was one of the 86 CBAs that had graduated to become agro-dealers.
Prof. Miko noted that an analysis of 300 farmers across the States revealed that the best farmers increased their maize yields from 2,353kg per hectare to an average of 5,097kg per hectare.
On inclusive financing, Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, CEO AFex Commodities Exchange noted an increased engagement with farmers since joining the consortia approach implemented by AGRA. From working with about 40,000 farmers in 2020, AFEX targets 80,000 farmers in the soybean and rice value chains in 2021.
AFEX has grown its focus on women farmers, with the number of women that have taken loans from AFEX rising from 16 in 2015, to over 700 currently.
“Our impact reports indicate that for farmers we have worked with for two to three years, about 16 percent have a probability of being within the poverty bracket compared with the baseline of about 45 percent of,” said Mr. Balogun.
Giving her experiences on Partnerships, the Managing Director of Psaltry International, Ms. Yemisi Iranloye said that collaboration with Nestlé and AGRA had built the capacity of about 400 youth aged between 18 and 35 years in agronomic practices, business management, and record-keeping, skills that have enabled them to become budding entrepreneurs in the cassava value chain.
“Our experience is that these young people adapt faster to change, such as the use of improved inputs and mechanization, unlike their parents, enabling them to attain up to 23 tonnes per hectare compared to their parents, who managed about 18 tonnes per hectare at most,” said Ms. Iranloye.
The Commissioner for Agriculture in Kaduna State, Hajia Halima Lawal noted that AGRA’s support towards State Capability had improved capacity in Kaduna State for the development of policy frameworks, data collection, coordination with other government departments as well as monitoring and evaluation.
AGRA’s strategy and business plan for Nigeria seek to catalyze and sustain an inclusive agricultural transformation by contributing to the government’s need for a strong agriculture sector with effective coordination and implementation capabilities. By focusing on Policy and State Capability, Systems Development, and Partnerships, PIATA expects direct improvements in food security for at least 1.5 million farmers and indirectly for 2 million smallholder households.