Alleviating impact of COVID-19 on food production
•OCP Africa’s Agribooster to support over 75,000 farmers in new planting season
OCP, one of the leading companies in the global production and exportation of phosphate-based fertilisers, has said it is offering farmers and agriculture practitioners an inclusive end-to-end value chain solution that boosts farmers’ produces and revenues.
The scheme, according to OCP, is now being boosted across key agriculture belts in Nigeria as the 2020 farming season commences and is intended to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s food security.
The initiative tagged Agribooster, which was launched in 2017, supports smallholder farmers to get access to good quality farm inputs, financial services, markets, and training with extension services centered on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) while improving the yield and productivity of the farmer.
This is as OCP Africa said in line with the efforts of the federal and state governments to battle the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food sufficiency and security, it would also be implementing an Agribooster-themed “Palliative Intervention for Smallholder Farmers”.
With this programme, farmers will be able to access NPK 20:10:10 fertiliser at a subsidised retail price, while benefitting from GAP trainings, digital technology support and market linkages all provided as an incentive and a booster bundle under OCP Africa’s COVID-19 initiative across several states in Nigeria.
Speaking on the Agribooster recently, the Business Development Manager for OCP Africa Nigeria, Mr. Akintunde Akinwande, said, “this initiative allows sharing of efforts and feeds from each partner’s experiences. Following the decline in agricultural production in Nigeria, we are pleased to have programmes like this which are fashioned towards helping smallholder farmers, and empowerment of young extension agents to fight insufficiency and insecurity of both food and cash crops.”
In the 2019 intervention, OCP Africa Nigeria partnered with Thrive Agric Limited, ABU Microfinance Bank and Palm Valley Nigeria Limited to supply high-quality fertiliser, seeds and chemicals as well as providing GAP training and extension services to over 15,000 maize, rice and soybeans farmers in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi states. Loans were provided to registered farmers to buy quality inputs and a guaranteed market was also available for farmers’ output after harvest.
Speaking further on the initiative, Akinwande explained that the scheme also trained and equipped about 30 last-mile agents with motorcycles and tablets to work directly with farmers to ensure that quality practical GAP trainings are passed down through the Training of Trainers (ToT) approach, while also performing entrepreneurial functions in retail sales of quality inputs to farmers within its environment.
OCP Africa also partnered with the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in areas such as research, identification, and exchange of innovation on agriculture, technical assistance, training and extension supervision through the Extension and Rural Sociology Department of the university.
The OCP Africa explained that the intervention was a success as the smallholder farmers made returns on their investments of up to 84 per cent as a result of an average yield of 3.4 metric tonnes (mt) per hectare on maize; an increase of up to 48 per cent from the yields of the previous farming season.
According to the group, financial institutions involved in the initiative also recorded loan recoveries above 86 per cent, which is very commendable when compared to other schemes they have been involved in.
Three farmers, Rabiu Hakilu, Salihu Yakubu and Abubakar Yusuf from Soba and Kubau Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Kaduna were ranked the highest performing farmers for the season with a yield of 7.8mt of maize harvest on their one-hectare farms.
Speaking to some beneficiaries of the initiative, Deborah Emmanuel, a female farmer from Pampaida-Ikara, Kaduna State, said, “I can now afford to send my daughter to a good school.” Another farmer, Rabiu Aliyu, stated that after paying his loan, he could repair his broken-down bus and put it into commercial use thereby bringing him additional income.
Key partners also lent their voices to the impact of the laudable project on agriculture in Nigeria. The Managing Director of ABU Microfinance Bank, Alhaji Aminu Mohamed, said “this is the first and only project that has brought about quality business opportunity and income in the lives of our farmers. The Agribooster project aided quick access to quality input, increased awareness on financial literacy, banking/saving culture among farmers’ cooperatives, and most importantly, provided a platform for increased business and sustainable engagement between the university and its host community.”
Also, Prof. Oluwafunmilola Alabi of the Faculty of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University, said “the Agribooster project opened opportunities for faculty students as regards entrepreneurship, business and extension services, building capacity of post-graduate students in the area of self-employment and self-dependence.
For his part, Mr. Ayo Arikawe, Chief Technology Officer of Thrive Agric, said “we at Thrive Agric are happy with the Agribooster project because a lack of access to quality product is now a thing of the past.
The extension equipment (motorbikes/mobile tablets) provided by OCP as support to our farmers is a boost that aided our field operations. This is evident from the smiles on our farmers’ faces and their praises for the Agribooster initiative.”
Following the success of the past three years, Akinwande mentioned that OCP Africa is planning to grow its involvement in 2020 to cover 75,000 smallholder farmers.