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Experts harp on critical inputs as OCP supports 75,000 farmers

By Femi Ibirogba
05 June 2020   |   3:43 am
Agriculturists and financial managers have reiterated that farmers have to be empowered with critical farm inputs such as seeds, fertiliser, insecticides

Agriculturists and financial managers have reiterated that farmers have to be empowered with critical farm inputs such as seeds, fertiliser, insecticides and tools to rev food production.

This is just as over 75,000 farmers are to benefit from a post-COVID-19 mitigation strategy aimed at boosting income of smallholder and medium-scaled farmers in Nigeria to avert hunger.

The pandemic has depleted capital of most smallholder farmers, and less disposable income of most Nigerians has further compounded the cash flow of most farmers, making it practically impossible for them to afford critical inputs such as fertiliser, quality seeds and seedlings that would guarantee their productivity and profitability.

A seed breeding scientists at the Institute of Agricultural research and training, Ibadan, Prof. Samuel Olakojo, reiterated that the first step to ensure food security is empowering farmers with quality inputs.

Quality seeds, fertiliser, insecticides and mechanization services are what he enumerated as essential to food productivity and profitability of farmers.

Hence, a leading fertiliser producer, OCP, is offering farmers and agriculture practitioners an inclusive end-to-end value chain solution that brings about a boost for farmers’ produce and revenue.

The scheme is being boosted across key agric-belts in Nigeria as the 2020 farming season commences to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on Nigeria’s food security. The initiative tagged ‘Agribooster,’ was launched in 2017, and it 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.

The Director-General of the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr Philips Ojo, also enjoined farmers, at various fora, to use quality inputs to maximise productivity per hectare.

Using substandard inputs would lead to poor yield, lost labour, food insufficiency and poverty of farmer, he had warned.

The Business Development Manager of the company, 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 to fight insufficiency 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 fertilizer, seeds and chemicals as well as providing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training and extension services to over 15,000 maize, rice and soybeans farmers in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi states.

Mr Akinwande explained that the scheme also equipped about 30 agents with motorcycles and tablets to work with farmers to ensure GAP training was cascaded down through the Training of Trainers (ToT) approach.

Similarly, OCP Africa has partnered with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to collaborate around research, identification and exchange of innovation on agriculture, technical assistance, training and extension supervision through the Extension and Rural Sociology Department of the university.

Smallholder farmers made returns on their investments of up to 84 per cent as a result of an average yield of 3.4MT per hectare on maize; a spike of up to 48 per cent from the yields of the previous farming season.

Three farmers, Rabiu Hakilu, Salihu Yakubu and Abubakar Yusuf in Kaduna were ranked the highest performing farmers for the season with a yield of 7.8 tonnes of maize per hectare.

Deborah Emmanuel, a female farmer from Pampaida-Ikara, Kaduna State, said, “I can now afford to send my daughter to a good school,” while another farmer, Rabiu Aliyu, claimed that after paying his loan, he could repair his bus and put it into commercial use, thereby bringing him additional income. Alhaji Aminu Mohamed, Managing Director of ABU Microfinance Bank, 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 inputs, increased awareness on financial literacy, banking/saving culture amongst farmers’ cooperatives, and most importantly provided a platform for increased business and sustainable engagement between the university and its host community.”

Professor Oluwafunmilola Alabi of the Faculty of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University said, “The Agribooster project opened up opportunities for the faculty students as regards entrepreneurship, business and extension services.”

Mr Ayo Arikawe of Thrive Agric, said, “We at Thrive Agric are very happy with the Agribooster project because a lack of access to quality product is now a thing of the past.”