The Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), an organisation that promotes agricultural policy reforms and system development to address rural poverty has worked with various partners to re-define the unsatisfactory narrative of smallholder farmers in Niger and Kaduna states.
An African initiative that was launched from Kofi Annan’s 2006 goal to kick-start an ‘African Green Revolution’- AGRA is an African-led and based organisation that seeks to catalyse Agriculture Transformation in Africa.
By 2021, AGRA is focused on increasing the incomes and improving the food security for 30 million farming households in 11 African countries, including Nigeria.
The intervention in Nigeria has focused on promoting commercial seeds, fertilisers, and markets that deliver them to smallholder farmers by working closely with key stakeholders along the inputs value chain.
AGRA has initiated actions in supporting the seed system in the country and created a consortium project that is working on the value chain of maize, rice, and soybean in Niger and Kaduna states.
In delivering its goals and stimulating activities towards addressing food insecurity in Nigeria, the non-profit organisation has partnered with various agricultural institutions, state governments, private organisations, and stakeholders to empower smallholder farmers through a community-based model and skills development on agronomy practices.
“AGRA is collaborating with institutions and other stakeholders within the value chain to stimulate activities towards increasing food production focusing on extension services, agribusiness promotion, and development,” said Muazu Abdulkadir, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
“AGRA is working together with partners to enhance our National Seed System and that is a very key and strategic partnership,” Abdulkadir said.
“If we can enhance and strengthen the seed system across the seed value chains, that will help to make sure that seed is available and ensure quality, disease-resistant and high yielding seeds,” he explained.
In Niger state, AGRA partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to support smallholder farmers to boost productivity and improve their income.
The organisation in collaboration with the state agric ministry trained rice farmers on good agronomy practice (GAP) which has helped in increasing their yield per hectare.
The partnership has built the capacity of over 167,000 rice farmers and extension agents in the state.
“AGRA’s intervention for farmers in Niger state was basically on rice and how to increase and improve the area of farmers’ field,” said Idris Gbogan, permanent secretary, Ministry for Agriculture Niger State.
“Initially farmers were getting between 1.5 to 2tons per hectare but presently with their intervention farmers in the state can realize up to 5-7tons per hectare which is a great achievement,” Gbogan said.
He noted that while other interventions in the state have focused only on production, the AGRA intervention has gone beyond production to focus on the processing of the crop by working closely with rice processors and connecting them with off-takers.
He explained that before the intervention by AGRA, farmers income was short-changed by middlemen.
“We have attained a high level of development in Niger state; we have so many achievements that we can put before us as far as our partnership with AGRA is concerned,” he said.
“The area that AGRA has intervened (especially in rice production) is doing well,” he added.
Speaking on the root cause of hunger in the country, Gbogan says most of the farmers in the country recycle their seeds, making yields per hectare to remain perpetually low.
But with AGRA intervention in the state, he noted that the rice farmers in Niger state are now using improved seed varieties and transplanting methods on their farmlands.
“I have not seen any other program that is directly addressing the issues of farmers like what AGRA is doing,” he said.
“AGRA has supported Niger state with a robust policy and development plans. Unlike other partners, AGRA develops Community-Based Facilitators who were identified to have the capacity through little training; they can assist extension workers by relaying information from farmers to them,” he added.
Similarly, in Kaduna state, AGRA has collaborated with the state government to boost farmers’ productivity and impact their livelihood.
Sabiu Sani, permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Kaduna State, said that the state’s and AGRA’s consortium project is targeting 270,000 farmers and the implementation of multiple demonstration plots and activities.
He stated that Kaduna state is creating agribusinesses through a value chain approach and working with farmer groups to train them on good agronomy practices.
He says the AGRA intervention programme has a comprehensive approach towards resolving challenges in the country’s agricultural sector.
He urged the non-profit organisation to also build the capacity of development financial institutions that are handling agricultural financing, noting that most of them lack the proper understanding of the sector.
“Most bankers at the agric financing desks of most money deposit and development banks do not know the difference between financing the cultivation of maize to that of tomato,” he said.
“AGRA will be able to go the extra mile to see how they will develop linkages to improve the efficiency of the intervention through this microcredit,” he advised.
He noted that low use of mechanization and tractorisation has remained the root cause of hunger in the country.
Also speaking, Hajia Halima Lawal, Commissioner for Agriculture Kaduna State, said the collaboration with AGRA in the state has strengthened and deepened the capacity of farmers and staff of the agricultural ministry as well as supporting the linkages between actors in the sector.
“AGRA in their model besides just reaching out to the farmers, the seed companies and fertilizer companies are also part of the partnership,” she said.
“That AGRA model of that Community Based involvement is one of the best I have seen; so decentralizing the value chain so that you have the last-mile delivery so rather than the farmer traveling long distances to the center to get quality inputs and other materials for his production, you have the last mile in your community, it could be an agent or someone that just has a franchise,” she added.
Speaking on how AGRA has supported the government to create an environment supportive of agric development, Emmanuel Ikani, a professor and the executive director of the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) says that the non-profit is carrying out an extensional approach in both Niger and Kaduna states.
Ikani stated that he hopes to see how the Community Based Approach concept can impact the sector, noting that if the outcome is positive it will be a good way to develop the industry.
He says AGRA capacity building for smallholder farmers in both states have been impactful towards the country’s goal of attaining food security.
“We have seen an improved output from all the farmers that have been trained under AGRA,” he said.