Agricultural technologies enable farmers to shift the business of agriculture from subsistence to profit

For smallholder farmers in Kaduna State, Nigeria the new currency is knowledge, and it is changing the business of local agriculture. The 270,000 farmers enrolled in the AGRA-supported project to upscale the maize, rice and soybean value chains can now peg their livelihoods to markets rather than subsistence. The Kaduna Maize-Rice-Soybean Consortium is amongst the best expressions of the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (PIATA) that is stimulating agricultural development in at least 11 African countries. Priority nations include Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of the US $280 million initiative led by AGRA, USAID, Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an integrated delivery system within agro-economic zones and across value chains that enhances in-country coordination to leverage wider investments and deliberate engagements with private sector to build sustainable systems capable of transitioning agriculture from subsistence into profitable businesses. Under PIATA, the partners commit to delivering impact against a shared results framework aligned to each country’s overall vision and national agriculture plan. It is an important collaboration between development partners in both the public and private sectors that support countries in delivering on the Malabo Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed to by African heads of state and governments at scale. According to Prof. Rufaro Madakadze, AGRA Program Officer for Capacity Building, providing farmers with new high-yielding seed varieties is an important part of the solution for Africa’s agricultural development and transformation. A combination of public and private interventions is one of the approaches undertaken by AGRA to address crop challenges, support breeding programs to develop new crop varieties and establish an effective system that guarantees farmers quality seed for staple food. These partnerships extend to private companies to meet the demand for seed and networks of agro-dealers to make the seeds available as close to the farmers as possible. Brown Field days are normally organized when the crop is fully dried in the field and ready for harvest. The aim is to showcase the matured crop and demonstrate to farmers ideal harvest and postharvest procedures and technologies with a view to encouraging them to employ mechanization in their farming activities. The farmers, many of them women and youths, attending the Brown Field Day last November were appreciative of the efficiency of both rice and maize threshers on display and other technologies showcased to improve on-farm efficiency and profits. This generated a conversation on the opportunities available to farmer groups to source mechanized solutions for the benefit members. This approach could also be extended to making quality inputs and extension support available and accessible to meet a growing demand. Abdullahi Musa, a farmer said that while he appreciated the performance and yield of Farro 44, an improved rice variety on the demo plot, he was keen to know from the seed company representatives if he could access the seed closer home, prompting a deeper discussion about linking farmers to agro-dealer networks in Kaduna State. Another farmer, Sule Makadi, was concerned about the risk of crop failure and if there were avenues for compensation given the requisite farmer investment in certified seed and fertilizers against the uncertainties posed by climate change. This conversation led to the issue of linking farmers to credit facilities as well as provisions for crop insurance – an area that many farmers felt was still too complex for them. Dr Esther Ibrahim, the AGRA Associate Program Officer called on the farmers attending the event to make use of the knowledge acquired for the betterment of their businesses and communities. She also observed that the impact of adopting improved farming and post-harvest practices ought to be visible across the entire value chain. Aminu Muazu and Engineer Moshood Suleiman from Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA/SG2000 Nigeria Country Program), a member organization of the Consortium, were on hand to moderate the discussions and questions generated by farmers attending the event. One of them, Mrs Faiza Dahiru, who belongs to a group of local food processors asked Engineer Suleiman the cost of the two threshing machines, and if there were preferential terms available within the Consortium. To which the engineer explained that while the cost of the rice and maize threshing machines was N150,000 (US $416) and N75,000 (US $208) respectively they could be fabricated from artisans trained to construct them. SAA/SG2000-Nigeria works through the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) established in participating states to assign State and Zonal Coordinators and Extension Agents to implement field programs. They provide hands-on training for farmers, ensuring a successful technology transfer process, at the same time assisting them in obtaining inputs and solving the day-to-day challenges in food crop productivity.

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