Unlocking the Potential of Smallholder Farmers

The Babban Gona agricultural franchise model isunlocking the potential of grassroots organisations in Northern Nigeria, and with it tranforming the lives of smallholder farmers.

Meaning ‘Great Farm’ in Hausa, Babban Gona works to provide farmer organisations the two characteristics they lack: formal financial and business skills; and economies of scale.

Babban Gona work by partnering with small farmer organisation or trust group, of 3 – 10 farmers that receive training and access to quality inputs.

The farmers then implement the lessons from the training and use the inputs to grow their crops. Once harvested, the farmers work with Babban Gona to combine their harvests and access better markets and higher prices.

How the Model works

Members receive training in three areas: leadership, group dynamics and communication; business skills and financial literacy, and agronomy. After the training, each trust group receives a loan package in the form of inputs, like seed and fertiliser, and services including soil testing and agronomic support.

It is this package that is helping farmers improve yields, and importantly net incomes, the actual money they have to spend on school fees, house improvements or new ventures.

In the 2015season close to 3,000smallholder maize farmers involved in the project harvested three or more ton per hectare; double the national average of 1.5 t/ha.

However, the real success story here is the how this extra production leads to greater net incomes.

The average Babban Gona supported farmer made, on average, US$ 721/ha, roughly four times more than the average Nigerian farmer. The difference in income is a result of paying less for inputs, growing more and being able to get a better price by selling through the Babban Gona system.

More money in their pockets means farmers can afford to send their children to school, make repairs and renovations to their homes and buy necessities like new clothes, or a motorbike to make moving around easier.

Extra income also provides farmers with the capital they need to diversify their business. For example, the growing demand for soybeans from the livestock sector has seen prices for the grain increase, and now many Babban Gona farmers have the means to grow soybeans and take advantage of the good prices.

 

How AGRA is involved

AGRA’s support to the project covers twokey areas. First, supporting the the development of a comprehensive training and development program called “Farm Univeristy”, increasing the capacity and scale up of Babban Gona extension officers – known as MIKs – to ensure farmers get access to good agronomic advice during the growing season.  In addtion, the Farm University program invests in increasing the capacity of the leadership of Babban Gona Trust Groups, increasing their capacity to lead their grassroot level farmer cooperatives.

Second, support the establishment of 50 farmer-learning centers, where farmers can learn about Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), best-practice use of organic and mineral fertilizers and the benefits of improved seed.  In addition, the learnings from these farmer learning centers are integrated into enhanced agronomy programs and new crop programs, enabling members to diversify their farming operations.

 

The Babban Gona Model Continues to Grow

Building from AGRA’s initial support of US$ 300,000 in 2012, Babban Gona’s success has attracted the support from a number of new partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, DIFID, Skoll Foundation and Nestle.

This extra support has given Babban Gona the resources it needs to expand the model and service even more farmers, with the group setting an ambitious goal to service one million farmers by 2025.

But it isn’t just donors who are interested in the Babban Gona model, with the project featuring in a number of local and international media reports, including The Financial Times in Nigeria and the pan-Africa publication, Africa Report, as well as international based media like Reuters and CNBC.

Another indication of the model’s success is the recent acceptance of His Highness Muhammad Sanusi to the role of Chairman of the Babban Gona Board of Directors.

Sanusi is the Sarkin Kano (Traditional Ruler of Kano Emirate and 2nd Highest Ranking Muslim leader in Nigeria) and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, He is also one of the most respected leaders in Nigeria, and in 2011 was included on the list of Times Magazine’s top 100 influential people in the world.

In 2012, when Babban Gona started it was working with 100 farmers, by 2015 this had grown to 3,000 farmers and in 2016 the Model is hoping to be working with 7500 farmers.

As Babban Gona continues to grow, its spreads optimism and hope among smallholder farmers, and demonstrated that when given the right tools, knowledge and support smallholder agriculture can be an activity that helps people thrive.

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