Stepping up the process: Wushishi’s Aggregation Centre

Stepping up the process: Wushishi’s Aggregation Centre

In Nigeria, subsistence farming remains the main source of economic livelihood in most homes in rural areas. As part of efforts to reduce poverty and other barriers that limit agricultural development, some members of Wushishi community in Niger state participated in the rice value chain programme supported bythe Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and partners which aims to aggregate farmers around cooperatives and private service providers, who will provide production, postharvest and marketing services.

The stars in Wushishi local government, Niger state shine brightest among the many included in the AGRA’s transformative agricultural initiative. Farmers and processors in Wushishi Local Government Area have established a large aggregation center, stocked with paddy.

Taking note on the seasonal effects on market price, they worked out a system where they raise demand and off-takers from as far as Kano and Kaduna come to off-take their paddy at more appreciable market prices, having recently risen from ₦8,000 to ₦9,000/bag.

The processors in Wushishi have now reached an agreement with the farmers, they have started giving them paddy at a price plus a profit margin to be added by the farmers, the processors now secure ₦1,500/bag as net profit.

One of the critical inadequacies of the agricultural hubs in Nigeria is the lack of organization or aggregation among farmers, leading to a poor representation of the local product in well organized markets.

With a demand for aggregated paddy currently estimated around 2.9 million metric tons, the enhancement of farmer access to markets without compromising on the quality of the rice came in high on the agenda.  AFEX and the AGRA consortium partner dedicated to aggregation and marketing, observed this in their needs assessment, and the consortium as a whole took steps to address it by targeting some key areas including access to seeds and fertilizers, access to extension and advisory services. It also covers availability and affordability of mechanization services, solving challenges with the last mile inputs distribution system, especially for seeds and fertilizers, and evolution of functional farmer groups with capacities for paddy aggregation and organized marketing.

Today, the Wushishi aggregation centre has a strong presence of women and youth engaging in the business of production, processing, marketing and management, achieving a unique synergy within the state.

Speaking with one of the processors, we were informed about how she viewed AGRAs material interventions, particularly in improving the quality of the produce coming from the farms for them to process.

“We advised the farmers during harvest, to thresh the rice on large plastic surfaces for threshing to reduce the amount of stones in the rice. This has improved the quality of the rice and also the standard of the rice; before this, a bag of rice had a lot of stones and chaff, causing a reduction in the quality which in turn affected their profits on a bag of rice.”

She also expressed gratitude for the technical advice and training carried out, noting a tremendous change on the business side of their endeavours, thanks to the new awareness they possessed at the centre.

“We package our rice now as a result of these trainings carried out by AGRA, although we do not have samples of these packaged rice available at the moment as they are sold out, but it is important to highlight this advancement. We have 3 variants of 10kg (small), 20kg (medium) and 25kg (Big).”

One of the state facilitators also commented on the great strides Wushishi LGA has made in the state, particularly with the diversity of their production systems.

“The off-take program is mostly done by the women processors, and I think there is a local arrangement that involves them since they are also members of the clusters. This sees them process and sell the products the profits are shared.

In the particular aggregation model promoted by AGRA, aggregators are required to make an aggregation plan which should be shared with the off taker; they should ensure they employ reliable transporters that will ensure safety and delivery of produce to the off taker. The aggregation plan must conform to the harvest and off taking activities or to a designated functional warehouse for adequate storage.

“Without partnerships and training through the help of AGRA, we may not have gotten to this stage, and for that reason we are excited for what the future holds.”

Wushishi LGA is also one of the LGAs in Niger state currently practicing dry season farming. This is unusual among farmers in the state as most of them are engage in rain-fed cultivation poor state of the irrigation facilities in the state. Although difficulties remain with the irrigation facilities that require fixing, the potential for this method for rice farmers is immense as they could cultivate their farms in two additional circles annually thereby doubling or even tripling the present figure of rice produced in the state.

Wushishi LGA is building a history of successes with experimental methods and new crop varieties. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) rice hybrids were introduced from Syngenta and tested, and 18 other hybrids were also provided by AfricaRice for testing.

With the rise in community based production and processing in places like Wushishi, the future of stable crop production and cutting edge food security methods inches ever closer.