IFAD is Boosting food production in Nigeria

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) financed rural development projects have contributed to increased productivity and incomes in Nigeria, DANIEL ESSIET writes.

That rural development financed  projects by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have contributed to increased productivity and revenue in Nigeria is not  in doubt as many beneficiaries have good tales to tell. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations’ agency based in Rome, which is the UN’s food and agriculture hub.

One of the projects is Value Chain Development Programme, which  aims to transform the agricultural sector of rural Nigeria by achieving food security, increasing incomes and creating new employment opportunities.

Juliet Ngozi Ebuo, 31, was one of those who took advantage of the programme to acquire  new irrigation systems on her 10 hectares of land. She is a rice farmer in Ayamelum community in Anambra State, and belongs to the Divine Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative. Before joining the cooperative, Juliet was unhappy with her livelihood. She found farming to be tedious and unsatisfying. But after joining Divine Destiny, she gained access to many of the resources and tools the IFAD-funded Value Chain Development Programme provided to cooperative members. Like her members, she could access tractors, rice pulling machines, improved seedlings and training on dry season farming.

This support has helped cooperative members to double their rice production, which resulted in increased revenue for many beneficiaries including Juliet. The Value Chain Development Programme makes farming more efficient and profitable. Beneficiaries like Juliet can now farm collectively and increase their yields and incomes. Today, Juliet has diversified her earnings, selling cosmetics, rice and fertiliser, with the hope of expanding her farm and mobilise more farmers in her community to join her small cooperative. She is of the opinion that they can also partake in all the benefits the programme can offer.

The IFAD-funded Value Chain Development Programme is assisting  cassava and rice smallholder farmers through a value chain approach to enhance productivity, promote agro-processing and increased access to markets. The programme aims to transform rural Nigeria by achieving food security, increasing incomes and creating new employment opportunities. As at last year, the programme has injected $68.9 million into the economy.

At the 2018 National Commodity Alliance Forum (CAF) in Abuja, IFAD programme officer, Ms. Mariatu Kamara, said private-sector players’ engagement by IFAD-VCDP through the CAF initiative, resulted in the production of 140,000 tonnes of rice and 30,000 tonnes of cassava annually, generating about 68.9 million dollars as revenue.

According to Kamara, 25,000 tonnes of rice and cassava were produced in Benue State alone, while about nine million dollars were realised.

CAF had been a success story, she said, adding that the government should, therefore, replicate the programme in other parts of the country, apart from Benue, Taraba, Ogun, Anambra, Kebbi, Nasarawa and Niger states that are participating in the IFAD-VCDP.

Kamara pledged that IFAD would continue to provide relevant support for the government and citizens of Nigerian to engender the development of rural communities.

IFAD-VCDP National Programme Coordinator, Dr Ahmed Onoja said IFAD-VCDP Public Private Producer Partnership (4Ps model) with Olam has doubled farmers’ income, while creating a reliable structure for sustainable supply of raw materials to processors.

So far, he said, 1,725 Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) had been signed with off-takers in the six participating states, while 410 contractual agreements had been formalised, with more than 35,000 farmers linked to off-takers.

Early this year, Projects Coordinating Unit Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Maimuna Habib, commended the implementation of the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) in Niger State, describing  the it as a huge success.

She said this during an identification mission of the Federal and state governments and IFAD to the VCDP participating farmer groups in Wushishi and Bida areas of the state.

“I am satisfied with the implementation of the VCDP in the past five years from what I have seen on ground here. There is no doubt that the VCDP is doing well here. So, today we want to get feedback from our farmers,” she said.

Habib announced that the government, through the ministry, was ready to assist the farmers with farm implements.

“I have directed the state programme co-ordinator to articulate what the farmers want and we will do something to get them implements at subsidised rate,” she said.

She called for inclusion of more women in the programme to enable them own businesses and assist their families.

IFAD Lead Regional Technical Specialist for Rural Finance, Market and Enterprises, Dr Jonathan Agwe, said the programme has succeeded in the state, adding that arrangements had been concluded to expand and extend the programme beyond year 2020 when it is supposed to terminate to the next three years.The next phase of the extension of three years programme is expected to begin in 2023. ”We want more women on board, this is why we will work with the government and beneficiaries to ensure that more women participate,” he said.

Agwe said the various farmer organisations would be updated on how to sustain the programme when it winds up. The VCDP, he said, has contributed positively to the rural economy of the country.

The  Programme Coordinator in the state, Dr Matthew Ahmed, said good performance earned the state the inclusion of three more local government areas on the programme.

According to Ahmed, the programme was able to access more funds to extend it for the next three years, adding that three states of Enugu, Nasarawa and Kogi would be included in the second phase of the programme starting in 2023.

Another outstanding project of the Federal Government, supported by IFAD, is the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises Project in the Niger Delta(LIFE-ND).

LIFE-ND aims to address the growing numbers of restive youths by sustainably enhancing incomes and food security, and creating jobs for young rural people and women in the Niger Delta. The project will build on the successes of earlier IFAD-supported projects to develop the supply of skilled youth labour, and it will strengthen the capacity of institutions at the state and community levels to work with private sector actors.

LIFE-ND will be implemented in the nine Niger Delta states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. It will engage 25,500 youths and women, as well as 600 established and potential enterprise incubators. The beneficiaries will be aged 18 to 35 years and women-headed households with children under the age of 15. Overall, the project will target 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female participation.

Meanwhile, the International Fund for Agricultural Development announced a new $60 million fund to de-risk investments of small loans in agriculture value chains in Africa.

The Agribusiness Capital Fund(ABC) Fund, with contributions from the European Commission, Luxembourg, Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific group of states, and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),  seeks to mobilise about $240 million in private capital.

The ABC Fund, which will be managed independently, will provide loans of between $25,000 and $1million to small businesses in order to address the “missing middle” of finance between microfinance and commercial loans.

While IFAD’s current mandate does not allow them to provide funding to the private sector, it is using its experience and other programmes to help identify a pipeline of potential investments and is funding a facility associated with the fund that will provide technical assistance or support to the small businesses to help them succeed.

Over the last 30 years, IFAD has supported 10 projects in Nigeria for $795.3million, of which IFAD has provided $317.9 million.

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