USAID to Address Business Challenges in Agricultural Sector

0

Emma Okonji

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on Tuesday in Lagos launched two new agribusiness partnerships with Chi Farms and Niji Foods, designed to address business challenges of small farmers in the Nigerian agricultural sector.

The partnership deal, which is focused on driving productivity among small farmers in the areas of fish farming and feed milling from cassava peel, will attract some grants from USAID to boost food production in Nigeria.

The partnership highlighted USAID’s agricultural and private sector strategy using partnerships with government, local organisations and private industry to develop the Nigerian agriculture sector.

Through the partnerships, USAID aims to address development and business challenges to agricultural inputs and mechanisation by providing quality technical advisory services and expanded market opportunities for smallholder farmers. These partnerships will also capitalise on the untapped potential of smallholder farmers and small processors to help grow agribusinesses, create secure jobs, and boost economic growth in Nigeria.

The Mission Director of USAID Nigeria, Michael Harvey, said: “With Nigeria’s increasing population, these programs are vital to achieving food security and lowering dependency on exports. Public-private partnerships are a proven way of expanding investment in agriculture, improving both efficiency and productivity.”

He said the USAID had in the past, invested over $75 million in small farmers in Nigeria and that Nigeria could still benefit from more grants. He said the partnership with Chi Farms and Niji Foods, would facilitate training of small farmers on cat fish farming and feed milling, since Nigeria consumes about two million metric tons of fish per year. The partnership will enhance small farmers’ role in increasing the domestic supply of high quality juvenile catfish and fish feed.

Recognising the need to increase Nigeria’s domestic fish production to meet growing demand and end reliance on imported fish, the Executive Manager of TGI Group, the holding company of Chi Farms Limited, Dr. Johannes Flosbach, said under the partnership, Chi Farms will train 1,000 smallholder fish farmers in Lagos and Ogun States on new farming techniques, access to credit, and marketing skills to help raise incomes. Farmers will have access to quality juvenile catfish from Chi Farms’ multiple hatcheries, as well as aquaculture management training and financial tools to provide the knowledge necessary to build successful aquaculture businesses.

The Chief Executive Officer of Niji Foods, Mr. Kola Adeniji, said despite the volume of cassava processed in Nigeria and the commercial potential of cassava peel for livestock feed, there is virtually no commercially-available livestock feed made from cassava peel.

Niji Foods, with the International Livestock Research Institute, with USAID support, is establishing three cassava peel processing centres to address this market gap. We will recruit and train staff on critical operations and business management, not only creating the processing centres, but also providing long-term local employment. In addition, we will ultimately hand over partial ownership of the centres to at least three women’s groups, Adeniji said.

Pleased with the partnerships and its planned boost for food production in the country, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya, commended the USAID for its initiative to boost food production in Nigeria. He said the initiative came at a time when Lagos State is planning to increase food production from the current 15 per cent to 25 per cent by 2018. He said the state has created several avenues to boost food production by creating fish estate in Ikorodu, and poultry as well as veritable estates in other parts of Lagos.

The initiative to partner Chi Farms and Niji Foods are part of the US government Feed the Future programme, which was launched globally in 2012. Since 2014, Feed the Future has invested $75 million in Nigeria helping 800,000 Nigeria farmers acquire improved seeds, fertilisers, tools and access to markets.