Towards Mitigating The Impact Of COVID-19 On Food Production, OCP Africa’s Agribooster Plan to Support Over 75,000 Farmers

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OCP, one of the leading companies in the global production and exportation of phosphate-based fertilizers is offering farmers and agriculture practitioners an inclusive end-to-end value chain solution that brings about a boost for farmers’ produces and revenues.

This scheme is now being boosted across key Agric-belts in Nigeria as the 2020 farming season commences and is intended to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s food security.

The Initiative tagged Agribooster, which was launched in 2017, supports smallholder farmers to get access to good quality farm inputs, financial services, markets, and training with extension services centered on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) while improving the yield and productivity of the farmer.

Speaking on the initiative recently, the Business Development Manager for OCP Africa Nigeria, Mr. Akintunde Akinwande said: “This initiative allows sharing of efforts and feeds from each partner’s experiences. Following the decline in agricultural production in Nigeria, we are pleased to have programmes like this which are fashioned towards helping smallholder farmers, and empowerment of young extension agents to fight insufficiency and insecurity of both food and cash crops.”

In the 2019 intervention, OCP Africa Nigeria partnered with Thrive Agric Limited, ABU Microfinance Bank and Palm Valley Nigeria Limited to supply high-quality fertilizer, seeds and chemicals as well as providing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training and extension services to over fifteen thousand (15,000) Maize, Rice and Soybeans farmers in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi states. Loans were provided to registered farmers to buy quality inputs and a guaranteed market was also available for farmers’ output after harvest.

Talking further on the initiative, Mr. Akinwande explained that the scheme also trained and equipped about 30 last-mile agents with Motorcycles and Tablets to work directly with farmers to ensure that quality practical GAP trainings are cascaded down through the Training of Trainers (ToT) approach, while also performing entrepreneurial functions in retail sales of quality inputs to farmers within its environment.

OCP Africa also partnered with the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in areas such as research, identification, and exchange of innovation on agriculture, technical assistance, training and extension supervision through the Extension and Rural Sociology Department of the University.

The intervention was a success as the smallholder farmers made returns on their investments of up to 84% as a result of an average yield of 3.4MT per Hectare on Maize; a spike of up to 48% from the yields of the previous farming season.

The Financial institutions involved also recorded loan recoveries above 86% which is very commendable when compared to other schemes they have been involved in. Three farmers, Rabiu Hakilu, Salihu Yakubu and Abubakar Yusuf from Soba and Kubau LGAs in Kaduna were ranked the highest performing farmers for the season with a yield of 7.8MT of Maize harvest on their one-hectare farms.

Speaking to some of the benefactors of the initiative, Deborah Emmanuel, a female farmer from Pampaida-Ikara, Kaduna State said, “I can now afford to send my daughter to a good school”, she exclaimed!! Another farmer, Rabiu Aliyu claimed that after paying his loan he could repair his broken-down bus and put it into commercial use thereby bringing him additional income.

Key partners also lent their voices to the impact of this laudable project on Agriculture in Nigeria. Alhaji Aminu Mohamed, Managing Director of ABU Microfinance bank said “This is the first and only project that has brought about quality business opportunity and income in the lives of our farmers.

The Agribooster project aided quick access to quality input, increased awareness on financial literacy, banking/saving culture amongst farmers cooperatives, and most importantly provided a platform for increase business and sustainable engagement between the University and its host community”.

Also, Professor Oluwafunmilola Alabi of the Faculty of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University also said “The Agribooster project opened opportunities for Faculty students as regards entrepreneurship, business and extension services. Building capacity of Post Graduate students in area of self-employment and self-dependence.

Mr Ayo Arikawe, Chief Technology Officer of Thrive Agric was also quoted as saying “We at Thrive Agric are happy with the Agribooster project because a lack of access to quality product is now a thing of the past. The Extension equipment (Motorbikes/Mobile Tablets) provided by OCP as support to our farmers is a boost that aided our field operations. This is evident from the smiles on our farmers face and their praises for the Agribooster initiative.”

Following the success of the past 3 years, Mr Akinwande mentioned that OCP Africa is planning to grow its involvement in 2020 to cover 75,000 smallholder farmers.

He continued by saying, “And in light with the efforts by Federal and State governments in Nigeria to battle the adverse effects of the COVID pandemic on Food sufficiency and security, OCP Africa would also be implementing an Agribooster-themed “Palliative Intervention for Smallholder Farmers” across several states in Nigeria.

This intervention which would be launched in a few days and would give farmers access to subsidized bags fertilizers provided by OCP Africa under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative. Under this new initiative by OCP Africa, farmers will be able to access NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer at a subsidized retail price, while benefitting from GAP trainings, digital technology support and market linkages all provided as an incentive and a booster bundle under OCP Africa’s Covid-19 initiative.”