Making farmers agropreneurs


Through the Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP), a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative, which is at the pilot stage in six African countries, farmers are empowered to turn subsistence farming into a profitable venture. DANIEL ESSIET writes.

Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP), a United Nations Development Programme initiative on a pilot test in six African countries, has been supporting Nigerian farmers  within  the cassava value chain.The goal is to help them turn their subsistence farming into for-profit businesses.

Making farmers agropreneurs

•From left: Ahmed, Abila and Balogun during the meeting in Ibadan.

Addressing the inclusive business acceleration for cassava value chain forum in Ibadan, Oyo State, the  Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh,  stressed the Federal Government’s determination to make the nation  self-sufficient in food  production.

Speaking through the Director, Policy and Planning, Alhaji Anwal Ahmed, Ogbeh said  efforts were being made to ensure supply of fertiliser and reduce the risks farmers face. He pledged to improve infrastructure in the sector through the provision of irrigation systems, among others.

Agribusiness Specialist, Inclusive Growth Unit, UNDP Nigeria, Dr. Nelson Abila, stressed the need to enhance the sector and boost socio-economic development.

He said Nigeria has made commendable progress in making cassava an industrial crop with the establishment of major starch, ethanol and flour factories across the nation. However, Abila noted that a lot needs to be done to ensure that extra productions are utilised, and that there is further stimulation of production and productivity based on current and projected capacity for increasing cassava production and productivity.

On expanding the gains in cassava industrialisation, he  called for extension of the revolution to low-end products that will provide opportunity for the participation of as many small-scale processors as possible.

He said this was crucial as the demand for low-end products, such as the low grade cassava chips, was on the increase, particularly the utilisation of same in livestock feed production, among other uses.

Abila explained that the ASDP business meeting was organised to help get many more people involved in the production of chips and address some of the concerns in chips production, including profitability for small-scale processors. He expressed the hope that the replacement of maize with cassava in livestock feed would remain a permanent feature, that would guarantee market for cassava roots produced by millions of farmers across Nigeria.

He said ASDP was a regional initiative of the UNDP with a mandate to promote the development of the supply chains of rice and cassava in Nigeria, adding that ASDP Nigeria was being implemented jointly by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing Systems for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

To help foster the growth of the segment of the cassava value chain, he said ASDP, a UNDP regional initiative which is on a pilot test in six countries across Africa has decided to partner with the AFEX Commodity Exchange Limited. The goal of the collaboration, according to him, is to jointly work together to bring about an inclusive business acceleration for cassava value chain in Nigeria.

He said AFEX has the market reach and contact, as a major private sector concern in commodity marketing in Nigeria and beyond.

Country Manager, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, said the   organisation is working with banks to provide the much-needed financing to farmers and food producers to boost growth and jobs.

Balogun said bold steps were needed to transform agriculture into a dynamic market-oriented one. The Afex boss said the organisation is working to provide   finance to promote increased access to trade finance for micro, small and medium enterprises entrepreneurs in import/export sectors to enable them explore market opportunities.

He said the organisation is  determined to work with farmers to enable them access financial services to help them increase productivity, raise incomes and improve living conditions for their families.

He said AFEX sees cassava as a strategic crop and a value chain that has immense potentials for inclusive growth, job creation and poverty eradication across Nigeria.

Balogun said Nigeria’s future economic success will depend on allocating capital and resources to the agric sector for its most efficient and productive use, adding that the cassava sector needs support to create high-skilled and high-value jobs, cultivate, innovate and bring innovation to scale.

He said one important strategy for achieving rapid growth across the sector is to create the right conditions to ensure that farmers and processors are engines of innovation and hence improve productivity and efficiency.

According to him, trade activities in key commodities have grown steadily in the past few years, and there is more opportunity for trade increasing further, boosting economic growth and job creation, which he hoped banks and entrepreneurs can take advantage of with the right tools. So far, he said his organisation has started domestic trading of maize, soybeans and cassava. Once these and the related deliveries are settled, he said Afex will   introduce other key agricultural commodities.

He   added AFEX is primarily interested in helping farmers and production while making markets more efficient. These include improving warehousing, storage, logistics, crop quality and farmer financing.

According to him, trade activities in key commodities have grown steadily in the past few years, and there is vast opportunity for further  increase, boosting economic growth and job creation, which he hoped banks and entrepreneurs could take advantage of with the right tools.