#Ag4Dev2017: Creating Agricultural Development for Smallholder Farmers

DSC_0079 (2)

A farmer and his family gathering their harvested maize in a remote farm in Ekiti

I was inspired by the article published in 2016 by one of the foremost woman transforming agriculture across the continent of Africa, Dr. Agnes Kalibata  – President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In her article titled “Smallholders Front and Center” – Because they aren’t satisfied with poverty as a way of life, she pointed out about the role of policy, government, private sector and other key actors in creating a better smallholder farmer and an agricultural transformation that Africa awaits.

“The reason for Africa’s agricultural stagnation is not a lack of potential. It is not a lack of dedication. It is not a lack of demand. It is a lack of attention, a lack of commitment, and a lack of investment. There is an immense opportunity to design and implement policies that help smallholder farmer prosper — and in so doing wipe out poverty and pave the way toward a great African future”. – Dr. Agnes Kalibata

Inspirations from this publication led to the launch of the “Agriculture for Development in 2017”, an advocacy campaign which started from December 2016 till late October. The aim of the agricultural advocacy goes beyond talk to walking and working the talk in grassroots agrarian communities where farmers are termed as the king of the soil. The campaign targeted rural smallholder farmers but to get everyone along, it started with a top-down approach where key players along the value chain such as development workers, researchers, market development analyst, processors, agro-marketers and youth champions in the field of agriculture joined the campaign by adding their voices to support the movement of creating changes for smallholder farmers in 2017.

The “I support #Ag4Dev2017” advocacy campaign aimed at ensuring that agriculture is fully strengthened to aid development and contribute to ending poverty while voicing concerns that ensures that agricultural development doesn’t leave anyone behind in 2017, particularly rural smallholder farmers.

The strategy – Attracting the Audience

The campaign researched on number of agricultural achievements and programmes implemented in 2016 – both successful and unsuccessful and also reflected on numerous promises but lacking effective implementation, particularly for the rural agrarian communities. Moreover, a key concern was placed on the effect of climate change and its threats to agriculture and the smallholders. Focus was also given to the issue of market accessibility and lack of information and advisory services to farmers – hence, the need for proper agricultural development that covers social, economic and environment aspect.

Having these assertions, action plan was drawn and post were scheduled for the social media audience and influencers. A short post was posted on Facebook to alert the audience, then followed by the hashtag picture with development experts who has been involved in numerous agricultural and development programmes across the 36 states in Nigeria. This was followed by the highlighted Facebook post.


  1. A single training on Good Agricultural Practices can transform the lives, productivity and standard of living of smallholder farmers
  2. Incentives that support social, economic and environment and properly channel towards smallholders can transform our nation, our continent, our world
  3. Series of programmes and projects which focus more on the felt needs of smallholders than on top down design will create a sense of sustainability and feelings of belongings for smallholders
  4. Last but not the least, did you know that we can make agriculture attractive for young people if our slogan and action is #Agriculture4Development

To all the great minds in every corner of states, regions, communities, villages, settlements……. we can create trends that aimed at a lasting impact and obviously brings development in the green sector in 2017 and beyond.

Targets audience for this advocacy campaign includes all stakeholders not excluding big players but special focus on smallholders, aim at giving them voice.

So, I started this with some of the big players in the development sectors and so, I PLEADED WITH EVERYONE TO WRITE THEIR HASTAG “#Ag4Dev2017” and post it across social media, visit any farmers within their reach and also tell someone to tell someone.

And to those who showed interest to join the #Ag4Dev2017 advocacy campaign, I want to say thank you. This is to inform you that your contribution can be in form of:

  • Write any sentence or short write-up on what you think agricultural development can address (basically – what, who, where and how)
  • Take a picture of you holding the hashtag #Ag4Dev2017 or take a picture of a third party (farmers, decision makers at any level, players along the value chain or outside the value chain etc.)
  • Organize a group and a take a picture with the hashtag #Ag4Dev2017 or shot a video conveying a message about agriculture in the context of the hashtag
  • What you can do has no limit – think and just do it but include the hashtag #Ag4Dev2017

It was indeed a great modality adopted such that we have great audience from states in Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru and Italy joined the campaign. Few of the online posts were extracted below:


Grassroots extreme poverty eradication starts with the small holder farmers through Sustainable Best Agricultural Practice, which is climate sensitive #Ag4Dev2017


As we look forward into 2017, it’s very pertinent that development in the agricultural sector be on the increase.
You know why? We all have to eat of course and eat healthy food. One of my usual slogan is No farmer, No food, No nation. So am in for this campaign #Ag4Dev2017 championed by my agro-colleague John Agboola.
I was with some group of farmers days ago and I encouraged them to go all out for increased investment and cultivation in the coming year in order to experience a greater development in the agricultural sector come 2017 hence they are all part of this move. So let’s go there.



No country can develop except there is adequate food for the citizens. And there won’t be any development in agricultural sector until “ACTIVE CHANGE” is initiated by passionate people to promote agriculture especially among the smallholders.
I joined my friend John Agboola to establish a radical change in the agriculture sector tagged as “Agriculture4Development2017”, as we all know that, “NO FOOD, NO NATION”

#AgriPays #FarmersWillSmile #FoodSecurity #DoAgric#PromotingYouthInAgriculture #FarmersAdvocator
#IRepAgrokonnec #IRepAgrindus


My friend John Agboola from Nigeria has started an advocacy campaign #Ag4Dev2017 and I am glad to join with this campaign 🙂 I support #Ag4Dev2017 // Mi amigo John Agboola de Nigeria ha empezado una campaña de promocion #Ag4Dev2017 (agricultura para el desarrollo 2017) y yo estoy encantada de unirme a esta campaña.


Whenever you eat #rice, remember that alot of what you eat is produced by old men like this who have dedicated all their lives to food production. With all the government programs all over the media, I have seen communities who have never received any form of intervention.

This old farmer is only able to get 1ton per hectare; since he has no access to paddy, he plants his grains…

Since he cannot afford to pay for labour, his 2 wives and 2 daughters do all the work.

We met them trying to thresh their “Christmas rice”



Right on the Farm with the Farmer


A female farmer right on her maize farm

One thing I surely enjoyed doing is meeting rural smallholder farmers right on their farm, listen to their success stories, failures, challenges, observe their agricultural potentials, learn again the tradition approach before updating them with the needed knowledge about market inputs, agricultural technology and advancement in farming practices, agronomic practices and skills needed and then, taking photo of farmers to flaunt their potentials to the whole World – the power of a smallholder farmer and the need to support him.

In 6 agrarian communities in Osun, Ekiti and Oyo, different farms were visited and trust me, farmers are lively, hospitable and you just want to be with them. Imagine a farmer holding the hashtag to advocate for his own support (#Ag4Dev2017) – check pictures of the field engagement here

Impacts beyond the Advocacy Campaign

2017 has been a tremendous year for farmers and we are surely getting to a stage where a farmer can typically be called – The Smiling Farmers. The campaign tagged key players who are implementing policy for smallholder farmers and also, voice farmers’ concerns at conferences and policy dialogue summit held in Nigeria such as Akwa Ibom Agricultural Policy and Food Sufficiency Strategy Summit, British American  Tobacco Nigeria Foundation 2nd Dialogue Session on National Agriculture and the Smallholder Farmers etc.

There has been a strategic shift in creating the agriculture desired by smallholder farmers where the language of the farmers is spoken. Few of the changes include programmes and interventions such as NiMet Signs MoU with BATNF on weather information for farmers, Inauguration of Project Coordination Unit for Effective Projects Implementation, gradual implementation of the Nigeria’s Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020, NIRSAL Nation-Wide Program to Support Rice Growers, more agricultural support from African Development Bank, European Union, Natural Research Institute (NRI), Michigan State University and from philanthropist such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and incredible efforts from International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and host of others.

Beyond 2017, I look forward to 2018 – a year where rural small-scale farmers will be scaled-up in terms of productivity, income, economic livelihood and health, social inclusion in policy and dialogue and ultimately, programmes and interventions that speaks the language of the farmers and sustainable.

DSC_0066 (2)

A farmer carrying bamboo sticks to his farm

As we step into 2018, remember the words of Dr. Agnes Kalibata – Small changes can make a big difference in the lives of farmers struggling to survive; the rest they can do themselves

All pictures for the advocacy campaign are accessible here and feel free to google search the hashtag on all social media platform.

Special thanks to everyone who participated and joined the movement – we can surely do more for agriculture.

Photo Credit

John Agboola

Tackling Cattle – Farm Invasion with Local Solutions

Herdsmen 2

Have you ever wonder the agony a farmer goes through when he got to the farm to harvest his farm produce worth thousands and possibly millions of Naira and he found out that the herdsmen have invaded his farm with their cattle. Look through the inner lens and picture the saddest tears that roll from his face upon such occurrences. If the picture is not clearer enough, then you need to read the story of “The Tragic End of Farmer Adam and the Death of Dreams” , read the sad story of a female farmer and findings from MercyCorps study that “the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen on farmers have a drastic effect on food security and have caused a loss of $14 billion in three years”.

Farmers-herdsmen clashes irrespective of the magnitude has significantly contributed to low yield experienced by farmers, displacement of farmers and their properties, loss of lives and inhibiting trade practices. The Global Terrorism Index released in 2015 identified that the Fulani militants are the fourth deadliest militant group in the world with a record killing of 1229 people in 2014 and, here is some of the timeline of Fulani herdsmen clashes in Nigeria reported by InfoGuide Nigeria.

Herdsmen 1

In the quest for knowledge and documenting best practices and affordable solutions on possible ways to mitigate this constant conflict between the parties – farmers, herdsmen and cattle, I had an interview with a local researcher/farmer in a remote farm in Ibadan. The said farmer has developed what he termed as local solutions to tackling cattle invasion on the farm.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into agriculture

My name is Jelili and I operate a farm called Je’fast Farm with the appellation of “Agbedowo” which literally mean “farming turn into money”. In 2001, I relocated to Ibadan where I have worked as a mechanic and also a smuggler but having let go of the past, I started the business of agriculture with livestock farming in 2005 at Iddo in Ibadan, Nigeria. Currently, I rear animals (cattle, goat, and sheep), market agricultural produce, crop production, engage in farm management, consultation and innovation development.

How do you market your innovations and agricultural activities?

I operate along the value chain and am skilled in managing varieties of plants on the farm irrespective of the type of plant – hybrid or local plant. After many success stories from people I have managed their farms, I was advised to start a radio program on agriculture and food-related issues. Seeing relevance of this to my agricultural endeavours, I started an agricultural radio program at two local station in Ibadan where the focus is mainly on agricultural innovations, farm management and attracting people who need a marketer for their agricultural produce.

Tell us about your cattle repellant innovation, how do you come about it and what motivates you

I came about this cattle repellant innovation at a stage where I was deeply in thoughts on possible things to do in order to pay some bills. While in deep thought, I saw a cattle and I observed several things which inspired me to develop an innovation that tackles the issue of cattle invading farms. Severally, I tried my hands on different methods before I finally made a headway on the final product which comprises of a small portion of cow skin, a small dirties removed from the cow which is missed with about 16 leaves to form two product type – liquid and solid.

What is the uniqueness of this local innovation and how does it help in tackling cattle-farm invasion?

The uniqueness of the innovation is that it is model to tackle the concrete issue in agriculture and the innovation has proven not to have any aorta of incantations as people thought. The product smiles badly and it is the odour that drives away the cattle from invading farms. The innovation has been tested and there are success stories and testimonies from end users who are mostly farmers.

The liquid type which lasts for 6days is sprayed around the farm and once the cattle perceive the odour, it easily drives them away. In the same vein, the solid type which lasts for 3 months is packaged inside a nylon-like an air fresher and hanged in strategic pathways where cattle are passing into the farm. This same innovation has been replicated for goat and as organic chemicals. The product is compiled in a way that its effect is not affected by rain.

What is the adoption rate of the cattle repellant?

Farmers within Ibadan and environs, particularly Osun, Oyo, Iseyin and Saki are the major adopters of the innovation. Based on usage and demonstration by the end users, the innovation has received high-value recommendations from prominent persons and farmers across the mentioned states. The liquid product is sold at the rate of #1000 for one litre and the other type is sold at the rate of #300. The demand for the product is constantly on the increase due to issues of herdsmen attacking farmers and their farms.

Any challenges so far?

I managed farms and plant different crops or seeds irrespective of the breed. In all of these, I struggled to sleep for one hour per day as I am constantly working on diverse innovations and despite my efforts, I struggle in terms of financial aids to scale up my innovations to solve concrete agricultural issues.

Few days after the interview, I engaged a female friend who is a vast agripreneur and advocate for women in agriculture. She own farms around Ibadan and Iwo-Osun axis and during the conversation, she lamented on the recent cattle invasion on her farm where she lost about 5hectares of cucumber farm, just a few days to harvest. Another male farmer lamented that he had lost over 15millions due to herdsmen invading his farm.

Linking several scenarios together and the recent terrific attack in Benue by the said herdsmen, it’s indeed a pathetic situation for farmers but a win situation for the herdsmen and their cattle. At this time when the farmers – herdsmen crisis are high, the said local innovation has resulted as farmers’ mini-saviour even though, it has a lesser percentage of sustainability. In this limelight, there is need for government, private sectors, local rulers and authority, banks, insurance companies, active players in agriculture and decision makers to jointly develop interventions, programmes and policy that eliminate fears from farmers and bring back the golden era where farmers, cattle and herdsmen live in mutual understanding, unity and peace for flourishing agribusiness operations.

For further enquiries about the cattle repellant, please call directly Mr Jelili of Je’Fast Farm on +2347031969013.

Photo credit: Google Search Image

Doubling Farmers Income in Five years

Ajit Maru, GFAR’s Senior Officer, reports on his participation in an interesting workshop in India where GFAR’s and APAARI’s primary objective of transforming agricultural research and innovation systems was illustrated in practice by SDAU, a GFAR and APAARI partner! How to double real incomes of smallholder family farmers and marginal farmers who have less than […]

via Doubling Farmer Incomes in Five Years — THE GFAR BLOG

Apply Now: The MasterCard Foundation at RUFORUM Scholarship Award 2017/2018

This is good information



Background: The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, Gulu University and Egerton University are implementing an eight year program aimed at transforming African agricultural universities and their graduates to better respond to developmental challenges through enhanced application of science, technology, business and innovation for rural agricultural transformation. This is eight year program (2016-2024) and will be supporting students that are economically disadvantaged, those from post-conflict and conflict affected areas of Africa. Interested applicants will undertake their training at Gulu University and Egerton University.

Eligible Programmes: The RUFORUM Technical Committee (RTC) has identified the following priority programs for the academic year 2017/2018 as eligible for application and to be supported.
Gulu University
1. Bachelor of Science in Agri-Entrepreneurship and Communication
2. Bachelor of Science in Food and Agribusiness
3. Master of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition
4. Master…

View original post 168 more words

Maximizing the Potentials of Green Innovation Beyond Farming


The understanding of agriculture by many young people or naive person is limited to farming which has to do with cultivating crops and harvesting the cultivated crops. This invariably means that many did not think beyond the primary production end of crops farming.

The secret behind agriculture as a goldmine to tap into remains that agriculture comprises of many enterprises along the value chain which has more return on income based on understanding and management practices put in place.

Agriculture has wide coverage and its beyond farming and even at that, the word farming is not limited to planting of crops but covers also, the rearing of animals in small and large scale. The value chain of agriculture is a holistic chain which must be understood before venturing into agriculture because, one might choose to operate on one enterprise or more than one depending on the understanding of the enterprise and the financial capability.

As said by a keynote speaker during the Poddeum value chain event with the theme “Tapping into the Green Innovation” – Many people have failed to understand the concept of agriculture and the stages of production as it relates to agriculture. Hence, there are three important stages that all farm owners, intending farmers (young and old) and business owners must understand in order to effectively tap into the goldmine of agriculture.

Primary Production

The primary production level is mainly known as the foundation for any agricultural enterprise because of planning and processes involved. Take for example, cultivating cassava or plantain, one needs to acquire a land, do the soil test, cultivate the land using laborer or machines, plant the seeds or seedlings, weed the plants as they grow, water appropriately in case of shortage of rain using traditional or modern irrigating system, harvest the crops at the harvesting season. This is quite similar to the animal husbandry practices except for some differences.

It is striking that most of the existing farmers both old and young fall into this category with few of them giving consideration for secondary and tertiary production. The reason is not far fetch from the truth that most of the dominating farmers at this production level are smallholder farmers who possibly produce for family consumption with little or none to transfer to the other production level.

I have no doubt that the primary production is the bedrock of agriculture but beyond this, what are the opportunities that are in existence in other production level. Obviously, they are numerous but few are outlined here.

Secondary Production

In the past, this production level is like a trap for many people who believed that one does not need any value addition to his/her produce before breaking into the market. As the market expands, competition grows and people, especially the young people sees the need to add to value in term of packaging and branding of agricultural produce but few people are taking this advantage. Possibly because of funds, lack of technical know-how or the fear of the unknown outcome.

As an onlooker at the Poddeum Value Chain event, I penned down some highlighted areas where farmers (old and young) can dive into to enjoy the many opportunities that exist in agriculture.

First – Have you ever consider going in production and packaging of Inputs for smallholder farmers. The truth is, most of the farmers in rural areas have little or no access to inputs such as seeds, seedlings, equipment, mechanized machineries etc. Thus, one can tap into the opportunities of sourcing inputs for farmers. Although, finances might be an issue for people who lack of information and know-how but the market is huge (Kindly check AgriHub videos on how to access funds and financing for economic development).

Second – It is no longer a news that there are opportunities in the fruit industries as many young people are moving into this sector with well processed and packed fruit drinks and juice.  Hence, one can either engage farmers or third party in supplying oranges or fruits which can be converted into fruit drinks and juice.

Third –The Agro Commodity Supply is one of the fastest growing enterprise where young people can tap into the existing opportunities. Let me cite a practical example of poultry industry. If a poultry farm with 1000 birds wants to feed its birds over three months, just imagine the feed consumption of the birds per day and over the period of three months. Hence, one can think beyond farming to compounding and producing feeds for the birds to feed and for the poultry industry to remain sustainable. This is just an example and there are numerous agro-commodity opportunities to tap.

Fourth – Think beyond the listed points, look at the loads of agricultural produce, critically observe the rural communities and see what gold mine you can tap into and invariably what problem you can solve with your green innovation.

Tertiary Production

This production level teaches people at the preceding levels to map-out strategies of marketing their products beyond their niche. This level is basically market focus that requires strengthening secondary production in order to operate effectively. Farmers, especially young people must understand that the world is now digital and hence, the need to take advantage of ICT to market agricultural produce beyond their environment.

But there are powerful forces that ensure the successful operations of these three stages and these include governments, the policy makers, agricultural researchers, scientist, development experts, banks etc.

It is noteworthy to recapitalized on the encouraging and inspiring words of the legend of our generation, Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) who has dedicated his life to helping smallholder farmers and agriculture. During the 2016 Agtalks in Rome with four young innovators shaping the agricultural sector, he said and I quote “It is high time the young people critically focus attention and ideas on the value chain, there is so much opportunities to tap into.

On this note, I challenge you to green innovate, look beyond farming, make value addition a top priority, make reasonable income and never hesitate to help communities through your green innovation.

Smallholders are over 500mln worldwide – this is why CFS43 endorsed policy recommendations


Today, CFS43 endorsed policy recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets which will play a decisive role in ensuring smallholders can continue support to global food production.

CFS43 and its stakeholders emphasized the potential role that smallholders can play in international markets, the financial and capacity building opportunities as well as the challenges in terms of standards to be met and conditions to be faced.

These recommendations draw on the outcomes of the CFS High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets held in June 2015, are based on existing evidence and aim to encourage good policies and practices.

The recommendations are intended to contribute to meeting the mandate of the Committee to strive for a world free from hunger where countries implement the Voluntary Guidelines for the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security. They complement but do not restate recommendations and relevant guidance previously provided in other CFS products.

Smallholders play an essential role in ensuring food security and nutrition today and in the future, including in the increase in food production needed to meet future global demand. Smallholders are a heterogeneous group across countries and regions, supply 70% of overall food production, and yet at the same time many smallholders themselves still suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition.

Smallholders engage in many interrelated markets, but also face challenges in securing market access and eliciting benefits to support healthy livelihoods. Governments have an essential role to play in addressing their specific constraints and maximizing potential for beneficial access to reliable and remunerative markets.

This will support governments’ efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by providing benefits to the food security and nutrition of smallholders, and to achieving food security and nutrition for all. Read more

Follow World Farmer Organisation for updates on the CFS34



pix-for-articleFor the first time in Africa, policy makers and governments have committed themselves to ensuring that national resources are committed to promoting the growth of agriculture across the continent. But in order for agriculture to promote long-term economic growth in Africa, it needs to become profitable. This simply means more smallholder farmers need to lift themselves out of poverty by embracing farming as a business and also become a part of the decision-making to advance the right policies and secure investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.

In recent times, stakeholders in Africa’s agricultural sector  have laid the foundations for a renaissance in agriculture across the continent; one powered by the enormous progress increasingly evident in farmers who are gaining more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilisers they use, and in the markets available to purchase their produce. Farmers also have better access to markets, farming has also fast become more commercialised and productive.

“Different innovative financial packages are being developed. Crop varieties are coming up. AGRA has trained more than 300 seed breeders, we have also released almost about 500 varieties of improved crops that farmers can adopt,” said David Ameyaw, the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Although this may only be a glimpse of success, it offers an inspiring new vision of a future Africa growing ever stronger through farming as a business.

A decade of intense domestic attention to farmers and food production has generated “the most successful development effort” in African history, with countries that made the biggest investments rewarded with sizable jumps in both farm productivity and overall economic performance, according to a new report released today by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The report released at the ongoing 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Nairobi, has shown that ten years on, African countries that embraced agriculture saw food production, Gross Domestic product(GDP) and Nutrition all improve.

Following the release of this report, Ousmane Badiane, Africa Director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) stressed the role of farmers in sustaining and tracking the growth of agriculture in Africa “Farmers need to engage more with the government and make sure that the sector is not corrupted but instead improves over time because the initial impact we’ve seen can trace that countries which have embraced agriculture grew twice the rate of others in terms of agriculture,” he said.  Badiane also added that when Agriculture grows, it grows for the smallholders and therefore they have a stake in making sure that their governors, the private sector and other stakeholders take CAADP seriously and continue improving.

Farmers need to have a voice in policy planning, designs and executions in order to not only keep track of what’s happening but also pressure the government to invest more and also efficiently. “They have to make sure that programs meet their needs also have to build their own capacity to be part of the dialogue and the policy making process and then ask for the things they want the government to be spending money on,” Badiane explained.

The rich harvest

Africa Agriculture Status Report 2016 finds that “after decades of stagnation, much of Africa has enjoyed sustained agriculture productivity growth since 2005, and as a result, poverty rates have declined in places like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. The report notes that agriculture has had its biggest impact in countries that moved quickly to embrace the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme or CAADP, which was created in 2003. A key component of CAADP was its call for African governments to allocate 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and to aim for six percent annual growth in the sector.

The article was originally Source from 2016 African Agriculture Status Report, Chapter 2

Originally published by: Felicia Omari Ochelle

Photo credit: 

Agriculture as a business: Approaching agriculture as an investment opportunity


Dr. Akinwumi Adesina Presented with the Fara Leadership Prize

Photo Credit: FARA

African smallholders are the private sector – the largest segment on the continent. By seeing agriculture as business, smallholders as customers and entrepreneurs, and companies as organisations that want smallholders as customers and suppliers, policymakers and investors can leverage the continent’s existing assets to catalyse economic transformation rather than trying to create it from whole cloth.

I was recently appointed president of the African Development Bank. A development bank is not necessarily an intuitive concept; most banks don’t exist to serve explicitly social purposes. But what defines a bank is the way it conducts business, whatever that business may be.

This is why I say I wear my banker hat, and not my development hat, when I speak about agriculture. Agriculture is not a way of life. It is not a social sector or a development activity, despite what people may claim. Agriculture is a business. And the more we treat it as a business, as a way to create wealth, the more it will promote development and improve people’s lives to boot.

One way to treat agriculture like a business is to get the private sector more involved in it. When I was Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, the most important thing I had to understand was that government can’t create agricultural transformation; it can only enable it by making more room for businesses to intervene. We could do this by putting the right policies and regulations in place, by creating strong institutions, and by building sufficient infrastructure. But there is not much else government can do with a reasonable measure of efficiency. Agricultural transformation has to be led by the private sector.

The problem in Nigeria was that the private sector was largely non-existent in agriculture. Take fertiliser and seeds. For 40 years, the federal government had been procuring these inputs and filtering them down through layers and layers of state and local governments until, in theory, they got to the smallholder farmers who needed them. Except the theory rarely played out in practice. Our data indicated that only 11% of the fertiliser procured by the government got to farmers in the end. Since the seeds also rarely got to where they were going, some suppliers started selling the government grain instead – counterfeit seed. In fact, the system existed to serve the rent-seekers attached to it, not the smallholders who were supposed to benefit from it.

With corruption and inefficiency like this, it wasn’t hard to explain why a country with 84 million hectares imported almost all of its food. We decided to try to replace government-run agriculture with a set of small and medium enterprises that ran the gamut from providing inputs to smallholder farmers to transporting, processing, and selling food. These businesses would bypass government bureaucracies and build supply chains directly into rural communities, generating – we hoped – significant ripple effects.

We dismantled the public procurement system in less than 100 days. Over the next two years, the number of seed companies operating in Nigeria increased from just 11 to more than 100. The new fertiliser market mobilised ₦5bn from private investors over the same span. Major players like Syngenta, which had stopped doing business in Nigeria because of the corruption, re-entered the market. We now have more than 5,000 mom-and-pop shops selling these companies’ products – and providing informal agricultural training – directly to farmers.

I don’t mean to make it sound so simple. Merely removing the government from the fertiliser and seed business doesn’t guarantee that the private sector will step into the breach. We needed to demonstrate that there was a market opportunity – that farmers wanted to buy these products. But without a ready supply, it was challenging for farmers to express their demand. It was a classic bootstrapping problem.

On the demand side, the key was making fertiliser and seeds affordable enough for smallholders to try. So we instituted a 50% subsidy, with the idea that farmers would fund more and more of their purchases over time. Subsidies are not new or radical, but we innovated by creating a new and radical delivery mechanism: the eWallet program. We knew that there were 130 or 140 million mobile phones in Nigeria, so phones seemed like the most efficient way to reach millions of farmers. As a side benefit, the eWallet program helped us make contact with farmers, which not only gave us more information about the population we meant to serve but also gave them a means to communicate back to us over time. Yes, eWallet was about delivering fertiliser and seed vouchers, but it was also about building a platform for interacting with millions of once-inaccessible smallholders in the future. Recently, we started using the eWallet platform to deliver other benefits, including vouchers for nutritional supplements.

Some critics said we were crazy for using mobile phones to try to transact business with people who could barely read or write. But we knew that they were already using their phones to arrange for remittances from relatives in the cities, which told us that they trusted mobile communication more than most government institutions. Our priority was to make sure that the mobile phone interface is translated into local languages. Now, eWallet has 15 million subscribers. I am especially proud of the fact that several million of those subscribers are women farmers, who have historically been neglected by agricultural programmes.

The eWallet program helped with demand. If farmers were going to start purchasing fertiliser and seed in large numbers, though, we needed to make sure the fertiliser and seed was available, so it was critical to address the supply side, too. The problem was the lack of capital for agricultural start-ups; the solution we hit upon was easier credit. The ministry of agriculture collaborated with the Central Bank of Nigeria to create a new initiative to share risk with banks and encourage them to make more loans to agricultural businesses. With a little more assurance, banks have increased their lending to the agriculture sector from roughly ₦10bn annually to in excess of ₦40bn.

I recount this history from Nigeria because it demonstrates four key principles that are guiding me as I take on my new role at the African Development Bank. First, smallholder farmers can be customers. Second, companies are interested in serving them if the conditions are right. Third, mobile phones can facilitate transactions that used to be prohibitively expensive. Fourth, scale. Africa is the fastest-growing continent in the world, with a population that already surpasses one billion. The majority of those people earn their living by farming small plots of land. So any institution that is dedicated to inclusive growth for Africa must stand for reaching all African smallholders.

There have been more successful pilots in agriculture than I can count. Sometimes, I joke that we have too many pilots and not enough planes for them to fly. Beyond pilots, we have the accumulated experiences of more than 50 African countries to draw from. Kenya has taught us how to build a thriving horticulture sector. Ethiopia has taught us how to improve extension. Tanzania succeeded in creating growth corridors. Rwanda figured out land registration and titling. Mozambique and Ghana discovered innovative ways to finance agricultural development. We need to take those lessons and apply them on a grand scale.

The African Development Bank is poised to do this because we have resources and relationships with every country on the continent. Currently, about 8% of the portfolio is in agriculture (I plan to increase that number), but almost everything we do impacts agriculture in one way or another, because we focus on infrastructure investment. Our work to build roads, to provide energy, and to create telecommunications networks will help farmers as much as anyone else as long as we do it properly. We aim to think holistically about our infrastructure investments, so that they form a core of a strategy to link smallholders to the burgeoning formal economy.

The truth, however, is that the African Development Bank is very small relative to the need for investment in African agriculture. Like every business, we need leverage. Building on the lessons I learned in Nigeria, I hope to use our balance sheet to share some of the credit risk of agriculture sector lending across the continent.

Agriculture is seen by banks as a huge risk. It doesn’t have to be. If we use our resources to guarantee some loans and help banks get more comfortable with lending in the sector, then we believe we can unlock the many billions of dollars needed to spur new businesses and help the sector function properly. There is no shortage of entrepreneurs who want to serve farmers’ needs. There is only a shortage of capital. If entrepreneurs have the resources they need, then we can get a lot closer to agriculture as it should be – as a business.

It is easy to forget that the largest private sector group in African agriculture is the smallholder farmers themselves. For decades, farming was viewed as a subsistence activity whose loftiest goal was food security for individual households. But life is about more than having enough food to survive. Farmers want to eat nutritious food that helps them thrive. Beyond food, they want education, health, and housing – comfort and a promising future – and they will invest on those things if given the opportunity.

When I was a boy in a village school, every classroom was full when the harvest was good. But when the rain failed and the crop was meager, families had to pull their children out of school to work. Many classmates who were just as smart as I was had to drop out so their families wouldn’t starve.

Sending children to school when there’s enough food to go around is a business decision, and so, unfortunately, is taking children out of school when their labour is needed to keep the household functioning. If the development sector starts treating agriculture as a business, then the hundreds of millions of small business owners operating farms will have better options from which to choose.

My father, who grew up farming, used to tell me that “agriculture doesn’t pay.” And when farmers have no access to finance, inputs, information, or markets, it doesn’t. But there is so much value inherent in agriculture, and we need to unlock it.

Agriculture can pay. Hundreds of millions of small farmers, thousands of local agribusinesses, and hundreds of seed and food companies will make it pay, as long as the development community and governments are willing to try something new.

And when I say pay, I mean it in the broadest sense of that word. Yes, pay in terms of incomes for smallholders, and yes, pay in terms of profit for the business people engaged in the sector. But also pay in terms of a healthier and happier life for hundreds of millions of Africans, and a stronger Africa.



Source: agri4africa, Palms



Every women is a star says a Maggi advert. But every woman is a champion in the agricultural sector.
The issue of food security lies strongly in the chain of sustainable production of food and women plays a significant role in attaining the much concerned food security. Let me explain some of the several aspect of the value chain in which women’s involvement is critical.
a. Farm and Field Activities:Counting in figures revealed that millions of women work on the farm as farmers and farmer workers. Regardless of gender disparity, majority of women own their own farm land while few of them work as hired labor and family labor for their husband and relatives. The range of activities women performed on the farm as farmers include production of food crops and cash crops such as vegetables, maize, yam, rice, cowpea, millet, palm oil, cassava etc.; family labor and hired labor to clear and weed farm land, separate stalk, harvest produce and transport to the produce to the market or ban using their carrier basket and bicycle.
b. Processing Unit: Another area where women constitute a powerful force is the processing unit. Harder will one pick a processing unit in the agricultural sector without the dominance of women. Taking a lead from rice processing, cowpea processing, millet processing, cassava processing and palm oil processing, women are major players in this chain. On two different occasion, I had visited the palm oil processing unit in Ijebu-ode and Iju-Itaogbolu in Ondo state where women remove the palm oil fresh fruit, boiled and filter until it is ready for sales. These observation reveals how women took their time to process agriculture produce of their choice. Good example of processing examples also include:
• Cassava processing and utilization- pancake, flour and odorless fufu
• Processing and storage of maize garri, cassava flour, tapioca, maize flour, malted maize drink, corn meal, pap (wet and malted maize flour).
• Processing and utilization of soybean into soymilk, flour paste and soy meal
• Processing and storage of fresh tomatoes into tomato paste.
• Rabbit meat processing and utilization
• Processing and storage of melon
• Cocoyam processing and utilization into cocoyam flour for soup thickening and cocoyam chips etc.
c. Marketing and Trading Unit: Women are good seller as well as good buyer. Backed in the village where women aggregators will walk through the farm to buy-off the harvested cassava and yam produce to sell off to the larger market. Studies have revealed the long reign of women in the marketing aspect of the value chain with their tentacle wide spread to retailing and wholesales of agricultural produce. Having visited some notable markets with special attachment to Mile 12 market and Idi-oro markets in Lagos state, it is no doubt that bulk of women are exploring the potentials in the agricultural sector.
d. Research and Extension Field: Quite a number of women has arouse for the needed transformation in the agricultural sector. Not only do they see themselves as champions but also as change agent who can represent women interest in the agricultural sector and in decision making process as well as policy formulation. NIWARD, AWARD to mention few, of those representing women’s interest in the agricultural sector.
e. Champion in Utilization: Women are of course champions in pricing of agricultural commodities and its utilization. It is often said in pidgin language that “soup wey sweet, nah money kill am”meaning every sweet and delicious meal is a function of money but I want to believe that there a person behind the preparation that actually brought out the aroma. After engaging in production, marketing, processing, women still end up cooking meals for the children and husband. “They (women) play vital roles in the maintenance of our families, investing as much as 90 per cent of their income in the families compared to 35 per cent for men,’’. Indeed, every women deserve applaud for their tireless effort.
Although, women’s role in agriculture cannot be capture at once in a blog post but NIWARD continuous activities explains it more. Hence, there is need for government and other stakeholders to extent their arm of agricultural transformation to women, especially those in the rural area.
This blog post is written to mark a year remembrance of my beloved mother who passed away on Wednesday, 29th April 2015 but spent her last breathe to send my brothers and I to the university with her hard earn income from both agricultural and non-agricultural related work.
Photo Credit:Seun James TaiwoPhotograhy