woman picking plant on field
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With Nigeria’s population forecast to hit 250 million by 2050, millions of people could face grave hunger challenges. This is because the demand for food is expected to double in that time.

The challenge will be compounded as climate change puts more pressure on resources, requiring farmers to adapt to harsh conditions and technological innovations in order to survive.

For watchers, innovative technological developments will be the key to helping farmers grow enough to feed the country. One of the major obstacles to economic growth in Nigeria and the rest of developing countries is lack of access to technology that can transform the agriculture sector in sub-Saharan Africa.  In this regards, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has taken the leap to provide insights and solutions to governments and commercial enterprises to implement agricultural solutions for the needs of Africans. Headquartered in Kenya, the pan-African organisation is working towards catalysing an inclusive agricultural transformation in Africa by increasing incomes and improving food security for 30 million farming households in 11 focus countries by 2021. Abubakar Ahmed Rufai, is a 40-year-old smallholder farmer and community-based advisor from Giwa Local Government Area, Kaduna State. He cultivates soybean, maize and rice on his farm. Abubakar, like many other farmers in Giwa, does what his forefathers did for years – he usually buys seeds from an open market and saves some of his seeds for planting the next season. But he realised he has been farming the wrong way all along after he participated in one of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) training under the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (PIATA) activities on Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) before this year’s planting season planting season.

The PIATA extension services seek to empower farmers both in skill and practice to ensure food security in the country and Africa as a whole.  During the training, Abubakar and other participants learnt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP): the benefits of using improved seeds, the right fertiliser application methods and spacing for different crops. With these lessons, he decided to practice what he learnt and also bought improved seed varieties for his crops from Premier Seeds Limited.

During the harvest, most farmers in Giwa got more than twice their usual harvest from same size of land; Abubakar produced 1.9MT/ha compared to his usual 0.9MT/ha. Through the PIATA activity programme he was also linked to AFEX – a structured offtake market to buy his soybeans. He was happy about the available market and used the income from his harvest to buy more seeds, fertiliser, agrochemicals and farm implements for the next farming season. In addition to the training, he also learnt about post-harvest handling and business development. This enabled Abubakar to minimize post-harvest loss, negotiate, and secure AFEX as an off-taker. Abubakar was excited about the outcome of 2020 planting season specifically for the extra profit made.

He said: “I am glad to be enrolled in the AGRA-PIATA Activity.  Before I was enrolled, I bought seeds from the open market and saved some seed for next season. I am happy I stopped doing that. Now I only go for improved varieties which are profitable.”

AGRA’s work is conducted through partnerships—with farmers, farmer organisations, community leaders, agricultural researchers, national and local governments, businesses, civil society groups, philanthropies, international organisations and donor countries.

The Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mu’azu Abdulkadir, said agriculture was a large and critical docket and the government needs to collaborate with various development partners to execute programmes.

He said: “I have come to collaborate and understand the very many programmes and interventions being implemented by AGRA. They are not only working with us, they are also working with the sub-national governments and my fair assessment is that these collaborations have been very successful. What we need to understand is, see what AGRA is doing for instance in the area of collaborating with institutions and other stakeholders within the value chain to stimulate activities towards increasing food production focusing on extension services, agribusiness promotion and development, among others.  I was talking with Dr. Kehinde Makinde, Head AGRA Nigeria, some time ago focusing on empowering smallholder farmers in partnership with the Federal and state governments due to the fact that 60-70 per cent of food producers in the country are smallholder farmers .”

The Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Prof. Emmanuel Ikani, believes AGRA is uniquely positioned to help African countries find solutions to challenges in the agricultural field.

His words: “AGRA has been with us for the past two years and I can tell you that at my own institute here, in many decades, we’ve not had it as good as we are having it now with AGRA. AGRA came and gave us specific tasks to do which is in line with our institute mandate; how to test run methodologies and technology disseminations. They gave us the support and funding and we engaged our staff. We handled two states; Kaduna and Niger states. In the document, we were supposed to engage 360,000 farmers. We got this done through the approach of Community Based Advisors and as I’m talking to you, we have been able to achieve so much, particularly in teaching these communities Good Agronomic Practices , getting them to have access to farm input, linking them to credit facilities and monitoring advisors that are based in their communities and recommending  innovations/ technologies. So, the report we are having, the success stories that came to us is so heart gladdening and I want to say that as far as our partnership with AGRA is concerned, we are having a good time. “For nearly 10 years, AGRA’s work across 11 countries was focused on distinct problems related to seed production, soil health, and agriculture markets that were so profound and had been neglected for so long that they required a concentrated effort to resolve.

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