Uche Usim, Abuja
If there is anything Mr. Aliyu Abdulhammed, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) is preoccupied with at the moment, it is how to quickly rejuvenate agriculture and guarantee food security in line with the agency’s mandate.
It was perhaps on the basis of this that, management of the agency opted to tackle the challenges confronting agriculture, agribusiness and smallholder farmers, who are the drivers of the nation’s agricultural value chain.
Part of management’s strategies was to pursue a robust collaboration with various private companies and government agencies in creating scientific solutions needed to dismantle the roadblocks to food security.
Only recently, NIRSAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Syngenta Agrochemical Company to provide training, chemicals and other products needed to fatten farmers’ yield.
Abdulhammed, its chief executive officer, speaks more about NIRSAL and its operations.
Yes, we signed an MoU between NIRSAL Plc and Syngenta Agrochemical Company. It is a significant step and part of our strategy as a risk management company working with key value chain players to develop and ensure the adoption of sustainable productivity enhancing technology and practices for smallholder farmers. This will include a wide range of support such as improving seed yields, teaching best farm practices, and providing effective capacity building to farmers and other stakeholders, to ensure optimal productivity. The productivity enhancing technology and practices for smallholder farmers have been tested, validated and adopted across the globe and in African countries like South Africa, Kenya and Morocco. In Latin American countries such as Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. It is a success while in European countries of France, Italy, Spain and the UK; it is doing well, as well as USA and Canada. Farmers under CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) as well as other primary production activities will enjoy this yield enhancing technology through our project monitoring, reporting and remediation offices across the 36 states plus the FCT. This presents the opportunity to reach over a million smallholder farmers leveraging on NIRSAL’s coverage and collaborations with critical stakeholders in the agricultural value chain. As an organisation, we are passionate about our mandate of rejuvenating agriculture and agribusiness in Nigeria, and are particularly appreciative of our strategic role in the implementation of the agricultural component of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the Agricultural Promotion Policy.
For us at NIRSAL, the establishment of this partnership with Syngenta is a clear indication of the growing confidence of stakeholders – both public and private – in the Agricultural Policy and Economic Diversification agenda of the current administration.
Syngenta was formed in 2000 following the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. By 2014, it had become the world’s largest crop chemical producer with global sales in excess of $13.4 billion (approximately N4.2 trillion) and have footprints in over 90 countries worldwide, 26 of which are in Africa.
One of our key challenges as a nation is how to ensure food security, feed a rising population while ensuring sustainable income for our smallholder farmers who constitute the largest portion of our farming populace. As such, our partnership with several stakeholders is a critical component of NIRSAL’s value-chain-fixing mandate as this would ensure the availability and use of quality inputs and the transfer of the knowledge required for enhanced crop production successes. For instance, we signed MoU with AGCO, a renowned manufacturer of tractors and related agricultural machineries; MECA for tractor refurbishment and finance; RIELA, for post-harvest technology solution; ACDI-VOCA for developing all-year round farming leveraging on irrigation; UNDP-NASDP towards eliminating supply chain bottlenecks, linking primary production to markets and technical assistance; MAMDA for enhancing local capacity in developing innovative insurance products; and several financial institutions (developmental and commercial) particularly the DBN, NEXIM, Union Bank, Stanbic IBTC, for provision of affordable and sustainable finance. The logic behind these collaborations is to crowd in key players in their respective value chain activities and support agricultural projects through technology transfer, training, offering discounted prices on products and services using NIRSAL as the fulcrum.
Our approach in NIRSAL is to look at agriculture from an end to end value chain perspective, that is, from primary production activities like land clearing, input supply, mechanisation services, irrigation, harvesting, among others; to storage; processing (using conventional/alternative energy sources) and an eventual linkage to markets (consumer, industrial and exports) and thus tailor our initiatives and interventions as such.
NIRSAL is a risk-sharing system created by CBN with a mandate to enhance the flow of affordable finance and investments into fixed agricultural value chains. Our farmers need simple and reliable ways to maximise their yields. The thrust is to take a holistic approach and create integrated, tailored solutions. All these combined with advanced crop protection science, quality seeds delivering higher yields, and agronomic advice based on our deep insights into how smallholder farmers work can increase farmers’ yield by over 40-80 per cent.
Agriculture may have challenging moments but through proper planning, adoption of good agronomical practices and use of technology, it can certainly make a lot of difference in our farmers’ yield.
The Nigerian Agribusiness Supplier Development Project (NASDP) focuses on eliminating supply chain bottlenecks in the rice and cassava value chains through improved linkage between production and processing actors. As you’re aware, our primary mandate is to fix the broken agricultural value chain thereby facilitating the flow of finance and investment to the agricultural sector. One way we approach this is by sharing risks with agricultural value chain players particularly providers of finance by providing credit risk guarantees on viable agricultural projects and supporting agricultural value chain players with technical assistance, innovative projects and several other catalytic initiatives.
The current drive of the Federal Government has brought agricultural development to the fore, with major focus on rice and cassava in this case. NASDP will be a critical vehicle to support the development of these two commodities. The NASDP programme is embedded in UNDP’s Regional Bureau Programme for Africa and is in tandem with the current administration’s Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP).
Consequently, UNDP, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and NIRSAL, will implement key objectives under this projects. These include improving the supply of agricultural products by farmers particularly in the rice and cassava value chains and MSME’s with timely deliveries, reduce transportation and inventory costs and improve access to growing markets provided by structured off-takers; secure and provide off-takers, efficient and high-quality local agricultural raw materials; contribute to the development of African economies through increased job creation, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and enhanced government income through taxation by developing agricultural products that can substitute imports and create access to export market; and finally, to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially food security and poverty reduction, through job creation and income generation.
The target beneficiary groups include smallholder farmers and women, while the target market will include off-takers and agro-dealers who provide inputs into the agricultural value chains. This will enhance the prospect for increased farmer yields and quality.
Being a national programme, implementation will focus on areas of comparative advantage for rice and cassava. Where we have critical mass of these commodity value chain players, this will generate expected impact by creating socio-economic benefits to smallholder farmers in rural communities. It should also create an efficient supply chain logistic that will impact operations of large corporates (processors), hence, generating massive employment for the Nigerian population.
This project will promote Public Private Partnership (PPP)on these selected value chains, facilitate technology and knowledge transfer and stimulate the set-up of commodity processing hubs. NIRSAL places emphasis on PPP as this will ensure the sustainability and affordability of projects along the agricultural value chain. Under the terms of the collaboration, NIRSAL will be contributing a total of $1,558,500, approximately 20 per cent of the entire funding requirement of $8,066,500 to implement the project. Out of NIRSAL’s contribution, the sum of $558,500 will be utilised under NIRSAL’s Technical Assistance Pillar for capacity building of the beneficiaries, while $1,000,000 is non-expendable credit that can be applied under the CBN ABP and other financing interventions.
The UNDP’s intention under this project is to promote economic growth through local capacity building and robust PPP to generate opportunities for income generation. The aim is to ultimately support gender responsive and inclusive policies that will stimulate and expand domestic and foreign trade for global competitiveness.
The NASDP will thus focus on women empowerment and youth in Agribusiness through support to women’s cooperatives and youth enterprises. The Inclusive Business Acceleration Model will also be deployed toward these groups. It is important to emphasise that the Inclusive business model will aim at providing quality basic products and services within the low-income communities.
This will harness endogenous resources and opportunities for value addition. It will also build local capacities for managing harvest seasons with a long-term view of achieving sustained growth of commodity markets and price stabilisation.