Achieving Nigeria’s food security agenda via IFAD-VCDP model

By Francis Onyeukwu

For Mrs Ifeoma Okoye, joining the agricultural programme of the International Fund for Agricultural Development-Value Chain Development Agency (IFAD-VCDP) has remained a life changing decision she made.

Okoye, a teacher and mother of four from Anam, Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra has been a teacher before she joined IFAD-VCDP in the year 2017. Two years after, she was sponsored by the international agency for a training as a rice seed producer at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan.

The training opened Okoye’s eyes on the rich possibilities which rice farming has for those who embrace it as a sustainable business venture.

According to her, “the training afforded me the opportunity to know that using high yielding rice variety like faro-44 could turn a rice farmer to a millionaire at a very short period of time”.

Okoye notes that apart from improved yield, the variety is pest resistant amongst other advantages which could make farming a rewarding business.

Besides the inherit gains in Faro-44, she said that the Ibadan training made her understood that for a better harvest, a farmer does not require to use the seed harvested to replant in the upcoming season rather, he/she should go for new improved seeds.

“This is the secret behind the record breaking results of farmers in Anambra and other constituent states of IFAD-VCDP in Nigeria.

IFAD-VCDP is taking place in the following eight states: Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Niger, Nasarawa, Ogun, Kogi, Benue, and Taraba .

“Before the advent of the program in the year 2015, rice farmers in Anambra were getting between two to three tons per hectare, but today with good agronomic practices, (GAP) they now get between seven and eight tons per hectare”, she said.

Apart from the Ibadan training, Okoye said she equally received a training in rice recipe which enables her add value to rice after processing as well as training on record keeping among others.

These enhanced knowledge based has equipped Okoye not only to earn a living from rice business, but achieve other notable things at the family level due to involvement in production, processing and marketing activities.

For instance, the production of Tombrown using rice as base material and other crops. The production of Juice and flour from Orange flesh sweet potato. Juice from rice and other by products. Cassava flour, cakes and so on. This only has not increased the shelf life of the produce but generated income and provided employment to the youths and women in the community.

“I can say that involvement in IFAD-VCDP has changed my life story, we have Ezi Anam Multi-purpose Corporative Society under which we operate and today we all have good stories to share.

“The members were operating as local farmers before we joined IFAD-VCDP, but today most of us are doing well due to the impact of the programme.

“I can proudly say that all the members livelihood have improved through rice business, and even if IFAD-VCDP concludes it’s programme today, most of us would continue rice farming due to the knowledge and contact acquired”, she said.

She believes that if enabling environment is created especially providing road infrastructure in the hinterland more people will join in rice and cassava farming because of the huge potential in the crops.

Okoye insists that achievements of food security, provision of job opportunities amongst others could help control the rising crime wave and hunger in our society.

On her part, Mrs. Uju Okafor, a member of Destiny Women Corporative Aguoke Ugbenu, Awka North Local Government Area shares the same thought with Okoye on the rich gains associated with rice farming.

Mrs. Okafor had equally received the training as seed producer at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan having joined IFAD-VCDP in the year 2015.

She believes that the programme had done a lot in her life, saying, “I am doing both rice production and adding values to rice via recipe making of doughnut, buns, chin-chin, rice cake, juice, flour, milk etc.

According to her, the many trainings received under IFAD-VCDP has made Okafor now with enhanced skills and being sought after by many for impacting knowledge in rice business activities.

Okafor, added that the business, today had become a family business as her husband and children are fully involved in it.

Apart from the business aspect of it, the family eats healthy and balanced diets which has helped improve the overall well-being of the family, enhanced energy levels, better weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and support for optimal bodily functions. Eating right and well, good personal hygiene has contributed to stronger immunity, better mental health, and increased longevity of the family and thus enabling productivity.

Though, the programme had impacted on the beneficiaries, a lot more were still expected to further sustain the gains already made in the area.

Also, the Programme has helped them to register their businesses with stands for Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria SMEDAN to help with Access to Finance (loans and grants), Market Access and Entrepreneurial Support.

I ” I will personally request for the scaling up on the activities with a view to digital communication technological advancement in rice farming, provision of modern harvester, threshers, and market access”, she said.

Okafor confessed that she now have a family car, landed property among others because of improvement in sources of her income.

She commended the gender inclusiveness of the programme, saying even if IFAD-VCDP winds up anyday, rice business will continue to flourish in the state.

Mr Fidelis Onyia, an International Relations graduate-turned rice farmer from Igbakwu in Ayamelum area is another shining example in the success story of IFAD-VCDP in the state.

Onyia had being into rice farming before being enrolled in IFAD-VCDP in the year 2017. But his activities could be best tagged subsistence farming until he acquired modern agronomy practices via IFAD-VCDP.

However, the journey to Onyia’s changed story began when in the year 2018 he was trained on rice seed production at IITA, Ibadan, and supported with starter pack which includes 50 kilogram bag of faro 44 foundation seed.

He began by producing and supplies rice seed to farmers in Ayamelum, Anambra East and West Local Government Areas before expanding to other Local Government Areas and beyond.

“I thereafter, diversity to rice processing and marketing and even cassava farming. Today, I engage in Electronic Value Chain Agricultural Marketing System EvAMIS Platform which opens the window for my products to be sold via the internet space and that is aside been linked to offtakers by VCDP.

“This has given me the exposure to buyers outside the state, last month, I supplied rice to buyers in Lagos and Rivers states via the EVAMIS.

Onyia who said he had participated in about 150 trainings named the Rural Farmers Training for 22 countries in West Africa and Central Africa in Abijan, Ivory Coast in the year 2022, and the United Nations Food System International Conference held in Rome, 2023 among others.

“IFAD-VCDP has transformed me to a consultant in rice production, processing and marketing, people come from far and near on learning route in the sector from me”, he said.

Onyia insisted that one of the greatest impact of IFAD-VCDP was ending the era of rice farmers selling at a loss due to lack of marketing network and production of good variety.

“Because of the new atmosphere under which we operate, today I can say that rice farming is very profitable, this has made me create jobs for more than 300 persons because we no longer record losses”, Onyia said.

He added that farmers now record up to eight tons per hactre in the Ayamelum area and other areas due to good agronomic practices.

Onyia says he has built seven rooms bungalow, and another ongoing one at advance stage of completion, landed property among others due to enhanced income.

But considering the population of Nigeria and the drive for sustainable food security, he suggests that IFAD-VCDP programme be extended further in Nigeria to produce more capable hands like him.

“As we speak, only nine states out of the 36 state and the federal capital territory are participating in IFAD-VCDP since the programme began in the year 2015.

“In Anambra, it is only eight Local Government Areas that are involved, but if more states and local government areas could be added, this will transform Nigeria to a net exporter of rice and cassava and help the country save foreign reserve”, he said.

Onyia, however called for prompt payment of counterpart fund by benefiting states saying apart from improved agronomic practices and provision of high yielding rice, IFAD-VCDP help in the provision of rural infrastructure and manpower via capacity building of individuals.

“In Ayamelum, two modelled rice mills, eight feeder roads were constructed, at Igbariam IFAD-VCDP built market shops, cassava processing centre and constructed rice mill at Achala, Awka North Local Government Area among others.

Onyia who reeled out challenges facing farmers in Anambra, stressed the need for provision of irrigation for dry season farming, availability of modern farming tools, access to land, and adequate financing among key areas of improvement for a sustainable agro-business venture.

Giving the reasons behind the Media tour to select farms in Anambra, Mr Henry Anagboso the state IFAD-VCDP, Knowledge Management and Communication Officer, KMCO and the tour guide explained that the tour was to ascertain the impact of the programme on the beneficiaries and benefiting communities at large.

He said data collated would enable the Programme make informed decisions on ways to advance the programme or otherwise.

Mr Emmanuel Agwuncha, the State Programme Coordinator, IFAD-VCDP Anambra in an overview said, at inception of the programme, the farmers could barely boost of of three tons per hectare of rice and 10 tons for cassava.

” We felt the first step was to build their capacity on good agronomic practices, and supporting them with farm inputs such as; certified rice seed, cassava cuttings of improved varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

“These gave rise to their high yield which transformed farming to an interesting venture for those in the line of production”, he said.

Mr. Agwuncha further said that the processors received thretchers, de-stoners, garri fryers, flash-dryers, cassava graters, rubber-rollers for milling, rice polisher, rice grader and stem par-boiler Also the Programme built processing centers for rice and cassava, market structures ike stores and stalls.

He explained that the Programme preaches Gender equality under its Gender Action Learning System GALS.

“This initiative is aimed at effectively helping farmers households to achieving a lot, understand their roles in the family and assist each other in attaining their dreams.

“We equally introduced nutrition sensitive agriculture to address the issue of malnutrition. We supported beneficiaries with economic trees, seedlings for the establishment of home garden orange fresh sweet potato, banana, plantain, orange, pumpkin, scent leaf, bitter leaf and noiler birds to mainstream nutrition”, he said.

Agwuncha highlighted numerous achievements of the Programme, particularly the Financial Inclusion mainstreaming. The Programme successfully linked over 5000 beneficiaries, including producers, processors, and marketers, to financial institutions that had signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the Programme. This collaboration enabled beneficiaries to access a variety of financial inclusion products, such as savings, deposits, withdrawals, credit, and loans, among others.

Furthermore, the program played a pivotal role in raising awareness among farmers about the risks inherent in the agricultural sector. It successfully linked farmers with insurance companies to enhance their understanding of and preparedness for these risks.

In pursuit of inclusivity, the program initially empowered 40 women and youths with Point of Sale (POS) machines across the 8 Local Government Areas  involved in the Programme. This initiative facilitated account openings and savings mobilization among the beneficiaries. More recently, 25 POS machines were distributed to physically challenged persons within the Programme, thereby enhancing their financial independence.

Additionally, the program implemented various financial inclusion interventions, including financial and digital financial service literacy, savings mobilization, and support for Agro-shop enterprises, among other noteworthy accomplishments.

A retrospect of the accounts by the beneficiaries of IFAD-VCDP in Anambra indicated that the programme no doubt has produced new era of rice farmers.

Their horizons changed from subsistence to seeing farming as a bigger and brighter venture.

All that could be said is that government and individual should tap into the agricultural activities especially rice and cassava to consolidate on the gains already recorded by IFAD-VCDP in Nigeria if the desire to achieving the planned food security could be realized. 


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