Abuja — The OCP Group, a global leader in phosphate production and plant nutrition, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), have established a collaboration to assist rural dwellers displaced by conflict to return to the farms.
The two-year pilot project which commenced in 2019, was being implemented in Muchalla, a community in Mubi North Local Government Area of Adamawa state.
In the recently-released one-year report, the project demonstrated promising results supporting the vulnerable and key segments in Nigeria.
According to the organisations, the scheme specifically targets young people between 18 and 40 years, with a focus on women. They added that a total of 450 women and 50 men had benefitted from the farmer-oriented training and empowerment programme.
To boost their revenue profiles, the 500 farmers were given training through Farmer Field Schools (FFS), in seed germination testing, land preparation, ridging seed dressing and agro ecosystem analysis. Each beneficiary was also given other items including improved maize seeds, rice seeds and farming implements.
The beneficiaries were also grouped into village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) to help them increase their savings and have access to affordable loans.
In addition to credit access, the VSLAs equipped the participants with skills in financial management and record keeping.
Another 119 agro dealers were trained in business strategy, living/operating costs, making/spending money and product marketing after which they were supported with working tools.
Also, 83 of the agro dealers were linked with the 500 of the farmers, "to provide advisory services and share how farmers can access their products."
The project titled, 'Improving Livelihoods and Agricultural Development for Smallholder Farmers in Nigeria,' is focused on three thematic areas - market and value chain analysis, strengthening the capacity of agro dealers, and improving farming - with the report detailing a breakdown of the achievements in each segment.
According to the report, land selection practice among rice farmers in the community improved from a baseline value of 23.96 per cent to 97 per cent, following the intervention. Land preparation and rice weeding also witnessed significant improvement.
In addition, maize farmers equally embraced improved farming practices such as land selection, land preparation, seed germination testing, ridging, seed dressing, seed spacing and weeding.
As part of the project, OCP also commenced a soil testing service aimed at ascertaining the kind of fertilizer nutrient composition that would maximise rice and maize yields for farmers.
The OCP School Lab, the larger initiative implemented by OCP Africa, provides free soil testing to farmers in remote areas across Africa, and makes recommendations for fertilizer application that meets their specific soil and crop needs
Esther Adams, a 36 year-old mother of four from the Muchalla community who participated in the FFS and VSLAs, said, "I learned many practices in the FFS... my farm neighbors were asking for the magic I used for my maize farm and I told them that I learned these practices from FFS. In the previous year I harvested eight bags of rice. This year I harvested 23 bags."
The Country Manager of OCP Africa in Nigeria, Mr. Caleb Usoh, lauded the achievements of the pilot phase as a significant success and stated that lessons learnt from the pilot would help to improve subsequent initiatives to support smallholder farmers.
He also called on more corporate organisations to assist in supporting the survivors of violent attacks and conflict.
According to Sukuss Koroma, the IRC's ERD Technical Coordinator in Nigeria, "OCP is willing to fund a truly innovative and integrated approach to rural livelihoods in Nigeria."
He said for the first time through OCP School Labs, farmers in rural and conflict-affected communities were able to test their own soil fertility, identify the right type of action, and maximise financial benefits from each harvest.