By Mainasara Aminu
It is clear that Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai is working literally like a big bull-dozer to revitalize Kaduna State in many respects. Some aspects – such as unprecedented urban renewal works and comprehensive rehabilitation of schools and hospitals – stand out because they are happening in public glare. A more significant silent revolution may be taking place in agriculture, the source of livelihood for an estimated 70 per cent of the state’s population.
One of the outstanding programmes in this direction is the Kaduna State Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) project with a total target of 10,000 direct and 50,000 indirect beneficiaries across the 23 Local Government Areas. Of the 10,000 direct beneficiaries, 1,700 are benefitting under the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) while 8,300 are being supported under the Community Interest Groups (CIGs) and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) intervention scheme.
The Kaduna State APPEALS support to SMEs and CIGs is concentrated on three priority value-chains of the state which are maize, dairy and ginger. Under WYEP, beneficiaries selected from the 11-priority value-chain commodities viz Rice, Cocoa, Poultry, Cashew, Maize, Dairy, Ginger, Cassava, Tomato, Aquaculture and Wheat. The basic framework of the project is a paradigm shift towards intensive training, empowerment and support of beneficiaries in one seamless operation.
According to Dr. Yahaya Amin Abdul-Hadi, the State Project Coordinator, the value-chains in focus at the Kaduna State APPEALS project are informed by the need to achieve food security (maize), enhance livelihoods (dairy) and promote export (ginger).
The WYEP scheme which is designed to transform unemployed youth to agripreneurs has covered significant milestones. Apprentices so far totaling 1,368 have been trained in technical skills in agriculture and business management at various World Bank-accredited institutions including the Center for Dryland Agriculture (CDA), Bayero University Kano, the Audu Bako College of Agriculture, Danbatta and the Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil. Graduates are now eligible to a grant of a maximum of $10,000 to establish their individual Agric enterprises subject to preparation and approval of individual or group Business Investment Plan (BIP).
A typical programme for the rice value-chain beneficiaries includes training on land preparation, mapping, artificial irrigation and transplanting. In the poultry value-chain, a characteristic class would undergo several practical sessions on how to properly feed chicks and efficiently pick eggs. Everyone is also equipped with Enterprise Education: how to navigate the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) registration, Insurance, NAFDAC certification, tax boards, etc. In the end, it is through Monitoring and Evaluation that the programme aims to attain appreciable success and sustainability.
Successful candidates were screened and selected from about 75,000 applicants based on the project’s requirements, academic qualification, age and residence in the state. Entrants were also interviewed to come up with their value-chain investment plans.
In addition, about 1,500 farmers who are members of 67 farmers’ organisations have been supported with capacity to develop value-chain investment plans under the state’s priority value-chains of dairy, ginger and maize. Through approved grants, the groups were empowered to procure farm inputs such as improved seeds, chemicals, fertilisers and other equipment that promise to improve their output in the current harvest season.
According the Commissioner for Agriculture, Hajiya Halima Lawal, “The farmers have the project at heart and are quite happy with the outcomes. Majority of them are doing very well. They got access to inputs such as seeds, chemicals, fertilizer, aflasafe and training on Good Agronomic Practices. Before the APPEALS intervention they were getting like 2 to 2.5 tons a hectare. Now we are looking at a minimum of 4 tons a hectare.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in late February 2020, total lockdown put a stop to the series of activities involved in the project. Following the substantial easing of the nationwide restrictions, the Kaduna State Project Coordinator of APPEALS held the inception meeting of the Technical Assistance for the Preparation and Review of the Business Investment Plan (BIP) for the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) beneficiaries in October. In the interim, the project office facilitated securing registration for a total of 484 business names of beneficiaries by the CAC.
The Women and Youth Empowerment Programme of the APPEALS is aimed at transforming educated but jobless youth into agricultural entrepreneurs through value inputs rather than the archetypal cash handouts that more often than not get diverted outside the sector. By policy, beneficiaries are made up of 60 per cent females, 35 per cent males and 5 per cent People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs). The transparent and unbiased selection process followed an intensive one-year sensitization programme to create awareness among the teeming potential beneficiaries.
What is the scope and size of the project? The APPEALS is a six-year US$200 million project launched on 23rd March 2017 by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in collaboration with the World Bank and other stakeholders. Key objectives of the scheme are to enhance agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers, diversify the economy by improving value-addition along priority value-chains, create jobs, attract investments and improve livelihoods.
Improving the agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers is in line with the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) 2010-2020 of the Federal Government otherwise called the Green Alternative. It is also a crucial part of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and its plans to support food security, local production, job creation and rapid economic diversification.
Fast-tracking development of the agricultural value chain among the millions of small and medium scale farmers also remains the quickest means to curbing rising rate of poverty and attendant insecurity. Transforming agriculture from its subsistence to sustainable level is the only realistic way to go with the country’s rapidly rising population. The seemingly incessant farmers/herders conflict as well as armed robbery, cultism, insurgency, kidnapping, rural banditry and even ethno-religious clashes are at least partially traceable to the stagnant agricultural sector on which 80 per cent of Nigerians depend for livelihood.
To ensure its success, even the APPEALS coordinators are scrupulously monitored. Thus, the World Bank Manager for Agriculture and Food Global Practices, Ms. Marianne Grosclaude has attended several meetings with all the Project Implementation Units (PIUs) of the project for first-hand understanding of their activities. Similarly, the Task Team Leader and Senior Agriculture Economist, Agriculture Global Practices of the World Bank, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, has held several implementation support meetings with the National Coordinating Office of the APPEALS Project in Abuja. At the last meeting on the 11th March 2020, Dr. Oredipe reiterated the World Bank’s insistence that “The project results must be visible.”
An added advantage of the project is that it directly contributes to the achievement of five of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are Goal 2 – to end hunger, attain food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; Goal 5 – Gender Equality, Goal 8 – promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth; Goal 9 – build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; and Goal 13- take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.
It is now clear that the already trained and vetted beneficiaries of the APPEALS in Kaduna State are certainly primed to hit the ground running. The delay in training and disbursement occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, the 1,700 WYEP candidates can hardly wait to start improving their livelihoods, create jobs for others and impact the food supply chain in the country. When they do, it seems likely that the Kaduna State Government will increase the number of recipients given the massive number of applicants and the urgent need to boost employment and encourage women and youth to embrace agriculture as a business.
Aminu is a staff of the National Agricultural and Rural Extension Services at ABU Zaria.