By Nnamdi Ojiego
A non-governmental organization, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, SFSA, has supported 13 hubs managers who will be servicing 13,000 smallholder farmers with the sales of certified seeds of cowpea and sorghum varieties worth over N10 million in Kano and Jigawa states.
This gesture came as part of the SFSA’s operational strategy which focuses on smallholders, productivity, and markets by extending science-based know-how, facilitating access to quality inputs, and linking farmers to markets in profitable ways.
At a one-day workshop organized by the foundation on the launching of Certified Seed and Grain Aggregation Through the Farmers’ Hub Using Revolving Fund Model, held on Wednesday, in Bichi Local Government Area, LGA, of Kano state, the Country Programme Manager of SFSA-Nigeria, Isaiah Gabriel, said the event was to create awareness that would generate demand for some selected cowpea and sorghum varieties.
The workshop, which attracted farmers, hub managers, and stakeholders. was held under the Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa, AVISA, project to consolidate on the gains made by TL-III, HOPE-II, and HarvestPlus.
It was aimed at introducing improved varieties of cowpea and sorghum to smallholder’s farmers in the two states, and empower farmers, by making them professional growers.
Gabriel explained that the farmers’ hub was a one-stop-shop offering agricultural inputs such as seeds, seedlings, fertilizer, mechanization, market solution platform, weather information and extension advisory.
“It also provides value-added services such as aggregation, bulk buying, training, equipment leasing, financing and trade credit to farmers, while unravelling the concept of the model and its components”, he said, adding that the foundation will provide oversight across the entire operations.
Also speaking, Country Representative, ICRISAT, Dr. Hakeem Ajiegbe congratulated the farmers for being among the first lucky beneficiaries of the programme and urged them to put more efforts into farming, to meet up with high food demands occasioned by the increase in population.
He maintained that varieties approved for the hub managers for sale should not be limited to cowpea and sorghum.
A Sorghum breeder, Prof. Daniel Abbah, from the Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR, while pointing out enormous advantages of growing improved seed varieties over the local ones, described the farmers’ hub as a welcomed development.
In his contribution, a Seed System Specialist, Prof. Lucky Omoigui, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture disclosed that over the years, the IITA seed system had made several attempts to discover two major varieties suitable for the region.
While encouraging the farmers to take advantage of the opportunity, he called on seed companies to “ensure that the approved varieties were readily available to the farmers through this platform.”
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Murktar Garba, a hub manager, commended the initiative saying it would improve their standard of living through the high profitability level and increase in their income stream.
The high points of the occasion were the launching of a Ten Million Naira Agriculture support fund to be distributed to 13 hub managers across the 13 LGAs of Kano and Jigawa States, which formed part of the mandate and mission of SFSA-Nigeria.
The fund will pass through the Network Manager who will, in turn, give the money to the hub managers in form of inputs (Improved cowpea and sorghum varieties) as a revolving fund to boost the production and productivity of smallholders farmers.
After, the harvest, the farmers’ hubs will serve as aggregation centre for the grains, ready for the Network Manager to off-take to the market and the circles continues in the subsequent farming season.