As part of measures to promote viable agricultural supply chains that can contribute significantly to Nigeria’s economy, USAID, Nestle Nigeria Limited, Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), on Tuesday, in Kaduna, announced a new partnership program, “Feed the Future Nigeria and Nestlé Maize Quality Improvement Partnership (M-QIP)”.
By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
According to them, the program is aimed at training farmers, workers and small agricultural businesses in Kaduna State by leveraging the expertise of volunteers.
Farmers will also learn how to reduce crop contaminants, to help sustainably increase the safety and quality of maize and soybeans, which will lead to improve the health, nutrition and livelihoods in their communities.
In a statement jointly signed by Melanie Edwards (USAID), Victoria Uwadoka (Nestlé), Angela Canterbury (VEGA) and Darshana Patel (CNFA), made available to newsmen immediately after launching the program in Kaduna, the organizations noted that, “building resilient and thriving communities are a critical part of achieving sustainable development goals linked to rural development.
“To promote viable agricultural supply chains that contribute significantly to national economies, there is the need to address challenges within the agricultural supply chain, through multi-stakeholder action.”
They observed that “post- harvest losses and contaminants are some of the challenges of staple crops such as maize and soybean, making it harder for smallholder farmers to earn a decent income. Crop contaminants like mycotoxins threaten the health and lives of humans and animals, leading to cancer, fatal kidney and liver failure. In children, aflatoxin – which is a type of mycotoxin – causes growth retardation and other serious health problems.”
The statement added that “for the past three years, Nestlé has been working with farmers to improve their agricultural practices to ensure the safety and quality of their crops. This forms part of its Creating Shared value to create value both for business and society. With these projects, the company has been able to reach 30,000 smallholder farmers, helping them to increase their income by 35%.”
It explained that “the new partnership is expected to significantly expand on these efforts, reaching an additional 20,000 smallholder farmers—including 40 percent women and other agro-industry entrepreneurs within the value chain. It is estimated that the implementation of this program will increase the sales of better quality maize and soybean by at least 17,000 metric tons annually helping to improve the livelihoods of these farmers.
“Over the next three years, a team of experts and 150 volunteers led by CNFA will design and deliver training programs for reducing aflatoxins and other contaminants in grain and maize to farmers and supply chain intermediaries, through a train- the trainer approach.
“International experts in mycotoxin mitigation in crops have agreed to provide volunteer advisory services on this project. The team working with Nigerian farmers, agri-business intermediaries and sales agents will also include experts from Purdue University in the U.S. and Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies and Lifelong Learning in Nigeria.
“More than 200 for-profit private enterprises, such as farm service retailers, will also be trained and supported to improve their technologies and management practices. Empowerment of participants throughout the supply chain will create a culture of transparency and traceability, leading to decisions that ensure a high quality and safe produce.”
It quoted USAID Mission Director Stephen M. Haykin speaking about the partnership as saying “this public-private partnership supported by Feed the Future will help lift farmers out of poverty by sharing best practices in agricultural activities and focusing on value chains. Providing farmers and suppliers the knowledge and tools to improve their produce will help them garner higher selling prices and increase household incomes. Investments in this program from Nestlé and through the in-kind contributions of volunteers really stretch U.S. taxpayer dollars and increase the return on investment.”
Emphasizing on the impact of the partnership on the local economy, according to the statement, Mr. Mauricio Alarcon, CEO and Managing Director, Nestlé Nigeria said: “This partnership is in line with Nestlé’s purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. Our Creating Shared Value approach enables us to build thriving, resilient communities with whom we work, by improving the livelihoods of individuals and families.
“Today, we locally source more than 80% of our raw material and we are committed to further increase in this regard. We believe that the collaboration with the communities, CNFA, USAID and VEGA will help to improve livlihoods in communities connected to our business activities.”
The statement further said, Sylvain Roy, CNFA President & CEO is confident that “the partnership will allow CNFA to apply our unique expertise in supporting smallholder farmers around the globe to improve our new beneficiaries’ capacity to supply processors—one of the fundamental linkages in the agricultural value chain.
“CNFA shares a commitment with our partners to building local technical expertise and capacity for sustainable impact and change, and we intend to leverage all of our capabilities—development, agriculture training, skilled volunteers and more—to ensure the success of this public-private partnership, and to empower smallholder farmers and business people along the supply chain—including women, youth and families.”
Also, Michael Deal, President and CEO, VEGA adding his voice, said, “VEGA is very pleased to have brought these partners together to create sustainable supply chain solutions to enhance the well-being of farmers, small business owners and families in Nigeria.
“This partnership serves as a model multi-stakeholder collaboration to leverage the expertise of highly skilled volunteers to generate more prosperity and shared value for all partners. VEGA will continue to coordinate the collaboration of our partners and ensure rigorous results.”