Farm Mechanization and Value addition in Nigerian Agriculture

In an effort to reduce mass wastage of farm produce and promote value addition in Nigerian agriculture, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme is supporting multiple innovations and their widespread adoption by agro-ventures across the country, writes YANGE IKYAA in this feature.

The role of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme in Nigeria (WAAPP-Nigeria) involves the identification of innovations in selected priority commodity value chains and the promotion of their adoption by agro-ventures through a combination of multiple strategies. The priority commodity crops within WAAPP’s operational mandate include aquaculture, cassava, yam, rice, as well as maize and sorghum.

WAAPP, in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), closely partners with the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM) in order to achieve this mandate. This research centre is located at Ilorin in Kwara State.

Over the years, NCAM, in partnership with WAAPP, has produced about 40 machines in the major crop specializations across Nigeria; tested over 60 tractors; and has also carried out the training of fabricators, processors and youths in various agricultural mechanization modules, while fast-tracking job creation in the process. In order to support this, the World Bank, in conjunction with WAAPP and NCAM, is currently assisting about 600,000 Nigerian farmers to scale up their production and productive capacity.

According to Damian Okey Chikwendu, the national project coordinator of WAAPP-Nigeria, “the level of mechanized agriculture in Nigeria remains low, but there is hope for improvement with increased sensitization of farmers on the current possibilities and availability of mechanized farming options within the country.”

According to him, “we are working in the area of fish, promoting fingerlings multiplication, and we are supporting research in the area of fish feed production as well as in the area of fish packaging. Some of our packaged fish can stay for more than six months and our interest in the normal cat fish is to be able to preserve it and ensure that it lasts as long as stock fish and reach more people in farther places.”

In the fabrication of needed equipment, WAAPP is working with some government and private institutions, including the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) in Lagos, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NISPRI) at Ilorin, and the National Research (NIFFR) at New Bussa in Niger State.

These institutions, in partnership with WAAPP, have developed a number of equipment for fish smoking, fish drying, and also for the safe transportation of fish. Currently, WAAPP is working with them to multiply these technologies and to train fabricators and link them up with the private sector so that the private sector can eventually take over and fully commercialize the various agricultural business innovations.

The objective of WAAPP is to increase agricultural productivity with mechanized farming. However, cost is also taken into consideration and it is only those devices that are found appropriate for farmers and other agro-ventures across Nigeria that are typically supported by WAAPP. This is because one of the indicators of appropriateness in agricultural productivity is the cost factor.

Nigeria has a poor record in post-harvest losses due to its low agricultural storage capacity. In response to this, WAAPP has also invested $180,000 for the importation of fruit processing machines into the country.

The machines, which are four in number, were imported from South Africa at the cost of $45,000 each.

“You will agree with me that there is a lot of wastage of mangos, oranges and tomatoes and the rest of other fruit commodities in the country during their production seasons,” Damian Okechukwu, WAAPP-Nigeria.

WAAPP’s strategic interventions aims to reverse this negative trend by exploiting domestic agricultural value chains for increased productivity, while creating jobs for Nigerians and other nationals within the ECOWAS sub-region.

“There is also a technology at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) for the drying of tomatoes into powder and we will assist them in working with private companies to ensure its mass production,” said Chikwendu.

WAAPP is already working with the Kaduna State government on the recruitment of farmers who will supply mangos to Niya Farms for dry chips production. Many people are projected to be engaged in the making of bags for packaging purposes, thereby pushing up the number of jobs to be created.

In Niger State, the National Centre of Specialization (NCoS) on aquaculture is undertaking comprehensive demand-driven research activities which have already yielded six technologies that are currently being disseminated. These include an improved smoking kiln, solar dryer and cooling boxes. Others are retail table, all male Tilapia, and clupeid for feed meal.

Many improved technologies in WAAPP’s priority commodity crops, such as improved seeds, post-harvest technologies, value addition, fruit fly control, climate smart agriculture, as well as banana and plantain production, are being disseminated through MoUs signed with 29 state governments in Nigeria. These technologies are also being widely adapted by end-users.

According to a recent report of the World Bank Supervision Mission on WAAPP to Nigeria, “the improved technologies distributed to farmers by WAAPP-Nigeria are of high quality and highly acceptable, and this significantly contributed to increased yield from 50% to 150%.”

This article first appeared on BusinessDay Newspaper (Pg 29) – June 24, 2015.

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