Author Archives: Bola-ade

Maize conference leverages on private sector partnership to boost productivity in Africa

The SARD-SC maize conference held in Livingstone, Zambia,  from 14- 20 May, 2017 was a valuable opportunity  for the maize project and its partners  to interact  with other  stakeholders from Zambia, Nigeria and Africa in general, to share  key issues  pertaining to the maize value chain development, technology  generation  and  dissemination.

The expanded maize conference organized by the SARD-SC maize value chain with the  theme, Improving maize value chain  for transformational impact, “was to showcase our achievements in SARD-SC maize so that the lessons learnt in this conference would be useful for other maize countries and the forth coming TAAT program,” said Dr. Sam Ajala, Maize Commodity Specialist.

In his opening remarks, Dr. David Chikoye, Director of southern   Operations, who represented the Director General of IITA, enumerated key achievements of IITA but raised a pertinent challenge that maybe an obstacle to achieving the transformational impact of maize in Africa as a result of aging farmers, subsistence farming and lack of mechanization.

Dr. Chrys Akem, SARD-SC project coordinator lauded the institutional collaboration the project enjoyed from its partners; AfricaRice and ICARDA, which was responsible for the success of the maize value chain and the project as well. “It has been a challenging four year period and the maize team has come along very strongly.”

The Zambia Minister of Agriculture, represented by the Mr. Sinmu Choba, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry said the conference theme reaffirmed the importance of   maize to the economy and food security of many African countries.  This is because maize farming is by small scale farmers which contribute to their household incomes. He therefore called on researchers in the maize sector to find answers aimed at enhancing small scale farmers’ adoption of improved seed varieties and technologies among others.

An interesting dimension of the conference was the participation of the private sector which cuts across the banking sector in Nigeria and Zambia, Innovare; farming equipment leasing outfit, big conglomerate like Flour Mills of Nigeria(FMN), Babban Gona, a foremost commercial farm growth developer, in Kaduna and Kano, Nigeria, reputed for working with thousands of small holder  farmers while linking them to sustainable  output  markets while increasing their productivity. Interestingly, the participation of the actors from the private sector infused the discussions with a valuable business perspective that could help to achieve the quest for maize transformational impact in Africa.

Mr. Segun Falade, Head, Agro Inputs, Agro Allied Division, FMN, spoke of the need for partnership with both commercial farmers and Small Holder Farmers  to serve as outgrowers as sources of  raw materials for his organization, with the key objective to  reduce importation. The First city Merchant Bank,(FCMB) Nigeria, was represented by Mr. Olushola Obikanye. He spoke of the opportunities open to farmers to borrow money at 9 percent interest rate, based upon the bank’s developed working model which identifies aggregators with their growers and aggregators as primary obligors. Similar sentiments and observations were made by Mr –Arundel – Sakala, Standard Quality Coordinator, of the Zambia Food Reserve Agency that stressed the need for aggregation as a means for a steady supply of maize for food and industrial uses in Zambia thus creating a guaranteed output market and Zanaco, ably represented by –Mr.Chali Mwefyeni, Head Food and Agriculture Banking—who  presented and discussed financial products tailored to the needs of the different categories of farmers aiming to do farming as a business.

Dr. Ajala assessed the conference as “very successful because it has achieved its objective aimed at having a common understanding of what it takes to transform the maize scenario in Africa through enhancing its level of competitiveness.” He was particularly delighted with the involvement of the private sector “that each of them came with a special interest and focus; there were those in the value chain development business, inputs distribution, equipment leasing and end-users. It was an aggregation of people that had a role to play to increase maize productivity.”

Several and various scientific papers were presented accompanied with robust discussion by the audience. Dr. Sam Ajala, the convener of the conference presented two papers on Enhancing Maize Competitiveness in Africa and Maize Seed production and system development under SARD-SC project.

SARD-SC Maize conducts monitoring and evaluation of its activities in Zambia

The SARD-SC Maize carried out its annual monitoring and evaluation exercise for the year in Zambia from 4- 11 April 2017. The objective of the exercise was to ensure the activities conducted in the maize value chain were in line with the laid down objectives of the project. It was also to establish the effectiveness of the project regarding what has been planned against what has been achieved. The seven- man monitoring team was led by Dr. Sam Ajala, SARD-SC project Maize Commodity Specialist. A clear agenda and itinerary was developed and shared by Mr. Jeremiah Hantolo, Project Country coordinator, comprising   meetings and field visits.  The monitoring and evaluation exercise took the team to fields in target districts of the country to interact with the Project direct beneficiaries.

More importantly, the M&E exercise afforded the team opportunity to  assess the success of the various sub-projects  including among others, double density under various use of fertilizers  and  good crop management options  on improving  maize productivity and its rate of adoption among local farmers.

Traversing the countryside of Zambia, the team saw firsthand large swathe of maize farms across the country which have adopted double density method and other techniques of planting maize. Interestingly, all the Innovation Platforms working with the project  have adopted the method and implementing it on their  various farms, having  been taught  the accompanying best agronomic practices and use of  herbicide.

Some of the IPs visited were the Kapita Agricultural Camp IP, Chipata; Katete  IP in Mzime Agricultural Camp,  Kabwe Central; Nambo  Agricultural Camp  in Nkushi district, Mulima Farmer Group, Serenje district, Mainza Youth Group, Mainza village, Monze  District, Kabwembala Women’s club, Mbamunya women club both in Mbamunya village, Agro-business dealers and the  country’s Federal Food Agency  among others.

The team visited some large  maize farms, such as in Nambo Agricultural Camp , in Nkushi District, Kaloso farms, Kabwe among others  with double density planting which the farmers said have been very  beneficial  in terms of robust  yield thus leading to increased  productivity, eliminating intense weeding and  cost effective.

What then is double density method of maize planting? “Double density is increasing plant and fertilizer application on a maize farm. One does not need to hand weed because this method eliminates weeding on maize farm,” Dr. Ajala said. He continues: “Double density and use of herbicide and other complimentary crop management practices are the package that the SARD-SC project is selling to the local farmers. All these help maize yield and reduce drudgery. Once herbicide is applied at the planting stage, the farmer does not need to apply it anymore.”

The ‘gospel’ of double density preached by the project is fortunately and rapidly yielding converts. With project demonstration plots all over the country’s districts, there are worthy and inspiring testimonies from farmers who have embraced the method.  Samson Mwale, one of the farmers under the supervision of Ms. Petronella Hamainda, Camp extension officer, Zambia Ministry of Agriculture, Kapital IP, has  this say : “ I am proud of the  double density  method of planting, it gives me good yield and  the maize  variety Adv637w  planted  close with spacing of 75 by 25cm, boosted my yield. This method eliminates weeding.” Mwale  said he  controls weed  growth  by using pre-emergence  weed killer  which reduced the cost of maintaining the plot , while land preparation cost is  minimal; about 100 kwatcha (10 dollars).

While giving the overview of the Monitoring and Evaluation exercise in Zambia, Dr. Issaka Amadou , SARD-SC Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, concluded that the project has been successful in the country for achieving its set out objectives and  outcomes. “Last year, we saw reduced lack of implementation but this has been corrected.   “We have Demo trials all over the place, training of women in new product development  for maize has been achieved, farmer trainings  on double  density and good crop management, field days have been held and  local farmers have been organized into Innovation Platforms and many of the places we visited we  saw that the  farmers are very committed to executing what the  project taught them.”  Dr. Amadou also said quantity of resources used have been efficient and assured that the project has higher chances of being sustainable after the project ends because of the involvement of development partners such as ZARI.

Other project members on the monitoring and evaluation team were Steve Kingi, Agribusiness Specialist; Seyi Fashokun, Accountant; Ms. Zulfawu Yahaya, Procurement Specialist; and Ms. Bola Adewole, Communication Officer and Ackson Mooya from IITA Zambia. Members of the ZARI team were Friday Sinkamba and Petan Hamzakaza.

Project stimulates rural economy by establishing cassava community processing centers in DRC

The Cassava Community Processing Centers (CCPCs) are currently stimulating the economy and creating employment to the rural populations of Kavumu village, in the Kabare territory of South-Kivu province of the DR Congo. Until the introduction of the CCPC in early 2015, there was serious unemployment for the inhabitants of Kavumu community.

The CCPC is a collective agroprocessing enterprise made of farmers’ groups for the processing of fresh cassava roots, High Quality Cassava Flour, fermented flour, garri, and starch. These activities within the Center bring the community together. boost the market for cassava roots, flour, and cassava recipes, and facilitate access to healthy cassava planting materials through the multiplication farms by CCPC members and the local farmers around the factory. Through the SARD-SC project, members of the CCPC were trained on good agronomic practices in cassava cropping systems, business plan development, and market linkage. At the end of the training, participants realized the many opportunities and profitable businesses in the cassava sector, and have now started practicing the techniques they learned. They have also started training other small associations and farmer groups within their community.

In addition to the training, the project gave the organization healthy cassava planting materials for a 2 ha plot from which they harvested 67 tons of raw roots for US$5955.5 at 80 Fc/kg. Kavumu CCPC now employs five regular staff receiving monthly salaries as well as casual workers (around 20 persons each day).

Initially, market for the cassava products was a big problem until the CCPC was linked to the IITA Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (IKYA). As the CCPC started boosting the market with cassava products, members of the Kavumu community were encouraged to get more involved in the cassava sector and many have benefitted greatly from it. A very good example is a young woman named Mapendo Kabiona Benedicte who is one of the Kavumu CCPC staff. She is the fifth child from a family of seven children (three girls and four boys) whose parents are farmers. Through the support of her parents, she had earlier obtained a diploma in 2014 but she couldn’t gain admission into university to pursue a degree due to lack of funds. As a result, she looked for a job, even as a primary school teacher, but could not get one.

However, following her successful participation in the SARD-SC project training Benedicte was offered a job at Kavumu CCPC with a monthly salary of US$60. In addition, she has been able to convince her parents to produce more cassava to supply CCPC. With increased resources, she has enrolled to study a course in the university.