In Kaduna in northern Nigeria, Laraba and Hanatus stand around heaps of freshly harvested maize. After a long harvest, the women look tired, a little worn out, but their smiles are as radiant as the Nigerian sun: they are enjoying the most productive season of their lives. Such a season will provide them a steady income, and safe food for their families for at least a year, if not more, to come.
This was not always the case. In years prior, despite hard work and dedication to their land, these women often faced mediocre and contaminated harvests because they lacked the knowledge and access of new farming techniques that increase yields and protect their crops. Because of this, their income was never reliable enough to plan for the future. This all changed because of a new partnership with Fantsuam, a new private sector company that fills a much needed void between farmers and the market in Nigeria.
Fantsuam works mostly with female farmers and provides them with crucial knowledge on how to improve their farming practices. They teach these women better farming techniques and visit them periodically throughout the crop cycle for additional technical assistance. They also encourage them to adopt AflasafeTM, a biocontrol effective to combat Aflatoxin contamination in maize. Finally, they provide an essential bridge that barely existed before between these women and the market.
Fantsuam is not alone in improving the harvests of smallholder farmers across Nigeria. In southern Nigeria, Agbelere recently started working with 120 farmers. In addition to providing them with yield-enhancing inputs and technical assistance, Agbelere sold the high-quality aflatoxin-free maize sourced from these farmers at an average price that was US $52 higher per metric ton than the going rate for maize. Agbelere shared the profits with the farmers and built on that success to partner with over 500 farmers in its second year.
In Nigeria, while smallholder farmers like Laraba and Hanatus produce 70% of the nation’s maize crop, they often use antiquated cropping techniques, produce maize often contaminated by aflatoxin and are therefore considered not a viable partner for commercial needs.
Through the AgResults Nigeria project, the governments of Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are incentivizing maize aggregators like Fantsuam and Agbelere to consider these traditionally nonviable partners to form mutually beneficial partnerships to produce high-quality aflatoxin-free maize. Aggregators provide farmers with inputs, including AflasafeTM, technical assistance and market linkages. Aggregators have field officers visit farmers periodically throughout the crop cycle for additional technical assistance. AgResults gives a premium to the aggregators in addition to the market premium they receive from selling aflatoxin-free maize. Many aggregators share these incentives in various ways back with their farmers to strengthen their partnership.
In addition to incentivizing the production of aflatoxin-free maize using AflasafeTM as a biocontrol agent, AgResults has seen an added benefit of encouraging private sector maize aggregators and smallholder farmers to work together to build a more profitable and healthier maize market by building long term farmer capacity. Furthermore, farmers that employ better farming techniques, are more economically secure, and have safe maize for home consumption.
The Nigeria prize competition is one of six that currently being implemented by the $118 million AgResults partnership. Prize competitions offer a new method for the public sector to engage the private sector and use funds effectively and efficiently for greater impact. While every prize competition addresses a unique, country specific issue, each pilot was carefully designed to effect immediate change while assisting local actors to build long-term capacity to ensure sustainability beyond the prize competition.