Over the past few months, increased violence in the northern and central regions of Nigeria has hindered AgResults activities in the West African country. With at least 50 people killed across the country, numerous properties (included homes, farmland, and commercial buildings) destroyed or severely damaged, the Nigerian military has increased its activities in attempts to stem the violence, implementing strict curfews that stems movement. Because of this, the AgResults Nigeria Aflasafe™ Pilot private sector grain aggregators, farmers, and staff members have had to slow and even completely halt their activities in the country.
Fantsuam Foundation and Alaya, both grain aggregators operating in the Kafanchan and Kaura areas of the central state of Kaduna have reported that, as well as AFFPON and Kifco, who operate in the eastern state of Taraba, have all halted their activities due to the strict curfews as well as the threat of attack. By not being able to travel safely and easily through these regions, they cannot reach smallholder farmers and work with them to apply Aflasafe™ to their crops and to improve their farming techniques to improve their outcomes.
What is worse, in addition to not being able to receive crucial assistance from AgResults’ grain aggregators, smallholder farmers themselves have been targeted by the violence. Vast swaths of farmland have been burned and their crops destroyed. Additionally, farmers are no longer willing to travel to the grain aggregators to sell their crop because thefts of grain and other goods have been reported. Leaving their grain unsold, and their livelihoods at risk.
Working in delicate political climates is always a risk to development projects across the world, and AgResults Nigeria Aflasafe™ Pilot is no different. The pilot was initially designed to serve only the north, however, given the ongoing issues with violence this region sees, AgResults redesigned the pilot to work in both the north and the south. By doing so, the pilot was able to diversify and build a strong market for Aflasafe™ despite potential violence. As it stands now, the market for Aflasafe™ continues to grow across Nigeria. This year alone, applicants to join the project have exceeded projections, and farmers continue to report receiving a premium on maize treated with Aflasafe™
External circumstances, such as violence in target areas, government policies, or conflicting donor activities have the potential to distort the results of a pull mechanism by impeding implementers’ activities in the case of the violence in Nigeria, or distort the market activities by adding government or donor funding; distorting the overall impact the pull mechanism has on creating a vibrant market and/or improving the lives of target populations. But these potential external circumstances should not deter donors from considering designing and implementing pull mechanisms. Instead, donors need to analyze the situation and ultimately design accordingly, as was the case in the AgResults Nigeria Pilot.
The Nigeria Alfasafe™ Pilot Team has the safety and security of our implementers and farmers as a key priority and therefore supports their decision to place safety over results. The complete impact the violence has had on the overall results of the pilot is yet to be seen, and may never really be understood, however, a key lesson is to understand that in many developing country contexts, these external circumstances occur and where possible should be built into any pull mechanism design.