Interview with Patrick Agboma, on phase one of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program

06/11/2013
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What is Agriculture Value Chain
“Agricultural value chain entails all the activities from the field to the fork, and encompasses the steps from primary production, processing, storage, transportation, and marketing/export to consumption of commodities.”

Question - As the team leader for this program, what were the challenges your team faced and how did you tackle them?

Answer: The concept of value chain is variously interpreted. Some relate it to the processes or activities by which a company adds value to an article, including production, marketing, and the provision of after-sales service. To others, it means the whole series of activities that create and build value at every step. Agricultural value chain entails all the activities from the field to the fork, and encompasses the steps from primary production, processing, storage, transportation, and marketing/export to consumption of commodities.

Consider the innovative nature of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda whereby the Government had opted to use the Staple Crop Processing Zone model as the preferred entry point with emphasis on productivity enhancement and infrastructure development. Processing Zones are specially delimited contiguous expanses of land in areas of high agricultural potential where the provision of well-developed physical infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, and water are necessary for private sector led production, processing and marketing activities for strategic commodities such as rice, sorghum, cassava, horticulture, cotton, cocoa, oil palm, livestock, fisheries, etc.

Nigeria is a geographically large country with a complex administrative environment. The multi-sectoral program required a team of seasoned experts including consultants to harness all views and string together a program. Several studies were conducted in relevant areas, such as infrastructure surveys of the Processing Zones and value chain assessments for the priority commodities to guide the Bank’s design approach for ATASP-1. The Bank team which comprised experts from OSAN, OPSM, OITC, OSHD and ORPF had to think outside the box and figure out how to deliver an investment document even when the Master Plan studies for the Processing Zones had not been fully developed.

Question: What are the special characteristics of ATASP-1 that will enable it help Nigeria transform its agricultural sector into a profitable business?

Answer: ATASP-1 is giving equal attention to constraints along the entire value chain in selected Staple Crops Processing Zones. The activities outlined in the novel Outreach Program will focus on human capacity building in agribusiness; and facilitate the formation/development of more efficient production clusters geared towards establishing a reliable supply of the commodities (rice, cassava and sorghum) to industries.

Key impacts of ATASP-1 are additional incomes to an increased number of producers and entrepreneurs in the sector by the creation of about 120,000 jobs along the value chain of priority commodities; and additional 20 million metric tons of key commodity food items added to domestic food supply per annum.

Question: Reports from Bank funded projects in Nigeria indicate that while farmers have made significant gains by adopting improved crop varieties and farming practices, productivity still falls far below the full potential along the commodity value chains. How can this problem be solved?

Answer: ATASP-1 has prioritized integration of women and most especially youths into markets. Targeted support for value addition through processing, better nutritious product and market linkages to improve profits and incomes are critical for enhanced productivity along the continuum from subsistence to commercial agriculture. 

Question: The problems of transportations and storage have been identified as key impediments to agriculture and the agro-industry in Nigeria. How will this project help to solve these problems?

Answer: One of the key constraints that ATASP-1 intends to overcome is the prevalent high post-harvest losses incurred by producers, processers and marketers of paddy and processed rice; cassava tubers and starch; and sorghum heads and flour as a result of poor infrastructure. ATASP-1 will rehabilitate a total of 1,330 kms of feeder and access roads to link these centers of agribusiness with community markets and major trunk roads. Apart from the 22 storage silos and warehouses already installed by the private sector and Government in the Processing Zones, three additional warehouses will be constructed to boost the storage capacities for the expected increase in production and processing in relevant Processing Zones. A total of 14 community markets will be rehabilitated and extended to include storage facilities equipped with power and water supply. Given the expected increases in incomes from the Program, beneficiaries will be able to bear the operation and maintenance costs of the production infrastructure to ensure their sustainability.

Question: “With women comprising about 70% of the agricultural sector production force, ATASP-1 will positively impact on the lives and livelihoods of women and their families.” How will this objective be attained in concrete terms?

Answer: The Program will achieve competitive domestic food supply and increase in the income levels of farmers, processors and marketers of which about 70% are women. Furthermore, ATASP-1 will create 120,000 jobs along the commodity value chains and with 60% of these being females; ensure access to credit and other resources to women; facilitate acquisition of tested processing equipment among women processors groups; and provide capacity building in agribusiness and entrepreneurship to the women in the Program.

For inclusivity, the Program shall ensure access to credit and other resources to women; facilitate acquisition of tested processing equipment among women processors groups; and provide capacity building (agribusiness and entrepreneurial, etc.) for women. The Outreach Program has set aside about UA4.22 million for these women-related activities.

Question: The project intends to improve crop varieties that might require the introduction of genetically modified crop which has spawned a lot of debate in African agriculture. Does the Bank have a policy on GMOs? How will it be applicable in this case?

Answer: The development of cutting-edge biotechnology techniques to move genetic materials within or between species to produce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has been associated with increased agricultural productivity. Conferred traits include insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, drought tolerance, salt tolerance and nitrogen fixation in leguminous plants. Proponents of gene biotechnology maintain that it would enhance food security, increase output on marginal lands and limit the use of irrigation and pesticides. Its opponents argue that its use poses potential dangers to human health, biological diversity, ecosystems, species and genetic resources.

The Bank does not have a policy on the use of bio-technology but seeks to develop a position after full consultation with stakeholders. To this end, the Bank commissioned the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to conduct a study on agriculture bio-technology in Africa to provide adequate scientific information to assist it develop its position on the subject. A draft report was reviewed in August 2013.  

There are no plans to promote GMOs through ATASP-1. However, the Outreach Program will use biotechnology to ensure access of Nigeria smallholder farmers to improved genetic materials that are high yielding, having good organoleptic quality, and are resistant / tolerant to pests and diseases.