Promoting international partnership among nations helps to reduce poverty and strengthens economic development. Through this kind of partnership, key areas of need are identified and programs and policies are tailored to empower the people.
International partners like the German Development Agency GIZ has been working with the government of three states in the country to promote sustainable development. In 2011, GIZ launched a Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria Programme (SEDIN) the objective of which is to increase employment and income generation for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). To achieve this, GIZ is partnering with the government of Ogun, Plateau and Niger states to empower local farmers by increasing crops of economic importance. The crops which are cassava, potatoes and Shea butter were chosen because the states are already known for production of these crops but with the GIZ partnership, it is expected that farmers in these states would go into large and commercial production.
Recently, GIZ had a media tour in Ogun state to evaluate the impact of the SEDIN programme on cassava farmers amongst others project.
In Ogun state which is the largest producer of cassava in Nigeria, local farmers have been trained and grouped into clusters to enhance large scale production of cassava for both food consumption and industrial use.
During a town hall meeting with commercial cassava growers in Ogun state, The Head of Programme of GIZ in Nigeria Mr. Christian Widmann explained that after field research in Ogun state, GIZ decided to work with local farmers who in the past were mainly concerned with the production of cassava for consumption. But it was discovered that five major starch producing companies were operating in Ogun state but they usually buy there cassava for production from Kwara state and elsewhere. This Mr. Widmann pointed out was not to the advantage of farmers with the largest production of cassava in Nigeria. Through workshop and training, GIZ has worked with the farmers in the area of marketing, proposal writing to companies, value-chain strategy etc. Mr. Widmann observed that cassava farmers in Ogun state have grown from mere local farmers who produce for food consumption to medium-scale production as they now partner with companies in the state to supply cassava for their large scale production of starch.
The Ogun state Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria AFAN, Mr. Olusegun Dasalu thanked GIZ for deciding to partner with farmers in the state as farmers have been encouraged to increase their cassava production. According to him since the partnership with GIZ, cassava farmers have improved in cassava production and are learning new skills beyond farming that has made them more presentable for business collaboration with key players in cassava processing business.
Mr. Dasalu revealed that some of the starch producing companies in the state require 360 tones of cassava per day for starch production. As a result of this, cassava farmers in the state are now growing cassava like never before to meet up to demand from the industries.
In his words “Before the discovery of oil in Nigeria, our economy depended solely on agriculture and farmers across the country lived as Kings. We used food crops to build structures like the groundnut pyramid in Kano but the discovery of oil has spelt doom for agriculture. Farmers are regarded as peasants but we thank GIZ for this partnership because cassava is now a gold crop. We the farmers and the large scale processors in industries are now in a partnership to supply cassava to them thereby creating a ready market for our produce”.
Mr. Dasalu appealed to the State and Federal government to make farming equipment available and affordable. According to him “The cost of hiring tractors from the State government is expensive and eat into our profit. Most of our cassava farms are situated in the interior and far from accessible roads. When we hire labourers to work in the farms and transport the cassava, the cost of transportation and tractor hiring cost are expensive. We have enough farming lands in Ogun state but we need loans to boost our production and reduce the human labour on our farms. Some cassava farmers have over ten hectares of land and if we keep using human labour, this would make farming taxing. Mechanized farming is important for large scale production of cassava and farmers in Nigeria should be sponsored to practice farming in that level”. I am hereby appealing to the federal and state government to increase budgetary allocation for agriculture because through agriculture unemployment and youth restiveness can be eradicated. Most us farmers in Nigeria are within the average age of 50 and we are growing old. We need people that will take over from us, unfortunately many of the youths including children of farmers are not showing intrest because they see agriculture as labour intensive.
The GIZ team to Ogun state also had a parley with Ogun state officials. The Commissioner for Information disclosed that the administration has established farm settlement that would engage youths in the state. He pointed out that the farm settlements are designed like the ones in the old western region during Awolowo administration, and young graduates with intrest in agriculture are been recruited. He thanked GIZ for choosing Ogun state for there poverty reduction and international partnership project.
Mr. Dirk Schulz of the German Embassy in Nigeria traced Nigeria-German partnership to 1975. He described Nigeria as a strategic country in Africa and believes that if poverty could be reduced in Nigeria it would reflect in other parts of the continent.Many Africans migrate due to poverty, war and food crisis but if there is stability and the people are empowered, they won’t migrate unnecessarily to other countries. Mr. Schulz noted that the recent migrant deaths in the Mediterranean could have been averted if there were opportunities for these people. When people migrate to other countries they pose risks and instability to there host.