Mrs. Monica Maigari: An award-winning Local Soybean Processor in Madakiya
Monica Maigari was chosen to participate in the 2016 Oxfam conference as a Female Food Hero because of her contribution to food security in the Madakiya community of Nigeria. The Female Food Hero Contest recognizes the achievement of women smallholders and gives them a platform to share their experiences, which can benefit many other smallholder farmers and their communities. With her wealth of knowledge in soybean processing, Monica adapts recipes to her local area (including Tom Brown porridge). According to Oxfam, Monica is a shining example in leading the way to fight hunger and in helping her community adapt to climate change. This is Monica’s story.
“I’m Monica Josua Maigari from Madakiya district, Kaduna state. I’m married with four children, and I’m a small-scale farmer. I started farming in 2000 when I joined a cooperative society that linked us to the Abenego Youth Foundation in Madakiya. This NGO gathered small-scale farmers and gave us capacity building training. Before, I was using old farming methods and was achieving little to no yield or profit. I invested all the money I earned back in farming. I did not get any profits. I used to farm 1 hectare, and depending on the season, I grew rice, maize, and soybean. During the training we learned how to use improved seeds, but also about proper placement of seeds planted, and the correct use of fertilizer. These techniques helped women in our cooperative improve their yields. We’ve started hiring tractor services, but because of our location, it’s rather expensive. To cut down on these expenses, we’re considering options for having a tractor in our community.
We joined the 2SCALE program in 2012, and the project introduced many changes to our community. For example, in the past, once we harvested our crops, middlemen would purchase them at cheap prices. Now we know more about the value chain, and this knowledge helped us to develop a business-oriented cooperative and to make us more unified. The greatest change that 2SCALE introduced is the awareness to do better business, notably by going into processing. We now know how to add value to our product by producing ginger powder, moringa, and now Tom Brown. Processing and selling these products have improved our living conditions. We are now using this knowledge to diversify our business, and we want to focus on Tom Brown.
We are so enthusiastic about Tom Brown because of the market opportunity. There isn’t a similar product on the market, and though everyone likes it, there isn’t any competition for it yet. However, we are still producing it manually. We have a lot of challenges, such as the packaging and processing. We need to have our own milling machine, to make sure our product does not get mixed with other products. Mobility is also a problem because we need to transport the product to sell it. When I started, our cooperative included 15 ladies, but now, after seeing the progress we’ve made, more women are joining the cooperative. We are now 50 members, and if we join forces we might be able to purchase a milling machine of our own. It used to cost 150,000 Naira (EUR 444,-) , but because of the current dollar issue in Nigeria, prices have risen, and this machine may now cost over 200,000 Naira (EUR 592,-).
Another challenge is ensuring that the Tom Brown package includes a proper registration number by the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. We don’t have the required knowledge to go through this process, so 2SCALE’s support on this issue is critical to us.
Beyond the support to brand our product, 2SCALE has enabled us to scale out. I got to participate in a competition by OXFAM in 2014 and was awarded a prize as a Female Food Hero. Following this international recognition, in 2016, I was also invited to share my experience in Ethiopia and in the United States in the framework of International Women’s Day. I won this international recognition because I brought a sample of all the products that we learned to process and because I was able to explain how we do our business and what our vision for the future is. My interest in agriculture started when I was in primary school where we were taught how to garden around the house. Later when I went to university, I completed my studies in the field of home economics, which I’m now teaching at school and in my community.
As for Tom Brown, the market is very big because the porridge is a daily food for most people in the area. However, they are making it by themselves. It takes time to make it, and not everybody can do it well, so people often ask me to supply them with the product. Our Tom Brown product is made with many ingredients, including sorghum and soybean, which we source from cluster members, groundnuts, ginger, and another spice that we call “canambary,” which adds flavor. Ordinary Tom Brown is not always as clean as ours. Our Tom Brown is meticulously clean, and we take pride in selecting only high-quality ingredients to make it. The product is also affordable, as we sell the pack for 50 Naira (EUR 0,15). The main issue is that the product needs to be branded to make it well-known, and 2SCALE is supporting us in this process. Once this is done, we will be able to advertise it, and we hope to increase our sales and negotiate contracts with school feeding programs. We are also trying to get a loan to buy the material we need to install modern equipment. With the support of 2SCALE we were able to get small loans twice, which we could reimburse completely. Once people taste the product and demand becomes higher, we plan to apply for loans again.”