Maize clusters in Nigeria
Two new maize clusters in southwest Nigeria are now operating at full throttle. The Oyo and Ogbomoso clusters together include 750 farmers cultivating 1,400 hectares of maize. Three new partners have brought in new ideas and new technologies. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture offers technologies for aflatoxin control. OneLife Initiative, a local NGO, provides training and business support services. The Caretaker Microfinance Bank offers credit and financial advice.
- Farmers in both clusters are now buying agro-chemicals, fertilizers and seeds collectively, at lower prices.
- A number of farmers have submitted business plans to financial institutions and are likely to receive loans.
- A demonstration farm has been established to promote new technologies such as high-yielding varieties, aflatoxin control, soil fertility management and mechanized planting and weeding.
- The clusters have been linked to a buyer, and will deliver 30 tons of maize later this year. If this pilot works well, volumes will more than double next season.
Training sessions were designed to address farmer priorities, as identified during community meetings. Training focused on several areas: agronomy practices, gaps in the maize value chain (and how to bridge them), and correct agro-input use (e.g. how to guard against counterfeit chemicals).
Lessons learned: By choosing the right technology, linking with the right partners
and ensuring full community participation, a platform has been laid for the next stage, which is contracting with large-scale buyers. We’ve also learned lessons along the way, which will guide future efforts.
The inclusive approach helped ensure that project partners understand the local production system, and that farmers understand what 2SCALE does and does not offer. Farmers said their two biggest problems were the risks involved in agri-input purchase (expensive, quality and efficacy not guaranteed) and the unavailability of credit. Both issues are being addressed.
Many farmers use fertilizers, but very few have a good understanding of crop nutrition and the correct timing and method of fertilizer application. Training programs were designed (in some cases, redesigned) accordingly. Farmers identified the key factors that determine choice of agronomic practice, and those that influence profitability – especially for dry-season maize, which is a major income earner for most families. With this knowledge, socio-economic aspects will be strengthened in next season’s work plans.