Fighting Poverty One Farmer at a Time

by Abimbola Otepola, Corporate Communications Analyst, AFEX

In the spring of 2021, three AFEX staff came together to visit farmers working in small farms in Northern Nigeria, Kaduna State. The afternoon trip was part of a larger project that is supporting small-scale agriculture, lifting farmers out of poverty, and increasing market access to locally-grown food.

Alhaji Yunsua Dauda with his wives and children.

With his daughters and sons by his side, Alhaji Yunsua Dauda proudly shows off the large iron-roofed house, provision shops, he recently built selling maize, soybean, and paddy rice from his small farm in rural Kaduna. Only 10 meters down the street stand the remnants of his old and much smaller home that housed his 4 wives and 17 children. The rusty structure serves as a poignant reminder of the life of extreme poverty, Yunsua and his family have left behind.

“I didn’t acquire all of these overnight”, he quickly jumps in. “Four years ago, before I joined AFEX, I had 7 hectares of land that was wasting away. I didn’t have access to fertilizers, seeds, manpower, or other resources to increase my harvest, so I leased out my farm. I had to rely on the profit from my shop to feed my family. And that itself, was little compared to anything at all.”

For thousands of people in Northern Nigeria, Agriculture has huge potential to alleviate poverty, increase the income farmers make from their produce, and improve farmers’ access to global markets. The community is highly reliant on growing crops such as maize, beans, paddy rice — staples in the Nigerian diet. Yet there are largely underutilized hectares of farmland in excellent conditions for growing cultivated commodities.

Since farming without resources can be arduous, farmers like Yunsua have found a friend and partner in AFEX warehouses.

On this day, driving into the warehouse at Soba, we are welcomed by a pyramid of grains and a line-up of trucks, stacking up grains ready to be delivered to the markets. For Emmanuel Archie, the warehouse manager at Soba, this grainy scenery means a bumper harvest, translation — more money for everyone involved in the value chain.

“Agriculture is the key to unlocking wealth in this part of the world. However, the high cost of farming inputs like fertilizers, seeds, agrochemicals, and lack of farming tools inhibit farmers from cultivating large areas of land. Some farmers will have like 10 hectares of land and only cultivate 1. Essentially that’s why we started the loan program at AFEX because these farmers need every support they can get to grow at a larger and faster pace.”

Emmanuel Archie, Warehouse Manager at AFEX.

Emmanuel isn’t far from the truth. Since the inception of the input financing program, over $18.5 million has been raised with a 92% loan recovery rate from farmers. The improvement in the livelihoods of the farmers who have participated in the program show how sound farm management, financial inclusion, access to inputs, storage services, and markets, can be key elements in overcoming challenges to poverty alleviation. Many rural farming communities who lack access to these remain stuck in chronic poverty. Yunusa is just one example of a farmer who has been able to escape this reality by working with AFEX.

“No one is ever happy when the family cannot eat a normal meal or even send the children to school. I remember before I joined the AFEX community, I couldn’t harvest up to 50 bags of grains on my farm. In 2016 when I joined and got my hectare disbursement with the help of improved seeds, fertilizer, and training on how to plant better. I harvested over 7 metric tons of maize. It was a bumper harvest.”

The loan disbursement program has helped him drastically increase his yields from 50 to 200 bags of maize. This means his profits have grown from 10,000 naira to over 300,000 naira a month. Enough money, Yunsua claims, to have refined his life enough to build more shops, buy more cows, and take better care of his growing family.

Alhaji Yunsua Dauda.

But he is not the only farmer to see a change in his life. How about the story of a teacher-turned warehouse manager? There is more.

Watch out for the next part in our next post.

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