A USAID-supported program commercially distributes specially blended fertilizer to smallholder farmers to help them increase their crop yields and become more food secure.
Nasara Rolland is a smallholder farmer in northern Nigeria who has been using customized fertilizer on her five-acre farm for three years. The fertilizers introduce the correct ratio of elements like nitrogen and phosphorus that local soils need, thus helping the crops to perform well. This has quadrupled her maize and rice yield and put more food on her family’s table. She is one of 74,000 smallholder farmers, half of them women, who have benefited from a partnership between the USAID West Africa Trade and Investment Hub Activity and OCP Africa Fertilizers Nigeria Limited (OCP Africa), a company that develops fertilizers customized to local conditions and crop needs. OCP Africa’s Farm and Fortune Hubs (The Hubs), part of this OCP partnership with USAID, is helping farmers like Rolland increase their crop yields through easy access to fertilizer in light of rising fertilizer prices across the globe.
The Hubs help smallholder farmers like Rolland access the farming inputs they need, as well as training on good agricultural practices. (Note: OCP does not have a direct legal agreement with USAID; it has a grant agreement with the USAID-funded Trade Hub). Now, OCP sells these blends to farmers at 135 Hubs throughout the country where farmers are trained on good agricultural practices. The blends, combined with the training farmers receive on fertilizer usage, plant spacing and agricultural management, help farmers boost their crop yields and use farming resources more efficiently — this is critical at a time when COVID-19, high food, fuel, and fertilizer prices, protracted conflicts, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago, and climate shocks are compounding impacts that threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
The Hubs are meeting the moment to help farmers like Rolland.
“I am full of joy,” Rolland said. “I have food to feed my family, take extra food to market for extra income and can pay for school [fees] for my four children.”
Rolland has used her surplus to pay for her children’s school fees and hopes to grow her family farm into a more profitable business someday. Photo Credit: West Africa Trade and Investment Hub
Nigeria is a leading importer of fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, but the ongoing conflict has had a devastating effect on food security — without affordable fertilizer, farmers will see declining yields and escalated food prices. Fertilizer is an essential tool for these farmers, as it enhances the fertility of soil or restores depleted nutrients from previous growing seasons. That’s where OCP comes in: At the blending facility, farmers’ soils are tested in a laboratory to determine the nutrient content and generate a custom fertilizer blend for their soils. The nutrient test also helps farmers determine the quantity of fertilizer to use, helping them save on fertilizer costs. To date, the partnership has produced more than 15,000 metric tons of fertilizer tailored to the soil needs of smallholder farmers and a 24 percent increase in maize yield for participating farmers. The facility produces custom fertilizer blends for other staple crops in Nigeria such as rice, soybean, cassava, tomato and wheat.
At the Hubs, trained “agripromoters” teach classes on good agricultural practices, said Oluwatoba Asana, country manager for OCP Africa. They also visit farmers on their land and teach through videos, recordings, visual aids and use demonstration plots. Asana said the partnership eventually aims to train more Nigerian farmers across 250 Hubs. OCP Africa also offers fertilizer and other supplies to farmers through its OCP Agribooster Initiative, which provides farmers with access to finance and markets to sell their produce.
Meanwhile, Rolland has spread the word in her community about the specially blended fertilizer she uses on her farm, and after seeing her surplus, many have decided to join. Before joining the Hubs, Rolland used manure as fertilizer and had no modern agricultural knowledge about fertilizer usage which contributed to low yields. Hunger was the norm in her community.
“They were skeptical of my new methods but seeing is believing,” Rolland said of her neighbors. “When my community saw my success, they rushed to me and asked me questions and I pointed them to where I learned the new farming practices.”
Rolland said that she aims to grow her family farm into a larger, more profitable, business. Her first name, after all, means “success” in her mother tongue of Hausa.