On August 9, in Abuja, Nigeria, ACDI/VOCA launched its newest initiative: Alliance Agriculture, a private-sector-led partnership to pilot an integrated network of input supply, buyers, and smallholder farmers around shared use irrigation schemes.
The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), an agency of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, invited Alliance Agriculture to implement its FAM-SMART initiative. This partnership will create opportunities for Nigerian smallholder farmers to become naira millionaires, climb out of poverty, and in so doing, increase Nigeria’s capacity to meet the food needs of its 180 million people.
Alliance Agriculture will work with farmers who come together in groups of up to 25 members on 50 contiguous hectares of land. Each group will have access to sprinkler irrigation from center pivots. Farmers will pay for the water they use with water meters, just like urban households do. Every cluster of 10 to 20 farmer groups will have a full-time, dedicated farm manager. The farm manager will help the farmer groups manage the production of three crops per year, using quality seed and other inputs, providing tractor services, and applying conservation tillage practices.
If helping thousands of smallholder farmers escape poverty is not exciting enough, Alliance Agriculture is a primarily private-sector led and funded initiative. The launch event and workshop, held at NIRSAL’s headquarters in Abuja, drew big names in Nigerian and international agribusiness, including John Deere, Premier Seed, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Valmont Irrigation, Naston Engineering, Olam, Dangote, Tata Nigeria, Sterling Bank, Union Bank, two Nigerian universities, and the University of Nebraska. At the launch, participants drafted detailed workplans and calendars to ensure that the first center pivot systems deliver water to smallholder groups by the end of 2017.
The partnership that FAM-SMART and Alliance Agriculture fosters will lower investment risks for all participants, making sure all farmers have timely access to the inputs they need and meeting the growing demand for agricultural commodities from the largest agricultural market in Africa.