THE Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase One (ATASP-1) is a collaboration between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, which is being funded by the AfDB as its contribution to agricultural development in Nigeria.
The ATASP-1 is being implemented in five years (2015-2019). The objective of ATASP-1 is to ensure attainment of food and nutrition security, contribute to employment generation and wealth creation. The key outcomes include: Creation of 120,000 jobs; empowerment of 200,000 youths and women on various agricultural enterprises as well as production of 20,000 metric tonnes of food crops per annum for a period of five years of implementation.
When it was launched two years ago, ATASP-1 focused on commodity value chain development alongside infrastructure development as some of its key components in four Staple Crop Processing Zones.
The four Staple Crop Processing Zones where the project is being implemented are Adani-Omor (in Enugu and Anambra states), Bida-Badeggi in Niger State, Kano-Jigawa and Sokoto-Kebbi covering a total of 28 local government areas.
When the Programme Coordinator of ATASP-1, Mr Haruna Akwashiki was asked why the areas of intervention were chosen, he said “the choice of these zones was a result of various assessments of the capacities of selected states which revealed that the four Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZs) of Adani-Omor, Bida-Badeggi, Kano-Jigawa and Kebbi-Sokoto had comparative advantages in the three agricultural commodities that the Project is promoting. These crops are rice, sorghum and cassava.
“ATASP-1 is covering 33 LGAs in seven states of Anambra, Enugu, Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Niger and Sokoto with a land area of 194,426 square kilometers and a population of 32,121,944 people who are predominantly farmers. The participating states indicated their willingness to support the implementation of the project.
Specific objective of the project is to identify and promote science-based solutions for rice, sorghum and cassava value chains through technology production and distribution of quality seeds and planting materials strengthened by well-built seed systems.
The programme is targeted at smallholder farmers mainly youths and women trained by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, AfricaRice and ICRISAT along the value chains and assisted with improved technology to record good yield in their farms and product development skills.
A farmer in Enugu, Bernard Idu, who through the programme has increased production to 10 hectares, said the improved technology and the seeding system training he received from ATASP-1 was a tonic point in the yield of the crop.
Mr. Idu stressed that the difference is clear in terms of what used to be and the change introduced by the program, adding that “the tonnage has dramatically increased.”
Mr. Ndidigwe Ezekiel Ekene, a 30 year old young graduate who has benefited from the ATASP-1 initiative. Ekene said that after his national youth service and having received training on farming decided to start a rice farm.
“What I got from ATASP-1 is numerous. Formerly what we do here is that we used to broadcast rice but with the intervention of ATASP-1 and with the help of AfricaRice, I adopted a new approach which has significantly increased the yield,” he said while arranging the bags of rice ready for transportation from the farm.
Furthermore, Mr. Ekene said: “What I used to get before the ATASP-1 intervention was 11 to 12 bags (of 130kg each) after broadcasting, but now I’m getting above 15 during the rain-fed and quantities we used to get are higher during the dry season.”
He said with the intervention of ATASP-1 things will get better for him in the future adding that “I don’t think there is any work that can make me stop farming unless you send me out of this country to where I cannot see land but once there is land there I will continue farming. What I have here is one hectare but I will like to expand my business to at least 10 hectares.”
In Niger State, the project has helped Alhaji Ahmed Ala, to improve his 50 hectares of sorghum farm with new and improved four varieties and connection to off-takers in Kano state, something that he said has expanded his financial coast.
He told Journalists while conducting them round his farm that he was expecting double the harvest this year because of the new varieties and extension services he got from ATASP-1.
Another farmer in Enugu, Mrs Lydia Onochie, who through the initiative owns 0.5 hectare of rice farm told journalists that her perception of farming has changed as a result of the training she and others received on seed multiplication
Mrs Onochie, posited that “Farming is no longer business as usual, it’s now a business; now I have a company who is going to buy my seeds, which means I’m going to get more money”, adding that she hopes to expand her farm to 3 hectares next season.
Alhaji Yahaya Mohammed, 49, and father of five from Wushishi local government Niger state cultivates cassava, maize, sorghum and millet but does more of cassava-an area he benefits from ATASP-1 intervention.
He told Journalists that with the new knowledge he received from the programme, the cassava yield appeared to be doing extremely better, adding that he is expecting over N1million from the hectare he cultivated under the programme.
Apart from farm initiatives, rural infrastructure like roads, markets, water and clinics were built across all the benefiting local governments in the participating states-some of the projects especially those in Orumba north in Anambra state are 90 per cent completed.
In Cassava production, the quantum of cassava production in Kila, Gwaram Local Government of Jigawa state will surprise any first time visitor – everywhere is cassava.
The farmes’ group, which has 1,250 members cultivating about 500 hectares of cassava, lack the basic training, equipment to process high quality cassava flour and garri for the Nigerian market.
Alhaji Magaji Danbaba, Chairman of the innovative platform and Alhaji Tijjani Adamu Ringim, who is the Production Manager/Acting Factory Manager, Jigawa Cassava Products Ltd Kila, Gwaram said ATASP-1intervention is changing the story of cassava production in the area.
The secretary of the Cassava Innovation Platform, Alhaji Danladi Isah, stressed that the project intervention would help not only the famers, but even the state cassava company, which would bounce back to life again.
So far, some processing machines have been supplied to the farmers and drying slabs, which would help farmers to adopt a more hygienic process is underway while some of the farmers have been trained on good agronomic practices.
Hajiya Rukaya Saidu, Women Leader, Cassava Processors told Journalists that they now have a better approach to cassava processing, adding that “the project is doing commendable work in the area of training the farmers and the processors.”
An 18-year old Safiya Musa at Farin Dutse was trained on Cassava Seed Multiplication in Abuja and Ibadan by IITA through ATASP-1and already producing in her one hectare farm – a very unusual achievement among her peers in the area.
Also, to ensure that farmers under the project get inputs (fertilizer) promptly, the ATASP arranged with the Kano State Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO) to supply fertilizer to the farmers at even much cheaper rate than the Federal Government’s recommended price of N5,500.
Across to Bunkure Local Government, several women in this area were trained in agricultural product development and they are already making money by coming up with various products through value addition to rice, cassava and sorghum.
Talatu Idi, 45, said: “we are so happy that ATASP-1 built a market for us. This is something we women here are so proud of” adding that she has received training on how to make Rice Milk, Rice Noodles and Doughnut as part of product development capacity building.
The mother of eight said she was able to generate more money and send her children to school because apart from farming, the training taught her many things about making more money.
In Kebbi-Sokoto Zone, the ATASP is executing several rice, sorghum and rural infrastructure (schools in Tukurwa community, Dandi LGA, clinics in Sabon Tunga, Suru LGA, water projects, markets for rice and sorghum) across many communities to strengthen smallholder farmers in the two states.
Hajiya Kulu Umaru Bogobiri, who produces sorghum told the reporters that the varieties have improved her yield by over 100 per cent from 15 bundles to 35. She has also been able to own two camels, two cows estimated at about N400, 000.