By Peter Ejiofor
Nestlé Nigeria Plc says it is helping Nigerian farmers to improve their livelihoods by empowering smallholder farmers on sustainable farming practices.
Nestle made the assertion on Tuesday in Lagos as it joined the rest of the world to commemorate the annual World Agriculture Day which was celebrated on Monday.
The company said it was carrying out the objective in collaboration with International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC)/2Scale, under the initiative, Nestlé Nigeria & IFDC/2Scale Project Sorghum & Millet.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the partnership aims to improve grain quality and productivity.
“Nestlé, together with its implementing partners, has made significant impact in the past two years, training over 7,905 sorghum and 1,069 millet farmers on good agricultural pre-harvest and post-harvest practices.
“Twenty-two per cent of these farmers are women. The farmers testify to a significant increase in income. This change is due to an increase in productivity, improved crop quality and the availability of a ready market, which eliminates the negative influence of middlemen.
“Before Nestlé Nigeria & IFDC/2Scale Project Sorghum & Millet’s intervention, the yield per hectare was 0.9 tons,’’ it said in a statement by its Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Victoria Uwadoka.
“In the first year of the project in 2015, the yield doubled to 1.3 tons/hct, and reached 1.8 tons/hct in 2017.
“The target is to reach 2.20 tons/hct in 2018 farming season, progressing towards the maximum yield capacity of 2.35 tons/hct of the crop varieties.’’
The company also said that another contributor to the increase in income was the improved negotiating skills of farmers, an outcome of the business training and coaching they had received.
“The coaching sessions have led to farmers becoming much more confident about their position and the quality of their products.
“For women producers, this has had an especially strong impact. One example of this can be found in Mrs Hanna Musa, one of the two women in the negotiations team.
“Prior to the coaching, she had been too shy to speak up, but the opportunity to participate in the negotiations on Nestlé’s terms of delivery and payment, helped her grow into her leadership role,’’ the statement said.
On the drivers of the outcome of Nestlé Nigeria & IFDC/2Scale Project Sorghum & Millet, Mr Maxwell Olitsa, Project Manager, IFDC said: “We achieved the results in the field by empowering farmers to adopt best practices and new technology.
“Showing in addition to telling also made a lot of difference. 27 demo plots were established; six of them managed by women, where best farming practices are demonstrated.
“The demo plots are always accessible to the farming clusters to provide continuous technical support and coaching in the field.’’
It noted that to ensure crop integrity from farm to factory gate, the project also trained aggregators, pesticide spray providers and input suppliers.
“This 360-degree approach has significantly reduced post-harvest losses, while helping to improve the livelihoods of farmers within the project.
“Nestlé projects that the continued intervention with its partners will result in sustainable supplies of high quality grains required for its production sites,’’ it said.
Mr Mauricio Alarcon, the Managing Director, Nestlé Nigeria said: “Today, we source about 80 per cent of our agricultural raw material in the country.
“As we work towards increasing this percentage, we remain committed to working alongside our partners to further improve the quality and quantity of grains and legumes,’’ Alarcon said emphasizing the impact of the project on the livelihoods of farmers and on the company.
“The results we have achieved so far with Nestlé Nigeria & IFDC/2Scale Project Sorghum & Millet is an example of what is possible when we look at the agriculture value chain holistically from the farm to storage, to transportation, and right down to the factory gate and take definite measures to close the gaps,’’ he said.
NAN reports that partnership is consistent with Nestlé’s business approach of Creating Shared Value (CSV) for the company and for society.
On one side, the project ensures that the local supply of grains and legumes meet the company’s high food safety and quality standards, while it helps increase the revenue of farmers who have higher yields by applying good agricultural practices.
One of the ways the company works towards achieving its purpose which is, “enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future’’, is by helping to reduce crop contamination and post-harvest losses.
These often result from poor farming practices, including sun drying, poor storage and logistics.
This is important because crop contaminants, like mycotoxins, threaten the health and lives of humans and animals.
For over 57 years, Nestle has been delighting consumers across Nigeria by consistently delivering high quality nutritious food.
With a staff strength of over 2,200 direct employees, 3 manufacturing sites, eight branch offices and a head office located in Lagos, the company produces and markets several iconic brands — MAGGI, MILO, GOLDEN MORN, NESTLÉ PURE LIFE, NESCAFÉ and CERELAC.