Nigeria has plenty of fertile land but struggles to feed itself. Seeing an opportunity to make the agricultural sector more productive and profitable, the Nigerian government partnered with USAID and Chemonics in 2012 to launch the Maximizing Agricultural Revenues and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS) II project. MARKETS II is the third iteration of the project; the original MARKETS activity started in 2005. And in the last few years, the project has developed a comprehensive training approach that is transforming the country’s farms into businesses, and empowering farmers and internally displaced people.
Each of the targeted value chains — rice, maize, soy, aquaculture, cocoa, and more — have their own crop production and soil management workshops. These training sessions are often led by master trainers and take place throughout the agriculture cycle. Follow-up visits to farms are designed to ensure continued adoption of approaches and technologies. In addition, the project delivers business and financial workshops. This multi-layered approach has led to major productivity increases and a better quality of life for Nigerians across the country.
Farming as a Business
“I never thought I was capable of having such a good life, and especially not from farming,” said Vitalis Tanongo. Vitalis had never farmed, but he heard about an upcoming training and went to learn about rice farming best practices. The training paid off, and he eventually increased his farmland to 10 hectares, diversifying to include sesame, soybeans, and maize.
Vitalis then focused on the business side of agriculture, attending a training about conducting market surveys and buying inputs during the off-season. He was able to increase his cultivated land to 40 hectares and his yields to five metric tons per hectare, and now supplies several Nigerian agribusinesses, including UMZA Rice Mill in Kano state.
Using the profits from his successful farming business, Vitalis bought two houses and sends his children to one of the best schools in the state. He also gives back to the community. Following clashes between herdsmen and farmers in his locality, he distributed two kilograms of rice seed to 2,000 displaced farmers. He also works with 400 farmers by providing them with seed and teaching them about MARKETS II’s recommended practices through demonstration plots.
“I see a very bright future ahead of me,” he said. “This project opened my eyes to see the business opportunities in agriculture, and equipped me with skills to explore them.”