Farming for Raphael Hunsa, Vice Chairman Rice Farmers Association, Lagos State chapter was just for consumption. Little did he know right there in the subsistence farming he was practicing that he could be comfortable and make a living in his occupation if he gets the support of the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement And Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS).
Like numerous others in the agricultural sector in Lagos state, the APPEALS project, developed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with World Bank and other stakeholders touched their lives, his productivity increased and his fortunes turned around.
Hunsa, who wants the six –year project expected to run between 2017 and 2023 to continue in Lagos state, said he has over 100 farmers wanting to benefit in the Rice value chain the APPEALS Project has developed in the state.
His story is just one of over 18,000 people across Lagos state who are beneficiaries of the project. This is the success story that Lagos APPEALS project has become today.
He said, ‘’To start with APPEAL has been doing so much beyond expectations to their farmers. I’m very proud to be a rice farmer because without food we can’t live. APPEAL has been encouraging rice farmers right from time and they have been supporting us in various ways. We have about 400 hectares of farming land which has been occupied by rice farmers and they have been supporting us with different kinds of equipment one of them is for supporting us with a combined harvester.
‘’Formerly before APPEAL intervention we were nowhere, we were just farming for consumption purposes but now APPEAL made us know we can go into commercial business when it comes to rice, which we have experienced with their support.
‘’I have been sending my children to school through this farming work. And I won’t relay my efforts. I will continue and my farmers will continue. They have been supporting us right from 2019 ,what have they been supporting us with, they have supported us with fertilizers, ripeful seeds, chemicals and emergency and nets were given to us, Freshers, weeder was given to us .
‘’Then all our farmers have been on the ground and been using it to ensure the sustainability of food in Lagos state and we will continue our efforts to see that here in Lagos State we have sufficient food to provide for lagosians.
‘’I once again greet the State Project Coordinator of Lagos APPEALS Project, Mrs. Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo and her team from APPEAL, they should continue. I still have about 100 farmers who are yet to be registered. If those ones come here and join us produce will continue, so please we want your contribution to continue with us and we will not let you down in Lagos state.’’
In her testimony, the coordinator of the Ojo Barracks cluster Mrs. Toyin Oloyede said their major challenge is electricity, saying , ‘’We are yet to have light on the farm, that is the only major challenge we have, apart from that, APPEALS have been very wonderful to us. We have really enjoyed the intervention.
‘’In fact So many people joined us when they saw what we were doing through the intervention. What we are practicing here is the waste to wealth system, the waste from the poultry and fish pond is used for farming. So we are so grateful to them. But that major constraint that we have is electricity.
For Mrs. Adesola Bello, beneficiary, Ojo Cluster said, I want to use this medium to appreciate the World Bank/Appeals project for their great support to us farmers here. I am very, very grateful because I wouldn’t have been a farmer today. I wouldn’t have been what I am today, if not for the support because I was just having subsistence farming just at the back of my house. But now I can boldly say, and I can boldly bring out money from my pocket for better things, all thanks to appeals projects.’’
Appraising the implementation of the project in Lagos state after tour of the various projects in Badagry, Ojo axis, the State Project Coordinator of Lagos APPEALS Project, Mrs. Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo has said owing to the success of the project in the state, some countries in the West Africa sub region now buy fish from Lagos State.
She said the success recorded in Lagos state was not fluke, saying, the Lagos state government is passionate about the APPEALS project and will not abandon the farmers.
Sagoe-Oviebo said, I know Lagos state government will not leave you just like that. And we will not leave you just like that. But you must own this enterprise. You must desire to make an impact and change the narrative of agriculture in Lagos, Nigeria.
‘’It is only Lagos that has contributed the highest amount of counterpart funding, so that would tell you the state’s involvement in this project. It has so much faith in this project and I know it won’t relent in still giving us financial support in all that we are doing.’’
Dwelling on the farm in Ojo Barracks she said the farm is mainly owned by women, wives of military officers.
She said, ‘’Most interesting is that six, five years ago, most of them were running their farms at the back of their house, like backyard farming. And when the APPEALS Project came on board, we encouraged them that there was a need for them to come together as a group and have an estate. And that’s what we’re seeing today.
‘’To the far right is the aquaculture estate, here is the poultry estate and also an aggregation center right opposite us. APPEALS Project has supported over 80 of them across aquaculture and poultry. And then the aggregation center is going to be managed by virtually everybody in the estate.
‘’The aggregation center is NAFDAC approved. And as it stands, they can actually export their fish out of Nigeria because it has met the standards. We have also partnered with the Federal Department of Fisheries and the aquaculture site has gone through the certification process. So from start to finish, everything here is certified, and they can conveniently get into the international market because of the support appeals project has given to them.
‘’The aggregation centre has a blast freezer, cold room and smoking kin. If you notice, no two aggregation centres are the same, each one is unique to what that cluster requires. And in this particular cluster, what they wanted was to smoke and blast-freeze some of their broilers. If you look at one of the pens we went to, the nipple-fitted drinker.
‘’We supported them with improved chicks, day-old chicks, pelletized feed and nipple-fitted drinkers, and in six weeks, they’re able to sell their broilers at an average of 2.5kg, 2.8kg, as against what they used to do before in eight weeks, when they were getting around 2kg. So that’s a major success story for us. And the interesting thing is once they have their broilers in six weeks, they can actually go blast freeze, package and sell.’’
She explained that before now the farmers only used to produce broilers during festive periods, saying,’’ But as it is now, with the support of APPEAL Project, our farmers are producing in and out of season all year round because they know they can blast freeze. And we have also engaged the Business Alliance technique as well here, where we have off-takers, and among them, they have off-takers whose sole responsibility is to buy from them, blast-freeze, and sell. By and large, this is a major success story for us because for people that were here even two years ago, I’m sure if they see this space now they would be wondering, what a huge transformation.
‘’I like to appreciate every one of you, the NAOWA women, for the great job. They’ve been very supportive. They’ve gone the extra mile to even fill in the gaps beyond what the APPEALS Project has done. So I want to congratulate every one of us. Thank you.
‘’I will however tell them to own whatever support you have been given. I always tell people that the government alone cannot do this. Every hand must be a deck. Ownership is key. Whatever it is that the government has given you, it is a grant to you but a loan to the government. So we cannot allow these things to be wasted. And that’s why we preach group dynamics. We have done a lot as regards group dynamics.’’
She said the APPEALS team has done a lot as regards operation and maintenance, having also taught them the need to form committees.
‘’And in our little rights, we are champions. I’m sure that they will be glad to say that, Oh, we are able to contribute to the food basket of Nigeria. That is one of the joys. The joy of anybody is to know that I am a contributor to the economy of this great nation. So I would only implore you to keep owning agriculture as a business not as a hobby. And so if we see agriculture as a business, we will go all the way out. And part of the things we have also done, one of the legacies we are leaving behind, is the Eco appeals microfinance bank that we are doing. By next week, we will start the sensitization.
‘’ We want every one of you to be part of it. You can easily access second level financing. So whatever gaps that APPEALS Project could not meet, you can always go to the bank to source for funding. But beyond that, use your record handbooks properly, when you keep records of what you are doing, it helps you to know when you are running at a loss or you are making profits. And when you are making profits you can be rest assured that with good planning, the sky’s your limits. APPEALS will always be here by God’s grace.”