Connecting smallholder farmers to markets

In Benue, North Central Nigeria, smallholder rice and cassava farmers are engaging in new market opportunities and taking their first steps out of poverty through a contract farming scheme in which farmers are guaranteed markets for their crops. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), has linked over 4,000 rice farmers in Benue to Olam international, a major off taker and key player in the Nigeria rice sub-sector, to buy paddy off rice growers.

“In 2018, Olam bought over 1,000 tonnes of paddy from rice farmers in Benue, later processed and sold in the Nigerian market. The paddy Olam buys from farmers is processed and sold under the brand name ‘’Mama’s Pride” says Kumar Gaurav, who manages Olam operations in Benue state.

“Our partnership is very good. The paddy is housed in our warehouses, which is processed once it is full. Olam’s product is sold across Nigeria, visible in any local market across the country. It is produced in Nigeria, we are selling proudly Nigerian rice” explains Gaurav.

The farmers and Olam were brought together in transaction meetings under a Commodity Alliance Forum facilitated by VCDP to discuss the partnership, negotiate terms of engagement, define obligations of each party and draft a MoU to guide their operations leading to a win-win outcome for all partners.

Olam provided the farmers with necessary inputs; certified seeds, fertilizers, and agrochemicals with a guaranteed “buy back” at prevailing market price at the end of the season. The company joined VCDP in farmer mobilization, validation, profiling and training events, bringing their experiences in out-growers schemes to bear. Olam also co-funded extension services using private sector providers to ensure that farmers meet productivity potentials of the preferred rice varieties. In addition, Olam extended financial credit to farmers to meet their equity contribution to the VCDP matching grant through a commercial bank.


Laadi in front of her car

Laadi Ngbegha is a rice farmer in Iye Community, Guma LGA in Benue State. Thanks to her participation in VCDP’s project she has doubled her yields in the last two harvests and has been linked to Olam who bought all the paddy produced by her group-‘Dooshima Hemba Cooperative’. Laadi has been able to buy herself a Nissan wagon and a cow from the profits.

“I am very grateful to VCDP for the linkage to Olam. Before, I use to worry on how I am going to sell my produce after harvest, but now no worries, Olam is there for us” says Laadi as she poses proudly in front of her car.


Olam Benue Operations Manager, Kumar Gaurav interacting with farmers

Laadi’s experience is just one of many success stories of the VCDP which provides rural families with the tools and techniques to better cultivate the land around their villages and links them to produce buyers such as Olam.

The VCDP has so far supported smallholder farmers across the six programme states of Benue, Anambra, Ebonyi, Taraba, Niger and Ogun in negotiating and signing 1,567 MoUs with major off takers in rice and cassava value chains. VCDP is supporting these farmers to increase their production, which is a critical step to achieving food security in Nigeria.

Credit: Vera Onyeaka-Onyilo