Strengthening Farmers’ Market Position and Identification of New Market Options in the Diocese of Ekiti, Nigeria.

Stephen Adaawen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional

Abstract

Like most African countries, Nigeria is in the early stages of fully developing its organic production potential. While the activities of civil society organisations, academic institutions and farmers’ groups have contributed to the relative increase in organic producers, organised organic agriculture in the country has still not received the needed governmental attention in unlocking its agricultural potential for national development. Despite the evolution of national agricultural policies and programmes at improving the agricultural sector as an important component of the economy for accelerated development and poverty reduction, the interventions seem to place more emphasis on conventional farming for accelerated food production to tackle the food deficit that continue to face the country.
Misereor has consistently been at the forefront in supporting rural smallholder organic farmers through the Rural Development Project (RDP) of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti. The training and support that the organic farmers have been receiving through the RDP have contributed to an improvement in productivity levels over the years. Despite the strides that have been made in developing organised organic farming in the diocese, the farmers are still saddled with the challenge of how to profitably market their produce. The quest to gain critical insights into the production and marketing activities of organic farmers in the rural communities, therefore, necessitated this scientific study as a basis for developing new perspectives and strategies for the profitable marketing of organic produce in Ekiti. The main goal of this study was thus, among other things, to contribute to an improved approach to the marketing of organic farm produce, which would ultimately contribute to an improvement in the income levels of poor farmers in Ekiti.
Informed by the theoretical underpinnings of the value chain approach and inclusive business model in developing mutually beneficial strategies for all actors within produce value chains, the study highlights an apparent evolution of the 5 operational ecological zones of the RDP as areas that tend to focus; or have specialised in the production of certain crops. Generally, the organic farmers are engaged in the production of a variety of both annual and cash crops along different cropping patterns and plots at different locations. Although the mixed-cropping of yam and cassava was widespread in the communities, yam production under mono-cropping was generating more yields than any of the other crops and patterns that were observed. Despite Ekiti’s reputation as one of the major cocoa producing hubs in Nigeria, the yields for cocoa were rather low in comparison with other crops. This notwithstanding, the proceeds from the sale of cocoa contributed the highest net returns in terms of household monetary income in the area.

Among organic producers, the yields were higher for yam. Although the organic producers, at the same time, recorded more yields for cocoa, as well as yam and cassava under mixed-cropping, the yields that were registered for all other crops were better under conventional production. Nevertheless, the slight differences in yields under conventional production suggests that organic production has promising fortunes in the longer-term if the potential for less production costs and higher productivity is taken into account.
In spite of the significant proportions of total production that were being sold, the analysis reveals that monetary income from farming or crop sales are rather modest. Indeed, off-farm activities were contributing more to household incomes as compared to the net returns from the sale of farm produce; with members engaged as civil servants ranking as the highest single source of household income. With a focus on returns from crop sales, the net proceeds from cocoa was the topmost contributor to household income. Based on the varying net monetary incomes, yam, maize and oil palm producers were better-off under organic production.
The issues related to lack of financial capital, high cost of input and transport, as well as bad road infrastructure, glut and lack of modern storage facilities continue to be major challenges affecting all actors within produce value chains. Although farmers and other stakeholders allude to a gradual awareness and shift towards a preference for organic produce in the area, attracting competitive prices still remains a challenge. The findings further point to the general lack of capacity or means to add value to farm produce in terms of processing, grading or packaging as a way to stimulating competitive pricing. While most farmers do not see the need and benefit in adding value, the majority have no machinery or the necessary means to engage in any organised processing and packaging due to the lack of financial capital. The common form in which most farmers sell their produce is in the fresh or raw state, which invariably also tend to affect the pricing and profits of the farmers. The farmers’ disadvantaged position in relation to the middlemen (marketers) within commodity value chains and the market setup also exposes them to exploitation. Besides the activities of some brokers in preventing direct access to consumers in the sale of produce in many instances, the middlemen often take advantage of the glut and lack of standardised measurements to quote lower prices or exploit the farmers.
All the same, there was an apparently huge domestic consumer base for organic produce like yam, cassava, maize, plantain, cocoa and palm oil within the diocese (state) and across neighbouring states. Regardless of the fluctuating world cocoa prices, the high demand for organic cocoa on the international market, in particular, presented a big potential to attracting higher prices for the organic farmers in Ekiti. But in taking into account the varying production levels and potential markets for the organic value chains, the yields being registered by the organic producers were relatively still on a small-scale. All the same, in drawing on the productive capacities observed for the different crops from the engagement with the organic groups and the potential that farmers in the state had for farm expansion, the organic farmers had a fair potential to increase production in the longer-term to meet the demand requirements of the patrons and markets that were identified. This is feasible in so far as the farmers are able to enhance their productive capacities in terms of expanding farm size, observing the good organic farm management practices being disseminated by the RDP, and dealing with the myriad of challenges that affect production.

Despite the numerous agricultural policy initiatives and rural development programmes, that were being run by both the federal government and development agencies, it was observed that farmers were either not aware or found it difficult to exploit the opportunities. Information dissemination on farming practices, as well as opportunities from agricultural initiatives and programmes that abound in the state was poor. Moreover, the bureaucratic procedures and requirements that characterises the processes in accessing these agricultural programmes tended to discourage many farmers from making the attempt.
Based on the empirical findings of this study and the discussions that ensued as part of the final workshop, several recommendations or strategies have been advanced in strengthening the marketing positions of farmers within value chains in Ekiti. Firstly, there is the need for farmers to be much more strategic in their farm production by often taking into account the needs of the market. The production should not only be informed by household needs or preference for certain crops but should be more tailored at market demand in order to get good monetary returns and improved household incomes. To serve as a link in disseminating information on market trends and in connecting farmers with potential buyers or markets, the RDP should consider setting up a marketing desk. A liaison or focal person to follow up and scout potential markets, anchors (processing companies) and other opportunities for farmers will be crucial to the marketing drive of the organic farmers.
The study further emphasises the need for the organic farmers to go through the PGS certification process, as well as consider other traditional methods of storage and value addition as preconditions for quality assurance, better prices and enhanced storage. In view of the farmers’ proposition to establish satellite organic shops across the diocese, and with the vision to ultimately establish a big organic market at the Apex level, there is the need for the RDP to sanction a critical understudy of the success of the nearby big organic market in Ibadan. The critical insights will serve as a guide to avoiding the pitfalls that led to the failure of the first organic shop that was established in Ado-Ekiti. In addition to encouraging farmers to take up the initiative and mobilise in order to access some of the agricultural policy interventions or programmes that abound in the state, the RDP should also assume the task of scouting, lobbying and assisting the farmers in this regard. Also, of importance is the continuous dialogue between the RDP, middlemen and various market associations as to the way forward for effective collaborations and in promoting cooperation with the farmers in the sale of farm produce in the markets.
In all, it is reckoned that there is no ‘straight-jacket’ strategy at improving the production and marketing of organic farm produce in Ekiti. This notwithstanding, it is envisaged that when the jointly developed strategies are considered in tandem with a strict implementation of the action plan, they will help in facilitating the profitable marketing of organic farm produce and the overall welfare of farm households in the diocese.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMisereor
Commissioning bodyMisereor International NGO
Number of pages71
Publication statusSubmitted - 12-May-2018
Externally publishedYes

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