Revisiting USAID’s Covid-19 food security challenge intervention

As part of USAID’s $4 million intervention on its COVID-19 food security challenge, where 32 Nigerian grantees get funding to assist in the improving of the country’s agricultural system to a better and modern system. Energy Assured as one of the sub-grantees in partnership with USAID empowers more than 2100 smallholder farmers with subscription based rental services of mobile solar pump in Jama’are, Gadau and Zaki environs in Bauchi State in order to ease their work and reduce expenses and other logistical services related to their farming and help the smallholder farmers to modernize their farming.

As identified by USAID at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria faces a food security crisis that is compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and its effects on the food value chain in the country. The pandemic has significantly disrupted already fragile value chains across the country, including people’s ability to produce, process, and distribute food. This disruption of agricultural productivity and markets has a negative knock-on impact on livelihoods, especially among the most vulnerable households. It’s as a result of this that USAID/Nigeria as part of its project Feed the Future partnered with youth-led companies and mid-stage companies (with an existing customer base of more than 1,000 people) that are already working in food production, processing, and distribution to help in finding the solutions to these looming crises. With support of USAID the partners would help farmers and other stakeholders in the food value chain to increase agricultural productivity and food security within one year to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s food value chain. The project has six major aims as follows:

· Increase food and agriculture system productivity and enhance efficient production along the value chains in order to unlock agricultural production that has been limited by COVID-19’s impact on food production, processing, and distribution in Nigeria.

· Increase income for Base of the Pyramid (BoP) women and men in both rural and urban areas.

· Provide youth-led and mid-stage companies the technical assistance and capital they need to sustainably scale solutions to meet the requirements of the Challenge.

· Promote climate and environmental resilience as well as biodiversity through the sustainable, holistic management of natural resources and ecosystems.

· Develop and promote innovative and local food-based models, including the local production, processing, and marketing of highly nutritious foods to prevent and/or treat wasting/acute malnutrition.

· Promote socially responsible marketing/advertising to increase demand for safe, nutritious foods and other nutrition-related commodities and services.

Energy Assured is a social entreprise company based in Azare that focuses on assisting all year round farmers with subscription based rental services of mobile solar pumps that are cheaper, affordable, accessible, easy to use and environmentally-friendly to draw water for their farming activities. It’s at the same time connecting the local farmers with donor organizations to access funding for their farming either as a grant or loan (to be repaid through flexible payment options).

As part of the project, Energy Assured carried out preliminary survey to understand the farmers perception on water sources, paid advocacy visits to farmers cooperatives; state and local governments agricultural agencies, performed road show (demonstration) for 2100 smallholder farmers to see how real the solar system works, conducted radio campaigns on environmental sustainable practices, training of 150 smallholder farmers in good agronomy practices, procured 45 solar pumps and rental services of pumps for 2100 smallholder farmers.

Looking at the successes recorded by this project and the eminent dangers these small farmers are facing we are calling on governmnet and other relevant agencies to as a matter of urgency and public interest especially for the sake of local small farmer as this project is expected to close on the 1st of June this year to:

  1. Governments at all level should deploy the same technology used by this project in order to ease smallholder farmers’ work
  2. Bauchi State to direct the state’s ministry of agriculture to engage the empowered smallholder farmers in the state and help them in sustaining the initiative
  3. Other renewable energy stakeholders in the country should give out solar pumps as a loan to be repaid through flexible payment options for smallholder farmers for them to benefit from the initiative
  4. USAID should, as part of scale up strategy, connect all the grantees with other investors to ensure sustainability of the project
  5. Considering the high demand of the solar pump from smallholder farmers, we recommend other social enterprises/start-ups to also venture into this business model, so that the high demand will reduce
  6. There is need for more intervention in to this, specifically sourcing of reliable and affordable water and good agronomy practices to assist smallholder farmers to get improved and cultivate according to modern ways.
  7. Awareness campaigns on the use of modern technology especially this model should be intensified by the state government and other relevant organisations working in the area of agricultural value chain.Conclusively, this project from its start to date has identified many progresses which includes; hundreds of farmers get increased in productivity, thousands of others get notified about the cheaper and reliable solar pump as oppose to petrol/diesel engines, others procured their own solar pumps, hundreds farmers now adopt good agronomy practices and thousands of others understand various sustainable environmental practices. And we believe if this initiative is being sustained more successes will be recorded which will help the country to be self-sufficient in terms of good security in the future.

Aboki is chief executive officer,

Energy Assured Nigeria Limited.

Related content you may like