Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/boosting-plantain-production-and-improving-access-to-markets-in-nigeria/
A typical banana and plantain market at Ikire in Osun State, Nigeria, with buyers and sellers. Banana and plantain are staple foods for food security.
Plantain is one of the major crops of smallholder farmers in Nigeria. It is produced both for food consumption in the households and for cash through its transformation into various products that are marketed. Using Humidtropics' integrated systems approach, a team of researchers from FARA and IITA is working with key actors in the Nigeria Action Site to improve the plantain value chain (i.e. to effectively deliver valuable plantain products to the market, and to customers).
Using the Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Innovation Systems (RAAIS) diagnostic tool, the four Innovation Platforms (IPs) in Nigeria have identified plantain as a key entry point for better impact on poverty and nutrition. Interventions to boost its production and tackle some of the bottlenecks in the plantain value chain, such as the introduction of improved varieties, intervention funds for farmers, marketers and processors, and effective marketing of different plantain products, are expected to quickly yield positive results for Nigerian farmers.
Launch of the Nigerian Plantain Innovation Platform.
Last June, Humidtropics organized a workshop that brought together members of the four IPs and the national Research for Development (R4D) Platform, with key value chain actors (representatives of farmers, middlemen, marketers, processors, financial institutions, end users, transporters, etc.). A new R4D partnership emerged to help design and test innovative solutions for plantain production within the wider agricultural system context, and to improve farmers' knowledge of plantain production in order to meet the demand and the quality required by the market.
Bridging the gap between researchers and farmers makes innovative technologies needed to produce plantain massively, such as the sucker multiplication developed by IITA, available to farmers so they can earn a good living from plantain production. The farmers were also introduced to disease-resistant varieties, which are good in terms of taste and texture especially for consumption, and learned that the agbagba variety is better for processors because of its dry matter content. Researchers indicated that they were currently working on improved varieties that will help boost production.
A stakeholder analysis was conducted where all participants were categorized into stakeholder groups based on their role in the value chain. Stakeholder groups then identified their potential contributions to, and benefits of participating in the IP:
- The farmers group agreed to ensure that high quality plantains are produced and thereby urged researchers to communicate with the extension agencies of Nigeria, called Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs), to inform them about the Humidtropics research initiatives underway and future results of the farmers’ field experiments. The group also requested better access to credit facilities, and other forms of assistance to support farmers during the gestation period of the crop – plantain breeding unlike other crops cannot be achieved very fast.
- Representatives of financial institutions provided information on their lending procedures with benefits such as low interest rate on payback that could strengthen and support this R4D initiative. There will be intervention funds for farmers, marketers, and processors that will give members the opportunity to pay back over time.
- The group comprising transporters and marketers explained the challenges they encounter in getting the products to the market, and in securing buyers for the plantain bunches.
The representative from the agriculture products processors group (plantain processing industries, export companies, etc.) committed to assisting farmers to secure buyers for their produce, as industrial demand for plantain is not being met currently. However, since industries do not buy small quantities and require that plantains meet international standards, there will only be access to this important market if production to industry specification is intensified substantially, both in terms of quantity and quality.
On-farm interactive session on proper agronomic and management practices in Ago-Owu Farm Settlement.
Workshop participants also visited a plantain farm in the Ago-Owu Farm Settlement, and participated in an on-farm interactive session on proper agronomic and management practices to enhance the yield per hectare of their plantain farms.
With the current high demand for plantain products, its production must move away from small backyard farms, expand to bigger areas, and be able to effectively reach markets and end users. This can be accomplished through strong partnerships with all value chain actors, and by implementing agricultural innovations that stem from the present state of scientific knowledge and advancement in technology.
To learn more about the four Humidtropics IPs in Nigeria, and their stakeholders who play different but complementary roles in the development, dissemination and adoption of knowledge and new technologies, read the Nigeria Action Site Innovation Platforms Setting Up Report.
Blog by Tomi Fakolujo, Communication Specialist, and Latifou Idrissou, West Africa Flagship Manager, Humidtropics/IITA. Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photos by Adebayo/IITA, and Perfect Lenz Studio/IITA.