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How technology is transforming the lives of female Acha farmers in Nigeria, creating economic and social impact

Female farmers in Nigeria are making the most of new technologies to improve their crop yields and income – particularly when it comes to the challenging Acha crop.

Improved agriculture and better market systems could go a long way to delivering results for poor men and women.

Tackling nutrition and food security in Nigeria
Poverty in northern Nigeria is worse than in the rest of the country: 77% of people live on less than $1.25 per day, and 50% of children under five suffer from stunted growth. However, when it comes to improving food security and nutrition for individuals and communities, the north has genuine economic potential. Improved agriculture and better market systems could go a long way to delivering results for poor men and women.

In rural parts of northern Nigeria, the need for nutrient rich and drought resilient crops is essential. One cereal crop grown here and across other parts of West Africa is Acha. Acha is very nutritional, making it a high demand crop.

However, producing, harvesting and processing acha is incredibly time consuming and expensive.

There are many issues that limit Acha production.

Acha seeds are very small in size, which makes separating grain from chaff hard to do, and leads to a gritty finished product. The traditional method of removing chaff from grain involves de-hulling of grains via beating and trampling – a slow and labour intensive process.

Because of the time consuming nature of this process, the responsibility for Acha production tends to fall on women. Faced with a long list of domestic responsibilities, it is hardly surprising that many women in northern Nigeria have reduced the quantity of Acha that they produce. Furthermore, rice and most other substitute crops sell at a lower market price than acha.

The human reality of Acha production
Change Mann is a Nigerian farmer who found herself struggling to produce Acha in large quantities. Whilst she wanted to increase her yield to make more money, the costs of processing Acha can be prohibitive.

“I cultivate acha in addition to other crops. In a season I typically harvest about ten 100kg bags of acha. The problem for us is that acha is very hard to process. If 2 people helped me, it would take me about two days to process a 50kg bag. It takes a lot of time and requires a lot of work. It is difficult to do all this with other demands. Sometimes I ask friends to help me and I don’t pay them, but I have to feed them and give them N500 each for soap”.

Labour-saving technology can unlock the potential of the small-scale Acha industry in northern Nigeria.

Because of the time consuming nature of this process, the responsibility for Acha production tends to fall on women, like Nigerian farmer Change Mann (pictured).

A powerful partnership transforming acha production
Propcom Mai-karfi is a UK aid-funded programme managed by Palladium. Our approach focuses on the active involvement of the private sector in the growth and development of agriculture in northern Nigeria. By involving the private sector, we are able to unlock the economic potential of the industry, and by designing partnerships that prioritise the income of local farmers, we achieve social development. Propcom Mai-karfi has partnered with a local company, Pye Ryat Foods, to pilot a mechanical Acha processing service in Nigeria’s Plateau state.

Pye Ryat is a Nigerian company based in the state of Plateau. It has developed semi-mechanised methods to winnow, grade, destone, wash and dry Acha into clean finished grains. For those framers unable to purchase the machine itself, Pye Ryat provides fast, cost effective and labour ‘light’ processing services to farmers for a fee. They also buy Acha from farmers and sells it in commercial quantities to urban retail outlets. The combination of processing and purchasing makes Pye Ryat Foods a perfect partner for Acha farmers. They lessen the labour burden, thus increasing the farmer’s income, and time spent on processing acha. We have also introduced Pye Ryat to a whole new market of smallholder farmers, expanding their commercial enterprise in northern Nigeria.

Change for Change – making markets work for all
For Change Mann the impact of technology has been felt by her whole family.

“This service has brought me much ease. Before I had to wake up very early to process Acha and then go to the farm around 10am. Now I can go to the farm by 6am and now have extra time for my business and house chores. I will definitely increase my Acha production as I no longer have to worry about processing.”

Partnerships like the one between Propcom Mai-karfi and private companies like Pye Ryat show the potential of the Positive Impact approach. By designing initiatives that integrate economic and social value we can achieve enduring impact. By changing the way markets work in Nigeria, poor farmers and their families can raise their income and Nigerian companies play a leading role in unlocking the huge potential of Nigerian agriculture.

 

Palladium’s Propcom Mai-Karfi project aims to create systemic changes in agriculture and rural markets in northern Nigeria. The project works to increase employment and improve productivity, and by 2017 Propcom Mai-karfi aims to have raised the incomes of at least 250,000 women by up to 50%. Economic growth is founded on sustainable and scalable markets; Propcom Mai-karfi works hard to ensure that rural markets in Nigeria work for the poor.

To learn more about our economic growth capabilities, get in touch.