The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has disclosed that at least 98,000 smallholder farmers have benefitted from the Federal Government/IFAD-Value Chain Development Programme (FG/IFAD-VCDP) from 2019 to date.
The National Programme Coordinator of IFAD-VCDP, Dr Fatima Aliyu, gave these figures on Wednesday at the sidelines of the joint FG/IFAD Mid-Term Review (MTR) Mission of the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) workshop in Abuja.
According to her, the project is targeted at 135,000 beneficiaries, comprising of rural farmers, marketers and processors throughout the country from 2019 to 2024.
The Coordinator clarified: “VCDP focused on rice and cassava and it is aims to promote and improve livelihood outcomes of 350,000 smallholder farmers along the value chains in nine states of Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Enugu, Kogi and Nasarawa.
“VCDP is one of the major agricultural programmes in the country that focuses on enhancing the incomes and food security of poor rural households engaged in the production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava on a sustainable basis”, she added.
Aliyu further explained that the programme’s objectives fell under IFAD’s strategic objectives to increase the productive capacities of poor rural farmers in a sustainable and resilient manner, adding that so far
it has increased and improved their engagement in markets, while enabling them to better manage related risks.
The Coordinator expatiated: “It is also geared toward strengthening the environmental sustainability and climate resilience of their economic activities.
“VCDP is one of the investment projects of Nigeria that is contributing to reducing the annual food import bill in line with the country national policy.
“The MTR is an opportunity to fundamentally revisit design features and validate the continued relevance of the programme and its component parts by identifying “what is working and what is not working and reasons”, the expert added
In addition, she pointed out that the MTR was organised to review implementation performance comprising quality of project management, performance of key partners, gender and poverty focus, effectiveness of targeting, innovation and learning, climate and environment focus.
Aliyu further said: “MTR is to assess the effectiveness of implementation with respect to the outputs, outcomes and impact arising from the two technical components – market development and production/productivity enhancement among others.
“The main objective is to provide FGN, IFAD and participating States and Local Governments with a detailed assessment on the level of achievements of VCDP; continued relevance of the market-led, demand-driven approach and assumptions made during programme design, identified implementation constraints as well as recommendations and suggestions on any re-structuring, re-design and amendments that might be desired and necessary to improve programme effectiveness.”
While assuring that the mission will consult all key stakeholders on the implementation of the programme from time to time as may be necessary, Aliyu listed the beneficiaries so far to include agribusiness coaches and incubators; state and local authorities national and international development partners and financial institutions.
In her remarks, the IFAD Country Director, Dede Ekoue, said that the MTR was necessary due to current challenges ranging from the Russia – Ukraine war and its impacts on food and agricultural input, currency exchange rate, the hike in Nigeria’s inflation rate, the insecurity in some rural areas and climate-related disasters such as flood.
She said: “The recent floods have washed away many of the progress made by the project and smallholder farmers, making it more difficult for the project to reach its target results.
“We want to make the programme more relevant for small holder farmers in Nigeria so that the impact of the programme will be scale up being the strategic thrust of the mission”, Ekoue added.
Commenting on the programme, Acting Director, Programme Coordinating Unit,Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Mr. Peter Kush, promised the ministry’s sustained support to ensure that the VCDP objectives were achieved.
Kush advised the mission against criticism when any gap in the programme’s implementation is identified but rather desire to work towards bridging such gaps.