Revisiting USAID’s Response to the Covid-19 Food Security Challenge

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As part of USAID’s $4 million response to its COVID-19 Food Security Challenge, where 32 Nigerian beneficiaries are getting funding to help improve the country’s agricultural system into a better and modern one. Energy Assured, one of the USAID-partnered sub-recipients, provides more than 2,100 smallholder farmers with subscription-based mobile solar pump rental services around Jama’are, Gadau and Zaki in the state of Bauchi in order to facilitate their work and reduce the expenses and other logistic services related to their exploitation and to help the small farmers to modernize their exploitation.

As identified by USAID at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria faces a food security crisis which is compounded by the global COVID-19 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 is having a negative impact on livelihoods, especially among the most vulnerable households. It was as a result of this that USAID/Nigeria, through its Feed the Future project, partnered with youth-led businesses and midstream businesses (with an existing customer base of over 1 000 people) who are already working in food production, processing, and distribution to help find solutions to these looming crises. With support from USAID, partners would help farmers and other food value chain stakeholders increase agricultural productivity and food security within one year to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the chain. of Nigeria’s food value. The project has six major objectives as follows:

Increase the productivity of the food and agricultural system and improve efficient production along value chains to unlock agricultural production that has been constrained by the impact of COVID-19 on food production, processing and distribution in the Nigeria.

· Increase the incomes of women and men at the base of the pyramid (BoP) in rural and urban areas.

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

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

· Develop and promote innovative and local food models, including 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 healthy and nutritious foods and other nutrition-related products and services.

Energy Assured is an Azare-based social enterprise that focuses on supporting farmers year-round with cheaper, affordable, accessible, easy-to-use and eco-friendly mobile solar pump rental services. environment to draw water for their agricultural activities. At the same time, it is about connecting local farmers with donor organizations to access financing for their agriculture in the form of a grant or a loan (to be repaid via flexible payment options).

As part of the project, Energy Assured conducted a preliminary survey to understand farmers’ perception of water sources; made advocacy visits to farmers’ cooperatives; agricultural agencies of state and local governments, road show (demonstration) for 2100 smallholder farmers to see how the real solar system works, radio campaign on sustainable environmental practices, training of 150 smallholder farmers in good agronomic practices, purchase of 45 solar pumps and rental pump services for 2100 smallholder farmers.

In view of the successes recorded by this project and the eminent dangers that these small farmers face, we call on the government and other relevant agencies to act urgently and in the public interest, especially for the good of local small farmers, because this project should be completed. on June 1 of this year at:

  1. Governments at all levels should deploy the same technology used by this project to facilitate the work of small-scale farmers
  2. Bauchi State will task the state Department of Agriculture to engage self-reliant smallholder farmers in the state and help them support the initiative
  3. Other renewable energy players in the country are expected to provide solar pumps as a loan to be repaid through flexible payment options for smallholder farmers to benefit from the initiative
  4. USAID should, as part of the scale-up strategy, connect all grantees with other investors to ensure project sustainability
  5. Given the high demand for solar pumps 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 a need for more intervention in this area, especially reliable and affordable water supply and good agronomic practices to help smallholder farmers improve and farm according to modern methods.
  7. Awareness campaigns on the use of modern technology, especially this model, should be intensified by the state government and other relevant organizations working in the field of agricultural value chain. hundreds of farmers see their productivity increase, thousands more learn about the cheaper and reliable solar pump as opposed to gasoline/diesel engines, others have procured their own solar pumps, hundreds of farmers are now adopting good agronomic practices and thousands more are understanding the various sustainable environmental practices. And we believe that if this initiative is maintained, more successes will be recorded, which will help the country to be self-sufficient in terms of good security in the future.

Aboki is managing director,

Energy Assured Nigeria Limited.

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