WAAPP Support: Agribusiness Income Streams From Abia Innovation Platform
IT is getting clearer by the day that the next goldmine, after petroleum, which is now on the decline, is agriculture. Organisations like the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) are spreading the entrepreneurship gospel round the country.
More people, including youths are tapping into available openings to make good income, while exploring the opportunities to enter into the export of various value-added produce. At the recent Abia Innovative Platform exhibition, ground-breaking products and technologies were showcased.
Beyond the exhibition ground, Engr. Kalu Iche Kalu, the manager of the Abia platform had grown a number of businesses in different agricultural value chains that have attracted so many youths and other investors to turn their faces away from non-existent white-collar jobs.
Kalu narrated that when pro-vitamin A cassava was launched two years ago, the platform went into cultivation of the variety and made good sales and a lot of money selling stems last year. He said they had more of the stems than those who released it, because they came back to them requesting for stems.
Making some business projections, he said the platform expected increase in demand by farmers. With this, the members cultivated a lot so as to multiply the stem, which for Vit. A cassava, was the point of attraction as a raw material to grow the tuber. As it turned out, it sold a 25 one-metre stem bundle for N3,000 and the income was very encouraging, even as more is being done in that direction.
On value addition, innovation is the watchword, Kalu says. “There was a way the cassava stems were cut and distributed. We also discovered that it was not a proper thing for stems not to have labels. So, we designed a sack, where we put the stems with tags, name of the variety, explanation of the potential and advantages.”
Ultimately, farmers are told to plant about three different varieties and compare at harvest to know which of the variety they would prefer for maximum yield.
Kalu revealed that WAAPP team came to Abia about last year and introduced yam seed multiplication technology, but it was too difficult. Leaning on hindsight, he said yam production in the Southeast was on the decline because it was not well managed and sometimes farmers, out of financial pressure may sell even the seed meant for planting.
But with the new yam vine technology, the stem of the yam is cut after two months and rice bran bed is made for the vine. “The vine will be laid flat and covered with the rice bran. By the time you are harvesting your yam two months later, you will be collecting yam seeds from the vine.
Kalu said a vine can give 20 good seeds or more, depending on the size of the plot, as planting materials that are big enough within four months aside the main tubers, which would have been harvested. “It is not difficult and raises hope that the yam barns will come alive again. It is a beautiful innovation. It is a beautiful transformation of technology that we got from Ghana.”
On value addition to gari, Platform Manager revealed that when Vitamin A varieties came, it did not have enough protein; therefore a way to fortify it was devised especially as it had diabetic patients, who avoid plain gari for health reasons in mind. “The idea of adding soya beans to gari came up. We tried three times to blend the two, but it did not work out. We were successful in the next and it is catching on now; the aroma and texture are very good and the product is selling fast.” For now, the platform takes the technique to other farmers’ forum in different places to make Soy-gari.
According to Kalu, the platform also undertakes the production and preservation techniques for scent leaf. “During the rainy season, the leaf is in abundance and attracts very little income, but during the dry season, it is not available in the market. So, we harvest it in the rainy season and preserve by sun drying, then bag it and store,” he said. The dried form is further processed to powder and can be stored for a few years. This form is packaged in 50kg bags and has export market in the UK and US.
In producing and processing the leaf in the course of a year, Kalu said youths, who participate in the scent leaf business in the association have bought new tricycles (Keke Napep) from income made; it is a simple business. He said ‘Wealth is just knowledge application’ and within a space of a plot of land, scent leaves worth hundreds of thousands of naira can be harvested in less than half a year.
‘It grows quite fast, in fact just days after every cutting, especially when you put a little local manure,’ he disclosed.
On administrative bottlenecks working against agricultural innovations, he said the Innovation Platform and a scientist went to Ghana to understudy their yam vine seed multiplication, which they claimed they got from Israel. “When we came back, I tabled it before the Platform and it was immediately explored. We got a piece of land and approval; we started the yam vine seed multiplication. It has survived and it is working. We are looking forward to seeing what the yield would be.”
The scientist, he said is still battling with layers of authority in government, “he is still putting papers together to tell what he saw. He is at the mercy of the directors. However, on our part, we are forging ahead with the crop.