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350,000 Farmers Have Benefited From Sassakawa Projects-Atse

Sassakawa Africa Association is a Japanese Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, that works in the agriculture space, to improve the livelihood of farmers through innovations. In this exclusive interview with EarthNews Nigeria, the Country Director, Dr Godwin Atse, opens up on the activities of the Association in Nigeria…….Excerpts

How would you say Nigerian farmers have benefited from the Association?

For the over 30 years we have been in Nigeria, we have been in more than 22 states and in all the communities that we have been in, we have helped farmers to double their productivity and increase their yields. And when you increase the yield per hectare it means the farmers get more money.

Have your activities helped in bridging the rising cost of agricultural commodities?

One of the factors driving the cost of food production is the increasing cost of fertilizers, and for us at Sassakawa, what we are doing is promoting the use of composting, compost manure, so farmers rather than being constrained can use that on their fields. We are also promoting the use of leguminous crops so that farmers can use that to improve soil fertility and through inter-cropping or crop rotation, so you can grow your maize with a leguminous crop like cowpea or groundnuts and in that you are using the legumes to trap nitrogen to the soil so that your maize or sorghum can have access to nitrogen without the farmer necessarily buying fertiliser. We adopt integrated wheat management control so that the use of herbicides is within that context so that farmers don’t overuse these chemicals and at the same time can control the wheat. And all of these we have seen as I said earlier that the yield per hectare of farmers is being increased by 100 per cent or more in most of the communities that we are working in. Currently, our farmers have had the opportunity to make more money as a result of an increase in productivity.

Following the ongoing debates on GMOs/Agroecology, what are your specific interests?

Our interest at Sassakawa Africa Association, is regenerative agriculture, which implies a system of agricultural practices that are geared towards increasing the productivity of crops and at the same time looking to improve soil health. Regenerative agriculture combines the elements of integrated soil fertility management and also conservation agriculture. But again, we also have two other pillars for regenerative agriculture, these include nutritious sensitive agriculture as well as market-oriented agriculture because as we improve productivity, we also want to see that the nutrition of farmers is improved and ultimately improving the nutrition of producers and consumers. We also want to see how we can improve market access so that farmers grow their crops with the mindset that this is not just about substance but having the market in mind. Where am I going to sell? How do I make profitable investments in farming, these are the three key pillars that form the basis of our work. But of course, there are some cross-cutting areas in which we work, we take into consideration this capacity building of farmers as well as extension agents because that is the key sector that we work in and hope to improve. We also look at the issue of inclusion, that is gender/ youth and people living with disabilities in our programmes as well as digital extension, so this is our approach to agriculture and that’s what we have been doing.

How many farmers do you work with currently?

In 2023, we were able to reach over 350,000 farmers in Nigeria and all of these are documented as people that we have reached through various projects that we have worked on. For instance, the Kano state Agro-Pastoral Development Project, the BASICs Project looking at cassava seed system, the NIPPON foundation funded project which is a co-project, and several other projects that we have.

What has been the support of the Nigerian government for your organization?

We work with the Nigerian government and in the previous years we have had support we are hoping that with the coming of President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we will get support from the government and even the states that we are working, we are hoping that they see what we are doing and support us. I must be honest that the Kano state government have been a great supporter of Sassakawa, we have received a lot of support from them, they host us and we also have support from other states like Gombe, and Jigawa among others. Recently, we are reaching out to more states and hope that we will receive additional support.

How has the security situation impacted your activities?

Security is everyone’s business and affects us just as it affects other people, the farmers, etc. There are some areas that we would have loved to reach but when we make decisions we can’t go to those areas and that affects the farmers mostly because sometimes we have to change locations because of the insecurity that beclouds some regions and I think this is a trying time for Nigeria to see how we can fix the security situation to be honest.

What are your targets for the coming years?

In 2025 we are working towards completing our current strategy and from there formulating a new one next year our target is to reach At least 400,000 farmers and we hope that we will from there look at the new strategy and see how we can achieve more farmers.I must say that the Kano State Age Pastoral Industrial Project will contribute a lot because that is one of the goals we want to reach by 2025. So we hope that we will be reaching 400,000 farmers by 2025.

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