By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja, Aug. 27, 2020 Bauchi State Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with OCP Africa, a company in global production and exportation of phosphate based fertilisers, to boost agriculture in the state.
The Country Manager of OCP Africa Fertilisers Nigeria, Mr Caleb Usoh, during the signing of the MoU in Abuja on Thursday, said it was a milestone in OCP’s effort to contribute to productivity and food security in Nigeria.
He said the collaboration with the Bauchi State government would be in four major areas.
According to him, the areas include, development of last mile inputs distribution through OCP’s One-Stop-Shop and implementation of soil testing solutions.
He added that other areas included, implementation of agribooster project and collaboration with the state’s institutions of higher learning.
Usoh noted that the partnership was meant to address persistent challenge of poor access to adequate and appropriate farming inputs, trainings and technology by farmers in rural communities.
According to him, the MoU seeks to ensure a joint development of last mile inputs distribution through OCP One Stop shop.
“Both parties have agreed to collaborate in setting up and equipping five centres for last-mile agro-inputs distribution and retail.
“This will be done in very rural under-served farming communities with high agriculture potentials within Bauchi State.
“It presents an all-inclusive total distribution solution that seeks to make available under one roof all that is needed by a farmer to enable him to succeed in his farming endeavour.
“The outlets are designed to create a platform for different companies and service providers across the entire value chain to interact with farmers in provision of various goods and services.
“The centres will provide services such as input distribution hub for quality input products and after sales services.
“Also, it will provide hub for access to mechanisation and irrigation services, training hub for classroom and field learning on good agricultural practices.
“It will also act as centre for financial solutions like input credit profiling and mobile money solutions to farmers and rural dwellers.
“The centres, which are to be located in very rural areas, will also be built to provide by way of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) access to clean water for the communities,” he said.
The Country Manager disclosed that Bauchi State had collaborated with it in the implementation of the OCP School Laboratory project from 2018 to 2019 in the form of a Mobile Soil testing caravan.
Other forms of collaboration, according to him, are soil testing services to smallholder farmers, on the spot fertiliser recommendations, training on good agricultural practices and simple soil sampling techniques.
Usoh disclosed that the agreement would cover a wide range of activities like reaching smallholder farmers, recruiting and training youth as agricultural extension agents.
Others, he said, included supplying farm inputs such as fertilisers, seeds, and agrochemicals while facilitating access to credit facilities for farmers who would participate in the project.
He stressed that all of those, would be achieved while leveraging digital technology to facilitate learning, farmers’ information gathering, field team management and access to agricultural products and services.
On collaboration with institutions of higher learning, Usoh said both parties intended to establish linkage between the Bauchi State University and OCP sponsored Mohammed 6 University in Benguerir Morocco.
This, according to him, is to explore areas of academic and research collaborations, trainings and exchange programme, adding that it would energise and modernise the knowledge of ecosystem in Bauchi State.
Usoh said the company was committed to making agriculture a profitable venture for farmers in Bauchi State.
He pointed out that as a private company, OCP, which had been in existence in the last 100 years, was ready to invest to move agriculture forward in Africa, particularly Nigeria.
He further noted that “we are not counting cost so much as the benefit that will come to the people and to expand.
“So in this case the farmer benefits and we as a fertiliser company will sell more.”
He disclosed that beside the collaboration with Bauchi State, OCP had relationship with other states in the country.
He pointed out that the company may not have formalised some of the relationships but was involved in various activities in different states.
“As we progress and see the willingness of the states like Bauchi state, we will then find a formalised structure to do much more,” he said.
Bauchi State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Samaila Adamu expressed the state government’s readiness to ensure sustainability of the partnership.
He said, “the essence of the MoU is for Bauchi State Government and OCP to collaborate to take the state to the highest level as far as agriculture is concerned.
“Basically, there are four major areas we want to start with. One is soil testing to know what is required of our various soils across the state. This is to improve soil quality.
“For the one-stop-shop. Most of our farmers are in the rural areas where access roads are lacking.
“In view of this, OCP Africa came up with an initiative to convey most of these inputs to the doorsteps of the farmers.
“This is so that they do not cry for lack of seeds, agro chemicals and fertilisers and other inputs that will improve production.
“Number three is the Agribooster. In that area we are talking of crops that we have comparative advantage in, in which the state and OCP Africa will come together to inject some resources in.
“In this project we will directly supervise the cultivation of cash crops and value addition for in-house consumption and export.
“The last is the issue of empowerment. In this regard we intend to train farmers in the best agricultural practice and how to convey what they learn to their various communities.”
The commissioner said the commitment between the state government and OCP would boost employment opportunities in the state, improve the state’s revenue generation and ensure food security in general