Years ago, Jibrin Mohammad was just another maize farmer in a rural community in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Like other poor farmers in his village, Jibrin attained very low yields on his farm every harvest season. This happened in spite of the fact that he worked increasingly hard on his 0.5 hectare farm from season to season. Jibrin had been farming for decades but was using farming methods passed on to him by his father, methods which were sometimes at odds with internationally-recognized best practices and many times detrimental to the success of his farm.
The low yields he got every season were also a result of poor-quality inputs Jibrin used on his farm. Most of the inputs that Jibrin needed for his farm were neither available in the local market in the right quantity, nor of the prescribed quality. Travelling to larger markets to buy bulk inputs at affordable prices was not practical as Jibrin did not have the capital he needed to increase his holdings and farm on a larger – and more profitable – scale.
All of these spelled a less than satisfactory harvest period for the Kaduna farmer who not only had to contend with the poor quality and profitability of his produce but also had to endure the humiliating process of being exploited by local traders who bought his produce for very modest sums and travelled to larger markets across the country to sell his maize at much higher prices. Back at home, Jibrin, who never saw or enjoyed the profits that these middlemen made on his produce, had a family to feed, and constantly struggled to meet their needs. Faced with these mounting challenges, a once energetic and optimistic farmer was beginning to lose hope.
Everything changed the day Jibrin heard of Babban Gona. This new farmer service company had become the talk of the village and resident farmers had started creating small farmer groups in order to confirm their membership. But it wasn’t the hype surrounding these events that swayed Jibrin. Babban Gona, “Great Farm” in Hausa was promising to transform subsistence farmers into intensive successful commercial farmers by not only bringing much-sought after inputs to their doorsteps but by also providing credit, agronomy and agribusiness training, and marketing services. Still, joining was not an easy decision. Jibrin recalls the advice of skeptical farmers in the community. After much deliberation, Jibrin allowed the long-time optimist in him to take the upper hand and went to register with Babban Gona.
Once registered officially with Babban Gona, Jibrin enjoyed the full suite services offered by Babban Gona. He had access to a trained agronomist and extension offices that provided him advice and training on tried-and-tested planting techniques. This support – coupled with the high-quality inputs seeds, fertilizers and herbicides Jibrin received from Babban Gona – made him eager to harvest his crops.
As harvest kicked off, Jibrin and many other Babban Gona farmers were smiling their way to their farms. Jibrin whose yield was over five times the national average was ecstatic! “I am so happy today because all that people were saying to prevent me from joining this organization never worked, and I would have regrets by now. Before now, the best I have ever gotten on this same piece of land is 20 bags and here am I getting 27 bags. If not that it happened to me, this would have been hard to believe”.
Jibrin’s good yields increased his bargaining power with the local traders but his Babban Gona membership enabled him to join the ranks of farmers who could bypass local traders altogether and sell to national buyers at 37% above the market price. This influx of profits from these sales changed Jibrin’s life completely as he was able to escape poverty and meet his family’s needs.
Today, a satisfied Jibrin who continues the journey towards intensive commercial agriculture testifies: “[I] hold this company in high esteem [because] there is nothing they have promised, and to date not fulfilled.” As another planting season rolls by, Jibrin has renewed hope. Across his community, the range of possibilities and achievements for a farmer has changed, and Jibrin is determined to continue pushing the boundaries.