A fertiliser company, OCP Africa is set to partner with the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria to distribute nutritionally-enhanced maize and promote collaboration and capacity building for scientists, researchers and technicians.

The partnership will involve international and local experts seeking ways to increase climate resilience and productivity of maize and to strengthen maize-based cropping systems  across the country.

OCP Africa has launched an agricultural intervention programme at ABU) tagged “Agribooster campus offer” targeted at 5,000 maize farmers within the university and its immediate environs.

OCP Group, the Moroccan parent company of OCP Africa, is the world’s largest producer and exporter of phosphate and phosphate-based fertiliser. The multinational company drives the bilateral partnership between Nigeria and Morocco on the supply of phosphate to blending plants in several states across the country.

As part of the launch, the Faculty of Agriculture of ABU nominated 15 of its postgraduate students to be trained and equipped by OCP Africa on agriculture extension skills to reach the targeted farmers, teaching those best practices in the application of various farm inputs to maximizs their yield in maize cultivation.

The Country Manager OCP Africa, Mr. Caleb Usoh, said the “Agribooster Campus Offer”, the first of its kind in Nigerian universities, would provide the farmers with fertiliser, seeds, and agro-chemicals; funding through its project partner, ABU Microfinance Bank Limited; and training for the postgraduate extension workers who will, in turn, train the farmers.”

According to Usoh, “We are very positive that this programme will significantly expand the yields of these farmers, based on the quality of the seeds and fertiliser we have brought in. The students who are going to become agri-promoters in the different villages where these 5,000 framers are operating will create awareness for them in the proper use of farm input. With this intervention by OCP Africa and its partners, the farmers will be able to get the right types of fertiliser and other critical input in sufficient quantities, and at the right time.”

ABU’s Dean Faculty of Agriculture, Prof Olufunmilola Alabi, said: “We are happy that OCP Africa has chosen our school to begin the roll out of its Agribooster Campus Offer in Nigerian universities. The selected postgraduate students are being trained to become extension workers who will work with the farmers within our immediate environs. We expect that this intervention would increase the maize yield drastically for the farmers concerned, and it will translate into more money for them.”

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Kaduna State, and representative of the governor at the event, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kasim, expressed his optimism that the offer would be a powerful complement for transforming agriculture in the entire state. “We congratulate the company and its partners on putting together this intervention which wil,l ultimately, help our state to move agriculture away from subsistence levels and make it a more profitable business.”

One of the ABU’s postgraduate extension workers, Mr. Elijah Ogunshola, said: “With the training, he has undergone both in the classroom as well as what he has now got from OCP Africa in the past six months, the yield of farmers under his watch would significantly increase. It is high time we brought our local farmers up to speed with modern practices, and by God’s grace, we will try our best to see that we put a smile on the farmers face, helping them to make farming a more profitable venture than what they are used to.”

Earlier, Usoh, and  ABU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba,  signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) to deploy the offer for the school.

Usoh said his company decided to launch the programme first in ABU because of its robust Faculty of Agriculture and access to extensive agricultural land within the university campus.

He explained: “Many Nigerian universities have very robust agriculture faculties and they are also sitting on vast lands, so instead of keeping those lands fallow, we want to engage with these schools for farming. For instance, with the knowledge that the ABU Faculty of Agriculture imparts on its graduate and postgraduate students, coupled with well designed extension services, these students can combine their academics with practicals. In the process, we can spur their interest in agriculture as a business. Upon their graduation, they could then begin to see and take advantage of the great opportunities in agribusiness.”

Prof Ibrahim Garba said the school would assist OCP Africa to achieve the goal of the Agribooster Campus Offer. According to him, “The university and its environs is a very well known agrarian environment. We therefore see what you are offering to us as a complement to what we are already doing under our ABU Microfinance Bank Limited and our Institute for Agriculture Research (IAR)”.

Maize is an important food in Nigeria  and the main ingredient in several well-known national dishes. Examples are tuwon masara,pap and akamu. It’s also used as animal feed and as raw material for brewing beer and for producing starch.

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