SUSTAINABILITY | A Small Grant’s Big Impact on Ensuring Sustainable Harvests in Nigeria

Learning to trellis | Photo Source: Sustainable Environment and Fisheries Foundation (SEFFA).

Gurapwana and Dawhol Bob are two small villages in Plateau State, Nigeria that are transforming their agriculture landscape and are being empowered through small-scale farming initiatives. At the heart of these initiatives is the Sustainable Environment and Fisheries Foundation (SEFFA).

SEFFA is leading the way with a project called “Building Resilience to Climate Change Through Integrated Climate Smart Agriculture and Greenhouse Technology Skills,” which is supported by Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA) programme, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Adaptation Fund, and the European Union. SEFFA’s locally led adaptation solution, harnesses the power of integrated climate-smart agriculture along with greenhouse technology and skills to empower local communities and revolutionize their agricultural practices.

Recognizing the profound impact of climate change-induced drought, variable rainfall, land degradation, and extreme weather on agriculture, this project has been at the forefront of empowering rural communities to adapt and to build resilience. With help, farmers in Gurapwana and Dawhol Bob are now able to grow crops year-round in houses regardless of the harsh climate change affected weather conditions. Hanatu Bulus, a member of the Gurupwana community who has benefited from these initiatives, shares, “Through SEFFA’s project, I discovered a world of new possibilities. We learned how to rear fish, cultivate vegetables, and trade in the market. The impact on our community has been substantial. What was once unfamiliar territory has now become a source of livelihood for many.’’

“Through the use of drought-tolerant crop species like rice, bell peppers, tomatoes, maize, soybeans, mangoes, guava, and papaya, communities are not only weathering the challenges but thriving”

Through the use of drought-tolerant crop species like rice, bell peppers, tomatoes, maize, soybeans, mangoes, guava, and papaya, communities are not only weathering the challenges but thriving. This has helped to reduce crop failure and improve food security. With SEFFA’s guidance and training interventions, farmers are equipped with the knowledge to make meaningful changes in their agricultural practices. With hands-on training, workshops, and practical demonstrations, community members are learning the intricacies of greenhouse farming, which is an integrated system practiced with fish tanks inside the greenhouse. The waste produced by the fish serves as a natural fertilizer for the produce, creating a symbiotic ecosystem. Moreover, greenhouse technology helps alleviate the pressure on the land as many farming practices, including the use of fire in slash-and-burning farming, can degrade soil quality. By providing a controlled environment, the greenhouse allows for year-round farming, reducing dependency on rain-fed systems. Through these, they realize income from multiple streams.

Photo Source: Sustainable Environment and Fisheries Foundation (SEFFA).

SEFFA’s project objectives are clear: increase farm production, improve food security, and boost income levels. The project’s training programme on rice processing has helped farmers add value to their products and increase their income. Farmers are now able to sell their processed rice directly to consumers at a better price. With two greenhouses and solar-powered boreholes, the target is to harvest 17 tons of produce and create 150 new jobs. These technologies, once foreign to the communities, are now becoming integral parts of their farming practices. Moreover, the initiative aims to raise nutrition levels in 150 households and achieve a fivefold increase in monthly income.

“What sets our approach apart is not just the provision of drought-tolerant seeds, but the technical training we provide on production, processing and marketing these crops. This was a demand we identified through our hands-on experience and extended beyond our initial project scope. We are leveraging technology and financial inclusion, which will include mobile phones, for information management and product marketing, said Mrs. Ololade Adegoke, founder and CEO of SEFFA. She highlighted how the community itself has been a source of innovative solutions. “SEFFA’s role has been to facilitate and enhance the existing knowledge of the community. For instance, the community has developed a traditional financing mechanism called “esusu,” which we are working to incorporate into our initiatives.”

Community being able to harvest and sell their rice Photo Source: Sustainable Environment and Fisheries Foundation (SEFFA).

By integrating climate-resilient farming practices, the project is strengthening the communities’ sustainability and economic well-being. The UNDP-AFCIA grant has played a crucial role in facilitating these initiatives of community engagement. It has enabled SEFFA to enhance staff capacity, motivate the team, and create job opportunities to deploy more extension officers for on-field work. The success of the rice initiative has been particularly encouraging. Ensuring that the community can harvest rice from their own fields and have it on their tables has been a significant milestone, as having more community onboard with the initiatives. Collaboration with government officials has been pivotal in amplifying the reach as well as extending beyond, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

Compelling narratives of community resilience come to life when they are grounded in sustainable, replicable, and scalable projects. In this case, the power of small-scale farming initiatives amplified by a small grant has been transforming the narrative of the villages of Gurapwana and Dawhol Bob in Nigeria. This initiative exemplifies the incredible impact a small grant can have on a community. SEFFA’s comprehensive approach to integrated farming is leading the way towards a more secure and prosperous agricultural landscape in Nigeria.

This article is written from the interview with Ololade Adegoke, she holds the position of CEO at the Sustainable Environment and Fisheries Foundation (SEFFA), working in this field for the past 15 years.

This story has been co-created with the support from ICCCAD, UNDP, and SEFFA, in the framework of the UNDP-managed Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA). The UNDP AFCIA programme counts on financial contributions from the Adaptation Fund and the European Union and has awarded 44 micro and small grants to locally-led organizations across 33 countries worldwide, accelerating their innovative solutions to build resilience in the most vulnerable communities.

UNDP-AFCIA, is one of the funding windows anchored under the Adaptation Innovation Marketplace (AIM), a multi-stakeholder strategic platform that promotes scaled-up adaptation at the local level, launched by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021.

Author: Rukhsar Sultana is working as a researcher and development practitioner at an NGO based in Dhaka.