One of the biggest challenges that underfinanced smallholder farmers face, especially in this part of the world, is the lack of access to a ready market when it comes to the sales of their produce. Available statistics show that up to 60% of harvested farm produce is wasted because farmers don’t have access to market and also lack adequate storage facilities for their harvests. Most smallholder farmers stay in rural areas without good road networks that connect to the cities, where they can find off-takers for their produce.
For those who manage to find a way around this, there’s yet another challenge. They have to scale some other huddles the moment they set out on their journey to trade their harvest. Some of the produce are damaged due to a number of adverse situations; they are extorted at various checkpoints; and when they finally arrive the market, they have to cough out money as fees and levies that will entitle them to off-load their goods. If they don’t get patronage when the produce is still fresh, they run the risk of selling off at ridiculously cheap rates by the time the quality of the produce begins to reduce. These challenges do not impact the quality of life of the farmer alone; they probably affect you more, and here is why:
In a country with over 180 million people as at the last count, the domestic demand for staples like Rice, Maize, Soya Beans and other cereals are expectedly high. For example, the annual demand for Soya Beans lies at about an estimated 2.2 million metric tons. But, as at 2016, annual supplies sat at a little over 600,000 metric tons. Amongst other factors, farm produce wastage is responsible for this shortfall. In the case of rice, about 24.9% of paddy is lost at farm level operations in Nigeria, compared to just 3.51% lost in India. Not getting enough farm produce to meet our demand leads to food insecurity.
As a fall out of the shortfall in supply when compared to demand, we have to depend on produce that are imported legally and, in some cases, illegally, to meet our feeding and industrial needs in the country. Then, according to available statistics, the value of the total grain loss in the Nigerian rice supply chain is estimated at a staggering N56.7 billion naira. Issues like this explain why feeding has become an expensive thing to do. Hence, you get to the market to find that the prices of essential commodities have risen from what they were the last time you checked.
Malnutrition occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients. UNICEF estimates that an alarming 2.5million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria. This results from shortage in food supply, coupled with the price of this necessary food stuffs increasingly getting out of the reach of a large percentage of poor families in the country, which lack the purchasing power to buy what they need to eat. Some smallholder families only survive on the crops they plant and only get a balanced diet through food barter, if they are lucky.
When we have and we don’t make room for those who might not have, what we have might likely be taken away by those who don’t have. Hunger and poverty have led people into different crimes. We do not justify their actions, but we believe that if more people get access to food and good nutrition, there will be a drastic reduction in crime rate.
Apart from the obvious wastage of the farmers’ efforts, land, water, and its attendant socio-economic imperatives, food wastage has a profound effect on the environment. As the disposed foods begin to decompose or rot, it releases methane gas which is a greenhouse gas. It is estimated that food waste, including that of farm produce, spoilt food stuff and disposed left overs from homes, account for about 8% of global Green House Gas, which is making our environment sick. So, the less the farm produce wasted, the less the methane gas emitted into the environment, and the better for us all.
At Zowasel, among our various solutions tailored to make things easier for smallholder farmers, we have taken up the challenge of creating a Marketplace, the first of its kind in Nigeria, which is open to all farmers in Nigeria. The Zowasel Marketplace connects farmers with off-takers who will buy up their produce right from the comfort of their communities, thereby reducing wastage. By supporting farmers on Growsel, you grant them access to improved seeds, best quality agricultural inputs, training on agricultural best practices and increased yield. Then, by spreading the word about Zowasel Marketplace, you help to ensure that farmers sell all their produce to off-takers at the right prices, thereby eliminating produce wastage and its adverse socio-economic imperatives.