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Nigeria soybean campaign reaches 170,000 famers… and shares key lessons on impacts of the uptake of campaign messages

Solomon Duah, from the CABI-ASHC delivery team reflects on the lessons from the soybean campaign he helped to deliver in Nigeria. This is a revised and updated version of the blog published in October 15, 2018. It now reports that the campaign reach target was exceeded by over 40%.

There is a growing interest and enthusiasm in the production of soybean among farmers in selected states in Nigeria. An integrated farmer education campaign has  introduction them to new yield-enhancing and soil fertility-improving technologies.

legume poster

A collaboration between CABI’s Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC), Intrio Synergy Limited, a Nigeria-based private agricultural value chain development entity, state agricultural development agencies (ADPs) and IITA, delivered a campaign consisting of an integrated communications approach aimed at educating farmers on good agronomic practices and soil fertility management encompassing improved productivity and post-harvest management.

The campaign was in line with the aim of ASHC. It facilitated and supported implementation of multi-partner and multi-media campaign-based approaches to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farming households through better access to practical information about Integrated Soil Fertility Management. The technologies promoted including promotion of the use of NoduMax, (a rhizobium inoculant for soybean developed by IITA) and fertilizer application to improve soil fertility and increase smallholder farmers’ soybean yields.

The 2018 campaign targeted a reach of about 120,000 farmers in six priority soybean-producing states in Nigeria namely, Niger, Borno, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Kwara.

This built on the experiences and lessons learnt from a pilot campaign that reached over 35,000 farmers in 2017.

meetingThe campaign was designed to disseminate recommended soybean agronomic practices and technologies using three (3) channels namely;

  1. print
  2. radio series and
  3. instructional videos deployed through field extension agents and agro-dealers.

To ensure the messages were properly understood by the target audience, and for increased chances of adoption, three local languages that are the most commonly used in the selected states – Hausa, Tiv and Yuroba – were used in the campaign, in addition to English.

The multimedia approach was adopted in a unique manner to ensure the different tools and approaches used complemented each other in a way that not only helped to increase famer reach, but also reinforced messages for improved rate of adoption.

At a mid-campaign review meeting with field implementation partners about, it was revealed that there was growing enthusiasm among farmers about soybean production owing to the improved practices and technologies that were being introduced to them in the campaign messages through the trainings by the extension agents (EAs), radio broadcasts and videos.

23Farmers in some local government areas, in Kaduna for instance, indicated that they have in times past shied away from soybean production as a result of poor soil fertility and its attendant low yields and economic losses. However, with the introduction and explanation of how the inoculant (NoduMax) helps to improve soil fertility (through nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere)  to boost yields, they have renewed interest in soybean production.

According to reports by extension agents in Nasarawa State, some of the established soybean farmers were planning to expand their farm sizes as a result of the knowledge they had acquired through the campaign. Oher farmers who had, hitherto, not been in soybean farming, were contemplating venturing into it as they saw a lot of economic potentials in it compared to other crops. Also, some farmers saw the knowledge acquired as an eye opener for them to diversify their farming ventures by including soybean to cushion them from economic losses experienced in the production of other crops such as maize and yam.  Factors that led to these losses including unpredictability of the climate and tribal/religious conflicts.

A preliminary end-of-season assessment has estimates that 170,452 farmers have been reached with messages on recommended practices for improved soybean production. This a really pleasing finding as it is over 40% above our target reach for the campaign, This over delivery also has a significant impact on the cost-effectiveness of the campaign, effectively reducing the cost per farmer reached.

Of these, 34,421 farmers (including 9,731 females) were reached through trainings and direct engagements with extension agents. The weekly radio broadcasts on six radio stations reached an estimated audience of 136,031 farmers. It expected that a thorough post-campaign evaluation will help to determine the actual rate of adoption of the campaign messages by the farmers and the extent to which it has contributed to bridging the existing yield gap in soybean production in Nigeria.

Some Key Lessons

In the course of the implementation of the campaign activities, a number of challenges were encountered which should be seen as key lessons to be considered in the design and implementation similar interventions or campaigns in the future.

Previous experience conditions the response of farmers. Farmers’ experiences from previous interventions generally affect their response to the new intervention. For instance, at the beginning of the campaign, farmers in a lot of the target communities were not quite enthusiastic and receptive to the campaign efforts. According to them, there had been several of similar interventions in the past that come with the promises of providing them support that never came. They were therefore being cautious of new development interventions in order not to fall for such deceptions again. Also, the impact of past interventions had an effect on the level of enthusiasm and cooperation farmers exhibited towards the campaign. In places where farmers felt that similar initiatives in the past did not bring about any significant change in the yields and livelihoods, the level of interest shown by farmers was relatively low compared to places where such an intervention was being introduced to them for the first time.

Farmers will link the messages to other local opportunities. We realized that, farmers and rural dwellers have certain expectations which need to be addressed for them to pay adequate attention to a training program. In parts of Kwara state, farmers who were linked to groups that were already having loans processed  by the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) were more excited about the campaign messages and readily responded to them. These farmers had been desirous of linkage to input finance for some time. They saw this campaign as an opportunity to improve their chances and eligibility to access the ABP loans.

Situational analysis must be cognisant of the prevailing security concerns. Another critical lesson that emerged from the campaign was that security situations have the potential to significantly affect campaigns in certain states/countries.  In areas where conflict is occurring, this factor should always be considered in designing interventions. Many a time, the situation is not envisaged and in such cases a mitigation plan should be put in place to respond should they crystalize. For instance, the plan to use video through village-based screening and viewing centres in Kaduna state failed mainly because of the high security related tension across the state such that people tend to avoid places of major gatherings, especially in the evenings, thus making it impractical to use the videos as planned.