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Towards an affordable Bio/Organic Fertilizer Future for Farmers.

Getting our affordable and enriched Bio/Organic Fertilizer brand into the hands of each of 5-million smallholder farmers by 2050.

Photo of Olanrewaju Oluwafemi
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

MiddleBrook Farms®

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://middlebrookfarms.com.ng/index.html

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Oyo town, Oyo State, Nigeria

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Nigeria

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

SouthWest Nigeria, located at the coast of West Africa, has a total area of approximately of 80,115 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Nigeria

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

SouthWestern Nigeria is arguably the most densely populated region of Nigeria (Lagos state, the commercial nerve centre of the country with an estimated 21-million population, is situated within SouthWestern Nigeria) with arguably the largest population (an estimated 50-million inhabitants). MiddleBrook Farms in based in Oyo state (in SouthWestern Nigeria), with an estimated population of approximately 10-million inhabitants, more than half of whom are into subsistence farming of one form or another. We operate a modest Organic Liquid fertilizer production factory in Oyo town (one of the major towns within Oyo state), with a production capacity of 20,000-Litres of fertilizer per annum. We also have Cassava Peel waste processing factory within the same vicinity. Oyo town is a very important place for MiddleBrook Farms simply because that is our centre of operations, and we also have a strong connection to the community because our staff (whom comprise mainly of women - about 70% - and many of whom also happen to be subsistence farmers) are also based within the town.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Oyo town is the ancestral home of the Oyo clan of the Yoruba people whom speak the 'Yoruba' language. The town is located within Oyo state, which covers an area of 28,454 km² and has an estimated 1-million inhabitants. The Oyos, whom are the custodians of Yoruba imperial/martial history, are a major clan of the larger Yoruba ethnicity, which happens to be one of the three major ethnic groups within Nigeria (numbering over 40-million), and can also be found in other West-African countries, including Benin, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast. The Oyos are arguably the most famous of the Yoruba clans that inhabit the SouthWestern region of Nigeria, due to the expansionist exploits of their progenitors of a now defunct 'Oyo Empire' which exerted enormous influence over much not only Yorubas but some other tribes within Nigeria and West Africa, up until the early 19th century. The Oyos are also quite famous for a unique/ancient custom of facial 'tribal marks' (a facial scarification practice) that identifies most of the indigenous founding families of the town (although the practice of scarification is fizzling out and no longer fashionable). The paramount ruler of the Oyos is called the 'Alaafin', a much loved and revered custodian of Oyo history and very influential figure within and outside the Yoruba/SouthWestern region of Nigeria. The Oyos are very urbanized people whom live in close proximity (called 'compounds') to one another. Oyo is also the home of the popular 'Aso Oke' fabric (which means "top cloth" in the English language). The most popular delicacy that the Oyos are known for is called "Amala", which is made out of yam and/or cassava flour, or unripe plantain flour called 'elubo' in local Yoruba language, eaten with bean soup ('Gbegiri') and stew. The vast majority of Oyo people are involved in one form of subsistence farming or another. The preferred crop of cultivation for the Oyos is Cassava. In various parts of the town, it is common to notice several cassava processing clusters, with the largest one (which is in close proximity to our factory) processing as much 300-tonnes of cassava tubers into garri (a Nigerian staple food) on a daily basis. Oyo town is a fast-developing semi-urbanized town, with modern infrastructures and industries springing up daily, but a lot can still be done to lift much of the town's population out of poverty. Most of the farming taking place in the town is still happening on a subsistence level. And due to affordability problems, most of the yields of their farming efforts fall short as most farmers cannot afford inputs and improved seeds. Aquaculture is also another preferred occupation of the Oyos.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

10000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

CURRENT AND FUTURE CHALLENGES: ================================ Environmental: Nigerian soils are experiencing rapid and increasing decline in fertility as a result of neglect and after-effects of excessive chemical use of synthetic/chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals that are destroying it soils. Diets: Foods grown with chemical fertilizers have been found to contain less protein. Furthermore, the lack of trace elements in chemical fertilizers not only means an increase incidence of plant diseases, but it also means there is less nutrition from the fruits and vegetables for the consumer. Trace minerals are an important component of healthy nutrition. Economics: Fertilizers are still largely inaccessible to the average Nigerian farmer, partly for economic reasons. While many farmers understand the importance of fertilizers, they tend to be too poor to afford them, and even when they can afford them, they often don't use enough of it to make appreciable impact on their crops. Equally, Organic fertilizers are also considered to be expensive and out of reach for these set of farmers. Culture: Many farmers lack knowledge on correct dosages and application techniques of fertilizers. According to the IFDC, approximately 50% of farmers apply fertilizer using skilled micro-dosage techniques, whereas the other half broadcast. Due to the fear that improper use of chemical fertilizers can lead to lower yields or even crop destruction, farmers in both Northern and Southern Nigeria tend to be wary of its use. Technology: Most Nigerian farmers are too poor and ill-equipped to carry out soil tests of their farmlands, in order to ascertain the true conditions of their soil, which would have enabled them to determine the exact nutrients that are deficient. Technologies exist today that make it easy to determine such conditions, however they are out of reach of farmers due to the cost implications. Policy: Nigerian government policy of subsidizing fertilizer supply to farmers hasn't lived up to expectations due mainly to massive corruption and politicization. Evidence abounds that a lot of the subsidized fertilizers do not make it to the farmers who need them, but are rather diverted by politicians who instead export them, or use them on their own large-scale farming concerns. And the few that eventually get to the farmers arrive much later towards the end of the farming season when the farmers can no longer make sure of them (bearing in mind that most of these farmers don't do irrigation farming.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision is a revolutionary innovation that would see us mass produce and distribute an affordable and enriched Bio/Organic Fertilizer to at least 5-million Nigerian smallholder farmers by 2050, thereby demystifying the popular notion that Organic/Biofertilizers always have to be more expensive than the synthetic/chemical ones. This we intend to achieve thanks to an opportunity that beckons upon us in our current operational environment (Oyo town). We currently operate in a rural environment that processes as much as 400-tonnes of cassava tubers on a daily. This cassava processing activity generates nothing less than 120,000-litres of wastewater on a daily basis (300 litres of wastewater is generated per tonnes of cassava that is processed). Unfortunately, all that wastewater are handled recklessly because the people that generate them are largely unenlightened and barely educated to know how best to dispose of such waste, so they either dig holes in the ground (as a sort of reservoir) and allow the waters flow in there until the sun dries it (oftentimes the wastewater goes deep into the ground all the way into water-well bodies and poisons them), or they throw as much of it as they can away into streams, thereby contaiminating such water bodies. These wastewater (which contain large amounts of organic compounds) then begin to ferment, emitting methane -- a greenhouse gas whose impact on the climate is 20-times that of CO2. And this has been going on now for more than two decades at this particular location. But fortunately we have a solution to this environmental disaster (with the requisite funding), and this involves putting all that wastewater to beneficial and environmentally friendly use, by using it as a veritable feedstock for producing/generating Biogas and BioFertilizer; which is possible and is already being done in other climes, according to documented research ( https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288212278_Biogas_production_from_cassava_waste and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960148118306797 ). The byproduct slurry from the anearobic digestion of the wastewater will be used as nutrient/NPK rich biofertilizer. In other words, we will harness as much of the wastewater as we can through anaerobic digestion (by building a large enough Biogas plant) into biogas and biofertilizer; we expect to convert/recycle at least 50,000-Litres of the wastewater into Biogas and Bioferlizer weekly, and then scale that with time). The implication of achieving such a feat is that MiddleBrook Farms would have a steady and sustainable supply of more than enough feedstock to crash the price of fertilizer for farmers (by at least 60%) from an average of N5,000 (USD $14) to N2,000 (USD $6). 1-Litre of this biofertilizer will be enough to fertilize 1-acre of farmland upon dilution with 75-Litres of water. Our current biofertilizer sells for N5,000 ($14) but with this innovation, the price will crash to $6.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

With our more affordable fertilizer, environmental, socio and economic activities would be positively impacted. Environmentally, the wastewaster that would have constituted a hazard to the environment would have been evacuated and put to a more beneficial use. Economically, the anaerobic digester (Biogas plant) that would breakdown the wastewater into fertilizer would create more jobs in the community, especially for women whom would constitute a bulk of its workforce. The Biogas that would be generated from the plant would also impact positively on the community by serving as a safe and more environmentally friendly energy replacement for firewood as cooking fuel. That way, women and girls, whom are normally responsible for going in search of firewood for cooking (often times for several hours), would have more time to devote towards more productive pursuits. Also, with increased use of the biofertilizer from the plant, the soils of the area would regain their fertility, while the crops and vegetables grown in them would be disease-resisted and enriched with better nutritional content.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: The environmental impact of our vision will see to the enrichment and replenishment of the soils of the place and people. Unlike chemical fertilizers which provide short-term results yet, in the long term, damage the soil, ground water, and our health, biofertilizers create a more sustainable and healthy soil, provide safe-release plant nutrients, avert 'run-off' and retain moisture in the soil. Also, by transforming the wastewater from the surrounding cassava processing activities into biofertilizers, we would be saving the climate and environment from exposure to methane (a dangerous greenhouse gas with 20-times the impact on the environment than CO2). DIETS: With our vision, nutritional content in plants and crops would be increased, translating into healthier foods. ECONOMICS: Due to the dramatic increase in volume and capacity of our production/operations, the immediate impact on the people and the place would be increased employment opportunities. There'll also be credit facilities for those who may not have. Distributorship opportunities will also be made available for locals, to open up entrepreneurship opportunities to earn a living and also create jobs. CULTURE: Our vision would promote a change in the fertilizer usage culture of the people and place because most of the inhabitants in the focus areas are not used to the practise of applying fertilizers for affordability and accessibility reasons. By the time our vision comes to fruition, fertilizer would have become more accessible and affordable enough for these farmers. Our agents will also be on ground to train them on the right and proper application techniques as well as good farming practices, doing this will inculcate a culture of best practices that will translate into bumper yields while maintaining a healthy soil. TECHNOLOGY: By the time our vision comes to fruition, farmers would have more disposable income from bumper yields to engage in more mechanized farming practices that would even further improve their economic standing. With affordable fertilizer comes bumper yields that would sell better and give the farmers more money to invest in leasing more technologically advanced farming machines for higher and better productivity. POLICY: Our vision will certainly mitigate the inefficiencies of the government fertilizer subsidy programs which, as stated earlier, is rife with corruption and politicization. If farmers have an affordable and accessible alternative source of fertilizer, the inefficiencies of the government's fertilizer subsidy program would be mitigated and not affect their farming cycles like it currently does.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Aphrodite Oti
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Organic product is becoming the in thing now and with access to affordable organic fertilizer, it becomes easier for farmers to rely less on chemical based fertilizer to farm. Another area that will be much welcomed is organic insecticide. We have an abundance of neem plant. Am not sure we have any company based in Nigeria currently utilizing this resource to produce been insecticides particularly for veg cultivation

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