On September 19, 2017, Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) in partnership with the National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) organized a forum for palm oil stakeholders to share the results of adopting improved harvesting technology, and link oil palm farmers, harvesters & processors to finance for adopting harvesting technologies.
‘Improving harvesting technology is a major issue, because 40-50% of palm fruit were being left to rot because of scarcity of climbers, if fruits don’t gets harvested then we cannot meet our annual demand for palm oil,” says Blessing Allen-Adebayo, PIND Market Development Officer for palm oil value chain who was present at the event. ’If we don’t get harvesting right, we won’t get enough fruit to process, and the gaps in technology currently mean that harvesters can make an additional 80% more than they currently do. This is the gap we are looking to fill.’
The two harvesting technologies that PIND and NIFOR promote are the Mechanical Adjustable Harvester and the Malaysian Knife. PIND worked with German Afro-machinery manufacturer STIHL Germany and their distributor in Nigeria, Texmaco Ventures to introduce the Mechanical Adjustable Harvester to farmers in 2014, Texmaco invested over 18 million naira in making the machine available in Nigeria. The Malaysian Knife, a machine with a sickle head just like the Adjustable harvester but without the engine, was introduced in 2016. By the end of 2016, 1,591 farmers had access to these technologies, increasing income by N107, 375, 476 as a result.
‘The first time that farmers ever got to know of the Mechanical Adjustable Harvester was in a demonstration event held right here at NIFOR, in this same hall,’ said Mr. Segun Solomon, a representative of NIFOR. ‘We have been working closely with PIND to continue to improve access to these most important technologies, and it is immensely gratifying to see this gathering here today where we take stock of the milestones recorded so far while reaching to attain further goals.’
Present at this event were farmer groups from Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Cross Rivers, Delta, and Edo States. Industrial users of palm oil such as SIAT, and banks such as Lift Above Poverty who had been working with both PIND and NIFOR were also on hand to network with the farmer groups and share options for procuring the improved harvesting technologies.
‘We are aware that money can be a huge limiting factor to improving adoption rates of these technologies,’ Says Mrs. Allen-Adebayo. ‘That is why we are working with microfinance banks to create payment solutions for farmers to enable them adopt these technologies. Anyone can now walk into LAPO, set up a payment plan and get the machine to their farm in a matter of days. PIND also has a technology adoption grant that covers 50% of the cost of the equipment to aid adoption is major palm oil producing communities in the Niger Delta
At this NIFOR event, farmers learned about the progress PIND and NIFOR have made to reach even more of their peers with these technologies and those who had never used the machine got to watch a demonstration of the machines so they could see for themselves how they work. These kinds of demonstrations have held all over the Niger Delta, led by farmers who have bought the machine themselves, to encourage others in their farmer groups to purchase the machine themselves.
A representative of LAPO Microfinance Bank, Oyeniyi Ayodeji, sees these kinds of events as necessary so that bankers themselves can better understand the challenges farmers are facing and tailor banking solutions that address the needs of agricultural sector.
‘We have been working closely with PIND on this and it has been very good for us to observe at such close quarters the work being done. This way, we can sees firsthand the enthusiasm of the farmers, share our own concerns as a financial institution and come to a mutual understanding.
When you have a partner that can help facilitate gatherings like this, you find that you can form symbiotic relationships with potential customers such as these farmers and lend money with confidence.’