BY THERESA THOMAS, Sierra Leone
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted Africa’s agri-food system, exacerbating food insecurity in several regions across the continent, despite favourable statistics, showing that Africa has the lowest rate of COVID-19-related deaths.
In another statistic, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that more than 40 million East Africans are likely to experience chronic food shortages, due to COVID-19. In Nigeria and Senegal, it says, the majority of farmers experienced post-harvest losses, with up to 40 per cent of fresh produce perishing before reaching consumers, and this included items like dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
These losses had been somewhat attributed to border closures and lockdowns enforced by African governments to prevent the spread of the virus, inadequate storage facilities and poor transportation networks have only exacerbated and further aggravated food losses in the region. And unfortunately, the smallholder farmers are the immediate victims who get so little for their intensive hours of labour, a devastating effect that Farmforte exists to tackle, among other objectives.
But the problem has always been there, due to logistical problems faced by smallholder farmers and lack of access to the market, among other factors. In its drive to active cut down postharvest losses and prosper the farmers, on Sunday, December 20, 2020, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the Governor of Nigeria’s Edo State was in the Lekki Phase 1 area of Lagos State, the country’s commercial city to commission Farmforte’s ultra-modern outlet.
To succeed in its mandate, the Nigerian-based Pan Africa Company which has its root in the Netherlands have Quader-pillars of wisdom, which are:
With this, the company recognise that smallholder farmers are the key to food security in Africa. Not only do smallholders hold large swaths of arable land, but they also constitute about 70% of the workforce on the continent. However, they are bedevilled by a myriad of challenges ranging from low yields, post-harvest losses, lack of finance, low mechanization and poor access to markets.
Storage & Logistics
The company has created novel solutions to existing problems in the African agriculture landscape and transforming them into economic opportunities for smallholder farmers by eliminating wastage caused by postharvest losses. This the management is achieving by deploying world-class technology to tackle storage and logistics challenges.
Processing & Packaging
For years, concerned agribusiness experts in Africa have been canvassing for the stoppage or at least, the reduction to the barest minimum of the exportation of raw material if leaders of the continent are serious about job and wealth creation. This is one area where the role that Farmforte is playing become very unique. The company is striving to add value to raw agricultural materials by converting them into world-class products is worthy of emulation and commendation.
This initiative guaranteed market access for the company’s products. Farmfote understands this as the most vital part of the triangle of profitable success for smallholder farmers. Therefore, the company provide reliable access to local and global markets for smallholder farmers. The pursuit of Farmforte in this regard is buying up all its smallholder’s produce and adding value to them, thereby giving smallholders a guaranteed income and greater potential for profit. Since “charity” they say, “begins at home”, it has never been this possible for the Edo State farmers working with Farmforte.
With a mission to utilize technology and innovative models to create the most efficient and affordable methods to produce crops, add value and create access to markets locally and globally for African products, nothing can be timelier.
To increase sweet potato production, Farmforte is supporting some smallholder farmers in Edo state with a sweet potato out-grower scheme. The collaboration between Farmforte and smallholder farmers is rooted in a shared goal: to create positive sustainability outcomes in agricultural supply chains.
Farmforte in the Netherlands is the proud producer of a beer brand made from sweet potato otherwise known as “Orango Sweet Potato Beer”. It’s a highly fermented blond craft beer with a soft fresh aftertaste. With the beer being soft and smooth customers shouldn’t expect it to have a percentage of 6.5%. But what distinguishes Orango from other beers is that it contains sweet potato. This is added during the brewing process so that the starch and colour of the potato are released. Africa is truly in a dire need of such an initiative as Farmeforte.
Only recently, the company introduced Farmforte Food Valley, a world-class Agriculture and Food Production Park, built on 1000 hectares of land on the banks of Osse River in Ovia North of Edo State. The site is a few kilometres from Benin City, the capital of the state.
The Park is being developed to ensure that entire value chains of specific agro products are all clustered in the same axis, enabling immense synergies that will boost productivity and increase profitability. It’s being built to link a proposed seaport in order to simplify export logistics for all its products.
Apart from sweet potatoes, other farm products of Farmforte are cashew nuts, beans, cocoa, sesame seeds, kiwi, strawberry, orange, and Pineapple. With a company like Farmforte spreading across the continent, there is certainly light at the end of the dark tunnel of postharvest losses for Africa’s smallholder farmers.