en Inter-réseaux Développement rural en Inter-réseaux Développement rural


Getting Fertiliser into farmers' Hands

To facilitate access to subsidised fertiliser for smallholder
farmers in Nigeria, IFDC developed a fertiliser voucher
programme that relies on a public-private partnership. This
initiative has met with resounding success, even if many limitations
remain to be addressed.

Haladu Afdu, chairman of the Jumar Kwari
Kamfa Fadama Farmers Cooperative in Wudil
(Kano state), has just paid for two 50-kg bags
of subsidised mineral fertiliser upon presentation of
a voucher coupon that was allotted to each member
of his organization two weeks earlier. “The great advantage
of the voucher programme is that fertiliser is
distributed almost on our doorsteps,” he says. “Many
of us had not seen fertilisers for a long time. Last year,
with this programme, we received three bags each.
Before, there were times when we had only two bags
for our entire community.”
Mr. Abdu was one of a total of 300,000 farmers in
Bauchi, Kano, Kwara and Taraba states who had a
chance to purchase government-subsidised fertilisers.
He is one of the beneficiaries of the 2010 Fertiliser
Voucher Program funded by the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) in collaboration
with four state governments in Nigeria and implemented
with technical support from IFDC.
Farmers in Nigeria have limited access to mineral
fertiliser. In most villages, it is harder to get fertiliser
than a bottle of Coca-Cola or a cell phone card.

A Recent Initiative to Respond to the Absence of
Structured Fertiliser Distribution Channels.
1977 and 1996, the federal government of Nigeria
implemented an annual programme to supply
fertiliser to farmers. In 1997, the fertiliser market was
liberalised without prior preparation of the private
sector. This led to a sharp decline in fertiliser use,
from 1.2 million tonnes in 1992 to under 57,000 tonnes
in 1997. In 1999, the federal government introduced a
subsidy of 25% to increase fertiliser use. Studies have
shown, however, that only 20% of subsidised fertiliser
actually reaches small farmers, due to diversion all
along the distribution chain. Moreover, the products
often arrive late in the season, and are sometimes of
poor quality and insufficient quantity. Furthermore,
they are sold on local markets at prices comparable
to those of unsubsidised fertilisers, due to intermediaries
and government agencies that are not held
accountable for procurement and supply.
How can we make sure that subsidised fertiliser actually
reaches small farmers in time and at a reduced
price? One solution is to use a voucher system. André
de Jager (IFDC) supports this approach: “One of the
voucher system’s strengths is that everyone gains:
the distributor benefits from an assured market and
a guaranteed margin; the government benefits from
the assurance that subsidies are reaching a targeted
audience—smallholder farmers; the farmers benefit from governmental assistance and are able to buy
fertiliser near their homes.”
In 2008, capitalising upon successful experiences
inother countries, IFDC, in collaboration with the
National Programme for Food Security (NPFS) of
Nigeria, piloted a Fertiliser Voucher Program (FVP)
in Kano and Bauchi states. These pilot schemes, which
targeted fewer than 5,000 farmers, demonstrated the
feasibility and efficiency of a voucher system to allocate
public subsidies directly to smallholder farmers, via
private-sector supply of subsidised fertilisers.
The success of the 2008 pilot phase led to testing
of the fertiliser voucher system on a larger scale. A
vaster programme covering Kano and Taraba states
was launched in 2009. These programmes aimed to
supply subsidised fertilisers to one-third of the smallholder
farmer population in each state (134,109 farmers
in Kano, and 60,468 farmers in Taraba).
The objectives of the FVP in Nigeria are threefold:
(1) ensure that the subsidies reach the targeted
farmers; (2) develop a distribution channel managed
by the private sector that is able to function with or
without subsidies while providing fertiliser to meet
market demand; and (3) improve the administration
of subsidies by the federal and state governments.
Muhammad Umar Kura, Managing Director of
the Kano State Agriculture and Rural Development
Authority (KNARDA), praises the programme: “We
tested several options, starting with the direct distribution
of fertilisers to farmers, but the government
does not have the capacities of a business enterprise.
Fertiliser is a political product. The shiner of shoes,
the mechanic on the corner, everyone is interested
in fertiliser since it is provided by the government.
We needed a programme that made it possible to
deliver quality inputs to targeted farmers. It is the
transparency which is the strength of the FVP. The
cost of the subsidy becomes more bearable for the
government if it is sure that the money spent really
benefits farmers.”

How Does the Voucher System Work? Local extension
agents distribute vouchers that represent a
40% discount on the market purchase price of fertiliser
directly to targeted smallholder farmers. These
vouchers can be redeemed at selected fertiliser dealers,
to whom farmers pay only 60% of the nominal
price, corresponding to the non-subsidised portion.
Each voucher bears secure identification features: the
farmer’s name and photograph, a unique voucher serial
number, indelible ink and a barcode.
Targeted farmers are identified on the basis of specific criteria. In 2010, most of the recipients were
smallholders (20% women) affiliated with a farmers’
organization who could afford to buy the subsidised
Farmers receive training on fertiliser management,
and on the functioning of the voucher programme.
Each operation is conducted by qualified teams of
agents from the Ministry of Agriculture and each
state’s extension services, supervised and coordinated
by the IFDC. The distribution teams are required to
record a daily inventory of vouchers distributed and
of fertiliser sales.
With the vouchers in hand, farmers can buy a specific
quantity of fertiliser from private-sector dealers
who are affiliated with the programme. The fertiliser
dealers then redeem the vouchers with their suppliers,
who in turn exchange them for payment from
the government.


Challenges to Be Met. Despite the programme’s success,
many constraints undermine its sustainability.
In 2009 and 2010 the government delayed payment
to affiliated dealers—jeopardising the programme
and pushing back the launch of the programme in
each state. This led some stakeholders to withdraw
from the 2010 programme and ultimately reduced the
number of farmers who benefited (see table).

The 2009 and 2010 Fertiliser Voucher Programmes in Nigeria: Key Figures

Another challenge lies in the technical and financial
capacities of fertiliser dealers and their ability
to effectively implement the FVP. In the past, fertiliser
was distributed through government channels
and not by the private sector. As a result, there are
significant gaps in the supply chain between fertiliser
producers and local distributors. Furthermore,
regional distributors and local dealers have limited
access to the affordable credit that they need to procure
their stock.
Implementation by government agents is not an
easy matter either. As a consequence of dwindling
funding for the agricultural sector in Nigeria, the
qualifications of government agents specialised in
agriculture in rural areas have also fallen, as competent
workers seek better-paid jobs elsewhere. To
provide an incentive for local extension agents, the
FVP pays them in proportion to their involvement
in the programme.
And those who profited under the previous system
by diverting fertiliser from their intended beneficiaries
are not well disposed towards the programme. Due to
the transparency of the programme only some state
and federal civil servants are willing to support it.
Occasionally, extension of the programme has been
deliberately impeded.

An Innovative System that Stimulates the Private
. The FVP is more transparent and cost-effective
than earlier fertilisation distribution programmes
in Nigeria (90% of FVP fertiliser reached targeted
farmers in 2009 and 2010). Government costs for
the distribution of subsidised fertiliser have been
cut by 60%.
By securing their profit margin, the vouchers encourage
fertiliser dealers to develop supply channels
in rural areas. Although the FVP is an innovative way
to boost the capacities of the private sector, it faces
challenges that cannot be overcome in just one season.
Thee programme’s success will ultimately depend
on the determination of the Nigerian government as
a whole.

Brian Kiger is a project
leader at the International
Fertilizer Development
Center (IFDC) in Nigeria.
He has worked with the
Nigerian government,
USAID, and Alliance for a
Green Revolution in Africa
(AGRA) to develop a
voucher programme for
the purchase of subsidised

Marie Ketline Adodo
was coordinator of the
Information and
Communication unit of
IFDC’s Africa Division
based in Lomé for more
than ten years. She is
currently the IFDC
communication officer for

IFDC (http://
/) is an
international organization
addressing critical issues
such as international food
security, the alleviation of
global hunger and poverty,
environmental protection,
and the promotion of
economic development
and self-sufficiency. IFDC
focuses on increasing
productivity across the
agricultural value chain in
developing countries. To
date, IFDC has provided
assistance in nearly 100

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