Tomato Jos, a Nigerian agro-processing company renowned for the local production and processing of tomatoes, has been awarded a co-investment grant worth N494 million by the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), a diversification venture into the grains sector set to boost the productivity, income, and resilience of 4000 maize and soybean smallholder farmers in Kaduna State.
According to a statement by USAID and Tomato Jos, Kaduna State is home to approximately 1.3 million farming families, many of whom cultivate both maize and soybean, two of Nigeria’s staple crops. The organisations bemoaned that domestic production of the grains has failed to meet the high market demand because of several limitations faced by farmers including outdated farming techniques, limited awareness of the market’s quality demand, and a lack of funds to improve their farming practices.
To address these challenges, Tomato Jos said it would leverage its grant and approximately N3.3 billion ($8 million) of private funds to launch a 3-year maize and soybean outgrower project in northern Nigeria starting from Kaduna State. The project is expected to benefit 4,000 smallholder farmers, particularly women and youths, who will work as outgrowers with Tomato Jos.
The private equity-backed, social enterprise agric company further noted that the 4,000 smallholders will be trained on modern farming techniques to ensure improved crops’ quality and increase their productivity, while loans will be offered to the farmers who lack the capital to fully run their farms.
The project is expected to help smallholders produce 3,600 metric tonnes of maize and 400 metric tonnes of soybean by the third year of the project, the organisers assured.
Commenting on the partnership with Trade Hub, Mira Mehta, founder of Tomato Jos, said leveraging private investments to finance smallholder farmers is key to driving inclusive economic growth in northern Nigeria.
Mehta added that the co-investment will enable the company improve its operations and productivity as it works continuously to expand its storage capacity for grains, source improved inputs for greater yields, increase its model farm and outgrower programmes to cover more locations for maize and soybean farming, and also develop its mobile and cloud technology platforms for data capturing, farm monitoring, and improved communication.
On his part, Karl Littlejohn, acting chief of party for Trade Hub, said Nigeria maize and soybean output had declined in recent years and efforts to address this have been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. He expressed confidence partnerships with companies such as Tomato Jos would help farmers increase production of staple crops and support food security.