Delivering development: collaboration the key to success in Nigeria’s FADAMA projects

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Delivering development: collaboration the key to success in Nigeria’s FADAMA projects
Women of Takalafiya-Lapai village (Niger State) are beneficiaries of Nigeria's Fadama II project. © Arne Hoel, World Bank

In Hausa, “fadama” means irrigable lowland, usually the low-lying plains that overlay shallow aquifers that straddle Nigeria’s major river system.  FADAMA I, which started in 1992, was a pilot agricultural project, designed to offer basic irrigation and other support to farmers in selected states. In 2003, FADAMA II introduced a groundbreaking Community-Driven Development model and helped institutionalize local stakeholder engagement in community decision making. In FADAMA III, the project expanded geographically and became a well-known, national brand of local agricultural development. 

The FADAMA project series ended in 2019. Before it, most rural projects in Nigeria were managed centrally, with decisions made at higher levels of government. FADAMA grew from seven states to all 36 and Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, establishing itself as a key instrument to be used to stimulate agricultural growth and reduce rural poverty. 

Building Strong Farmers’ Institutions

Nigeria’s experience with the FADAMA Project Series created a large repository of knowledge on the challenges of delivering local development. From the outset, it recognized the importance of strengthening smallholders’ organizations to empower them to administer shared assets and other resources, facilitate project activities, and improve their bargaining power. Group formation was the foundation of the design, with various users—crop farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and women, and on- and off-farm entrepreneurs—sensitized to the advantages of doing business as a group.

Quotas were introduced to include other segments of the community, such as women and youth, who were not traditionally involved in decision-making. 

The community groups, called FADAMA User Groups (FUGs), were the organizational unit. Based on economic interests, they were the beneficiaries’ closest representatives. Each FUG was composed of 20 members, including at least five farmers, five women, and five youth. Each member took part in one subcommittee to strengthen their involvement and avoid elite capture. User groups were bundled together with other groups nearby into broader FADAMA Community Associations (FCAs). 

The FCAs were, in essence, a coalition within a wider regional area. They were structured to share knowledge systematically, to identify the most important subprojects for the community at large, and to devise a coordinated approach to activities, especially funding requests. They oversaw collective bargaining and were responsible for its final preparation and presentation. Operating through these, members could agree how to use common resources to their mutual advantage.

The process was moderated by professional facilitators charged with helping individual beneficiaries, FCAs and their constituent FUGs to reach their goals. Financial and technical advisors helped the groups. This training proved an integral part of the success of the FADAMA Project. 

The facilitators helped the user groups craft more robust plans and the community associations identify their priorities (through participatory planning). They underwent social mobilization, group formation, sensitization, and training on inclusive decision-making and local development planning. They also helped create partnerships between community organizations, service providers, and local governments. 

For the sustainability of the model, forming the groups involved different resource user groups learning to respect each other’s rights and consider the impact their decisions had on others.

Institutional Building

Institutional building received a boost under the FADAMA project series. About 9,239 user groups were created in FADAMA I. These quickly recognized the power of association and mutual support, particularly in shaping decisions at the local level and increasing farmers’ control of irrigation management. In FADAMA II, about 12,570 user groups and 1,470 community associations were created across 12 states. In FADAMA III, about 64,347 user groups and 5,407 community associations were created and the FADAMA Users Equity Fund (FUEF), was introduced. FUEF is a revolving fund in which beneficiaries can hold back and save at least 10% of the replacement value of their common assets annually. 

As FADAMA projects matured, funds accumulated by communities grew into financial capital. This now circulates and improves farmers’ access to the credit dispensed by local banks. 

Impact and Successes

Summarizing the financial and institutional impact of FADAMA goes beyond one blog, save to say that FADAMA has demonstrated that a system which empowers communities can achieve its objectives faster and better. By December 2021, the project series had established two micro-finance banks, the FADAMA Microfinance Bank in Plateau State and the Ibom Microfinance Bank in Akwa-Ibom State. These should ensure that every farmer and small-scale entrepreneur with a business idea has access to funding, training, and some of the other things needed to get a business up and running. 

FADAMA has also helped the FUG or user group in the Kutigi, Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State to establish a special community radio station for farmers, a first of its kind. 

FADAMA I produced financial returns of 65% per hectare for vegetables and almost 500% for rice paddies, with 90% of farmers acknowledging increases in their income during the project period.  Under FADAMA II, beneficiary incomes rose by 63%. Real incomes of beneficiary households increased substantially, in some cases by as much as 154%, under FADAMA III. Yields of primary agricultural products, including the four priority crops—cassava, rice, sorghum, and tomatoes—also rose by more than 55%, on average. 

The group approach supported rural communities to strengthen local associations and promoted their engagement in planning and decision-making as a means of satisfying each community’s particular needs more directly. This strengthened social capital, increased collaboration and cooperation among different groups, ensured inclusiveness and accountability, and avoided the potential for conflict. 

The group approach also helped to engender farmers’ buy-in. The fact that farmers’ contributions made up 49% of the local financing costs demonstrated this, with state governments contributing 22%, the federal government 9%, and the World Bank 20%. Support empowered community associations to take part in project management and  monitoring and evaluation. FADAMA left a legacy of good governance with peer pressure and oversight ensuring the integrity of funds.

Sustaining these institutional gains will require policymakers in Nigeria to build upon the project’s  knowledge, skills, and organization. Farmers’ groups, local governments, and for-profit and non-profit members of the private sector would do well to recognize the high degree of collaboration it takes to shape the business environment that supports farmers’ organizations. 

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