The inevitability of economic diversification became unavoidable following the fall in crude price from 2014, and a mono-product oil economy like Nigeria, was left groping for alternative income streams as earning from petroleum could no longer sustain its needs.
The fall backs were few, and the country needed to urgently develop other non-oil sectors of the economy, as lower oil revenue had, in 2016, pushed it into its worst recession (-2.06 per cent contraction) in almost three decades.
Agriculture, with its numerous value chains and high employment generation capacity was seen as the easiest and quickest way to economic diversification, contributing almost 21 per cent (2017), of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP).
All hands were called on deck to use agriculture to boost earnings, and Notore Chemical Industries Plc, was one of the companies that committed to helping Nigeria achieve its food security targets, and also become self-reliant in food production.
Notore is one of the leading fertiliser, agro-allied, and power companies in Africa. Its principal activities include the supply of premium fertilisers, appropriate education on best practices for farming, and proper deployment of these practices for optimum results.
On acquiring the assets of the former National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON), through the federal government’s privatisation programme in 2005, Notore, under the leadership of the Group Managing Director/CEO, Onajite Okoloko, has since grown into an agricultural phenomenon, targeting local markets as well as exports.
The company raised more funds from a syndicate of Nigerian banks and commenced extensive rehabilitation of the plant in 2007, and in early 2010, it started commercial production and distribution of fertiliser across the country.
Presently, Notore has the largest Agricultural Services and Extension team, and is the trusted partner to local, commercial and subsistence farmers in Nigeria.
In addition, it has over 2,500 agro dealers, developed and trained over 3,500 Private Extension Workers/Village Promoters, and has made fertiliser in appropriate pack sizes available to rural farmers in over 2,500 communities across 30 states.
Notore employs about 500 and created over 5,000 indirect employments through its Distributors, Transporters, and Private Extension workers alone, thereby contributed significantly to Nigeria’s GDP since production commenced.
In 2010, Notore worked with experts and tackled the onion twister fungal disease experienced in Kebbi State, and has significantly boosted government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda by being the primary supplier of fertiliser for the ongoing Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
It also worked with state governments and non-governmental organisations to develop fertiliser voucher programmes in Kano, Kwara and Bauchi states between 2009 and 2011.
The successes of the programme became the basis for the launch of the federal government’s Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) programme.
It supplied significant volume of urea to the GES programme directly in 2012, and supported its distributors to effectively participate in the programme in between 2013 and 2014.
Notore commenced commercial production and sale of Urea Super Granules (USG) in 2012; the initiative was a special intervention to increase the efficiency of fertilisers in rice production. It also introduced the first cassava specific fertiliser blend in 2013, which has gained popularity among commercial cassava growers.
Fertiliser distribution in Nigeria prior to Notore’s entrance into the industry was limited to urban and semi-urban centres. Nigeria’s estimated 14 million farming households who live in rural communities had limited access to this critical farm input.
Therefore, to address this problem, Notore’s distribution network was structured to ensure effective delivery of products to the nook and crannies of its market sphere at a uniform price.
By this strategy, the company ensured wealth creation to all partners in its distribution value chain, while providing easy access to all farmers.
In building the desired structure, Notore works with a number of carefully selected partners to ensure the availability and maintain the quality of its products in all communities in Nigeria and other locations outside Nigeria.
The strong link between the company and its partners enables it to have control over the distribution channel up to end-user point.
The distribution network involves transport partners, distribution partners, agro dealers and village promoters.
Promoting rural farming
A few years ago, Notore embarked on a project to reach out to poor farmers in remote communities that previously had little or no access to quality fertilisers.
The objective was to educate small-scale farmers in appropriate fertiliser application methods as well as provide them access to fertiliser in affordable pack sizes.
To implement the project, a total of 180 hitherto unemployed youths were recruited and trained as Village Promoters in the target communities. Their duties were to train farmers with practical tools such as demonstration plots, while also driving sales for the 1kg pack fertilisers.
These Village Promoters together set up 917 demonstration plots, and reached about 58,000 farmers in 15 states across Nigeria.
They also went through a training programme by the Notore Agricultural Services Department, with a curriculum developed by Notore and PrOpCom.
PrOpCom is an innovative project funded by the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID), set up to improve livelihoods by facilitating growth and pro-poor outcomes in commodity and service markets.
It also contributes to the overarching (DFID/Nigeria) goal of poverty alleviation in support of NEEDS, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
The programme focuses on agricultural best practices of proper fertiliser usage for higher yields.
Farmers’ Learning Centre
Notore Farmers’ Learning Centre is where farmers come together regularly to share farming techniques, and learn new farming practices from an extension worker to improve their yield.
It is primarily made up of demonstration farms. Each demonstration farm consists of two equal sub-plots: a best practice sub-plot, and a common practice sub-plot.
On the best practice sub-plot, farmers are led by an extension worker to implement a set of recommended best practices for specific crops in the region.
Similarly, on the common practice sub-plots, farmers are required to implement the most common set of practices in their community.
The two sub-plots are maintained side by side to enable farmers carry out proper observation and comparison of crops development over the planting season.
The participants in Notore Farmers’ Learning Centre session include one extension worker and 30 selected farmers from the target communities.
These farmers comprise representatives from every group that plays an active role in the community’s farming activities such as elders, youths,
farm owners, sharecroppers, and farm labourers.
Two principal channels are employed in sharing the lessons learnt at the Farmers’ Learning Centre with non-participating farmers: Farmer-to-farmer diffusion, where each participant verbally shares the knowledge acquired with three to four neighbouring farmers as well as hands-on demonstration on his farm for them to see clearly.
There is also the field day, during which non-participating farmers within and outside the community are invited to a special learning session, where the participants educate them on the two sub-plots and explain the practices to them.
The farmers’ Learning Centres are located in key rice and maize farming communities in various states across Nigeria, where small-scale farmers are currently learning how to improve their farms.
Gas Supply Agreement
The strategic gas supply agreement recently entered into in 2015, by Notore and Eroton Exploration and Production Company, an indigenous oil and gas producer, has enhanced production of fertilisers from the Notore plant, thereby giving it a strong competitive edge over other producers.
Due to the availability of gas, production days per annum increased from 193 in 2014, to 304 days in 2016.
Production was previously constrained due to a number of forced shutdowns the plant had experienced.
Production is expected to increase further to 100 per cent of the plant’s installed capacity after the next planned turnaround maintenance, which is due in a few months.
Speaking on the enhanced productivity from the fertiliser plant, Okoloko, said the partnership with Eroton ended the gas supply shortfalls, which hampered productivity at Notore between 2013 and 2014.
According to him, there were significant shortfalls during the period for approximately 234 days cumulative, owing to incessant militant attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta, with attendant drop in output.
Source: G Business