Farmers in Nigeria’s North East Conference bag rice after a bumper harvest of dry season rice farming. (Photo: Courtesy of the Nigeria North East Conference YAI)

By Phileas Jusu

A key component of the Yambasu Agriculture Initiative is reinvestment in the business – designating a significant share of revenue to increase production and profits for the next season. But the ways of reinvesting Yambasu Initiative profits back into conference production to build up the agribusiness toward self-sustainability are as varied as the many types of crops and livestock that conference leaders decide to cultivate in their regions.

For example, the East Angola Conference Yambasu Agriculture Initiative (YAI) project will cultivate 20 hectares (49 acres) next planting season after a harvest of maize on 10 hectares in the 2023 farming season. The decision follows a bumper harvest and a successful marketing season after 33 tons of the harvested maize was sold to Carrinhos, a local company that produces corn meal.

“Carrinhos is buying all our maize owing to the quality of corn we produced,” said Gilberto Joâo Augusto Guedes, YAI East Angola Monitoring and Evaluation officer. “They have entered into a partnership with us to buy all the corn we produce. We’re now gearing up to cultivate 20 hectares in the next planting season. All the maize harvested from our farm in the future will be sold to Carrinhos, which praised the quality of our corn.”

Farmers at the Quéssua mission in East Angola bag maize for delivery to Carrinhos, a local corn meal processing company. Photo: Courtesy of East Angola YAI

Upscaling the production of maize, one of Angola’s staple foods, is a key objective of YAI in East Africa. “With the proceeds from the sale, we will cultivate the 20 hectares in the province of Malanje at the Methodist Mission of Quéssua, because it is a place with vast fields for the production of corn and other crops,” Guedes continued, adding that the funds from the sale of the next season will support the conference in the payment of subsidies to pastors in remote areas as well as help the communities in the various agricultural project areas.  

From corn to rice and cattle

East Nigeria Conference YAI is currently busy with another kind of bumper harvest after a successful project in dry season rice farming on 10 hectares of land. This particular type of rice farming involves drilling boreholes and using the water to irrigate the farmland during a normally no-rice-production season when the land is completely dry and disintegrating into flakes of soil. The success means the team can now plant rice all-year round.

“We want to make North East Conference a rice-milling industry. We will mill our own rice as well as offer milling services to other community farmers to generate revenue,” East Nigeria YAI project coordinator, Dr. Ephraim Ibrahim Jen, said.

About 500 bags of rice are expected to be harvested and a good proportion of it will be reinvested back into the project as seed rice when the farm is expanded from 10 to 20 hectares.

Cattle fattening project underway in Central Nigeria Annual Conference, similar to North East Nigeria project. The farming involves buying lean cattle at a cheap cost, then fattening them to be sold at higher market prices later. Photo: Courtesy of Central Nigeria YAI

This is in addition to an on-going cattle fattening project that the East Nigeria YAI has undertaken. The Initiative buys lean cattle, fattens them and sells them later at higher prices. The first sales are expected in July.

Seed is also a viable business

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reinvestment in a seed multiplication project has expanded from Kamisamba farm – where the production of the first set of viable seeds were developed – to three other farms in three other districts.

“After the 2022 harvest on Kamisamba Farm, we had enough seeds to expand the project,” noted Lorraine Charinda, a Global Missionary with Global Ministries and YAI’s project coordinator in the D.R. Congo. “Having succeeded with the seed multiplication project in Kamisamba, we wanted to go to four other districts with 80 beneficiary farmers. One district resisted, so, we managed to do with three districts. We distributed one ton of maize seeds each to three farms in three districts. They went ahead to farm using our seeds as we used 125kg of the maize harvest as seeds to continue with the initial project at Kamisamba farm.”

Honey production

Liberia’s YAI farmers are now inspecting beehives that have been colonized and fully capped for harvest. “When we harvest, we sell the honey and wait again for the hives to recolonize. Recolonization will continue for up to four years because our beehives are durable,” the Rev Joseph Theoway, Liberia’s YAI project coordinator, noted. Proceeds will be used to create more hives as reinvestment.

“In addition, we use proceeds to pay and retain the technical staff who are the key drivers of our project. After this phase of the project, we will not be relying on Global Ministries’ money any longer to continue. We will use funds from the sales to sustain the enterprise. Part of the proceeds will also be used to empower the ministries of the Liberia Annual Conference,” he said, further explaining the stipulations agreed with the farmers. “When the harvest is done, we have certain percentages going to them for their labor and upkeep, some percentage is agreed to go for reinvestment while 10% of the harvest profit goes to the local church,” he said.

A similar agreement is in place for the poultry and piggery projects in Liberia. A certain percentage goes to the groups that are used as entry points; another goes to their local congregations and a certain percentage is retained for reinvestment.

“We are marketing chickens now. We sell both live and processed chicken depending on the customer’s choice,” Theoway explained.

As in Angola, YAI Liberia has secured a ready market for farm products. A middle man recently agreed with the director to buy all the YAI chickens at wholesale price. He retails it at the local market.

Cassava the main harvest in Mozambique

Selling cassava stems to beginner farmers is one way YAI South Mozambique is developing income. Photo: Courtesy of South Mozambique YAI

The YAI project in South Mozambique made a profit of $3,748 in the 2023 farming season after selling cassava cuttings to cassava farmers, Luis Bento Gomes Nhampossa, the project’s Agro-Livestock technician says. The project involves cultivating large fields of cassava and making income from both tubers and stem cuttings that are sold to farmers who do not have stems to start production on their own land.

Whether upscaling bumper crops, producing better seed or root stock, cultivating honey or raising additional livestock, the annual conferences involved in YAI have embraced the concept and practice of reinvestment as they enter new phases of their projects. The initial investments of United Methodist funds from Global Ministries are by and large being carefully managed and reinvested toward the overall goal of self-sustainability.

Phileas Jusu is the director of communications for the Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

The Yambasu Agriculture Initiative

The Yambasu Agriculture Initiative was launched by Global Ministries in 2020, renaming an earlier agriculture program in honor of the legacy of Bishop John K. Yambasu. The program works toward the realization of the vision shared by the late bishop that the African church can be made self-sustaining if its resources, both land and human, are optimized through agriculture. Through the provision of grants and training, YAI mobilizes existing land and human resources within the church; improves community livelihoods and food security long-term; and builds capacity in annual conferences toward long-term financial solvency.

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