Cablegate: Sowing the Beans of Hope

Published: Thu 4 Sep 2003 01:58 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: The Shagamus of Ogun State have for many years
grown only kola nuts, and sold them only to Hausas in
northern Nigeria. Dr. Gabriel Ogunmola, the President of the
Nigeria Academy of Science, recently told us of a hands-on,
grassroots success: showing the Shagumus near his university
in Ogun State how to escape from generations-old practices of
dependency and resentment stemming from this limited
agricultural role. His approach holds promise of
replication in other areas. End summary.
2. According to Ogumola, the Shagamus were unhappy with what
they perceived to be their dependency on the Hausa market in
the north and encroachment on their livelihood by the Hausas
in their area. Professor Ogunmola thought he saw a
resolution to the problem in showing the Shagamus how to
diversify their crops and gain more control over their lives.
3. He prepared a demonstration project using a borrowed plot
of land. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
(IITA), a research facility, showed the famers a variety of
products that could result from diversified planting relying
heavily on soya beans, but also cassava and maize. Farmers
learned that they could make soya flour, beer, and milk,
among other products. Representatives of the Agriculture
Credit Bank, impressed with the results and the community's
interest, offered to open bank accounts for any farmer with
N500. These new accounts entitle farmers to be considered for
bank loans. The State's Commissioner of Industry offered to
work with Professor Ogunmola and the farmers to produce soya
milk for sale.
4. At the end of the program, this group of 100 mostly
illiterate famers were the proud recipients of printed
certificates attesting to their participation in the program.
The project has now been turned over to the community to run
and there are plans for follow-up demonstrations.
5. Comment: We find it interesting that a leading member of
Nigeria's intellectual elite took the initiate to launch a
grass-roots community project - one outside of his field, no
less; Ogunmola is a chemist, not an agricultural specialist.
The project had no outside funding and required some
ingenuity and improvisation to get off the ground. Few of
the farmers involved could afford the N1000 ($7.75) per
family it cost to participate, so he browbeat friends and
acquaintances into sponsoring several farmers each. Ogunmola
hopes this was not just a one-off project; he is now looking
for linkages with U.S. sponsors for follow-on projects
elsewhere. End comment.
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