SonghaI Centre farm located in Benin Republic is the most visited farm in West Africa today. Founded by Nigerian born clergy, Father Godfrey Nzamujo in 1985, the farm has been well-known for more than 34 years. It serves as centre for training, production, research and development of sustainable agricultural practices. An attractive landscape with the beautiful view, the centre provides a mixed agricultural production – farming and livestock.
It is an example of a multifunctional farm. Songhai farm is one of the largest non-governmental organisation (NGO) farm projects empowering Africans, an integrated farm that uses all its waste produce to generate more income. Songhai Centre is a chain of agricultural research centres established by a Nigerian American for the promotion of the study of sustainable farming techniques.
The farm has about 15 sections. These are farming, aquaculture, biogas, poultry, mushroom, mechanic, grass cutter, snailery, piggery, grass cutter, quails, among many other things. The Centre receives more than 4,000 visitors each year, thus becoming an agritourism centre that welcomes the general public and government dignitaries from across the world. It engages in human resource training and entrepreneurship as well as wealth generation.
At Songhai, youths learn about agricultural practices such as organic farming, food processing and natural resources management.
Following the training, graduates start their own businesses or apply to become farm managers in the centre after a minimum incubation period of one year. Selected graduates are given business installation kits. The centre also provides access to land, seeds and tools. Songhai has also cultivated hybrid varieties of plants for seed crops.
Generally, Songhaï training includes both classroom instruction and field practicum that provides its graduates with the practical expertise to become successful farmers. The centre also works with local institutions of higher learning and provides practical agricultural experiences for university students..
The centre lays a lot of emphasis on renewable energy such as biogas, solar, wind and plastic waste conversion. As a result, small and large scale biogas production has been in place for years.
At the Songhai Centre, there is also a mechanical workshop for servicing and repair of vehicles and agricultural farm tools.
The business is successful because there are no more farms of that type. Moreover, the nature around is beautiful with stunning landscapes and a lot of people want to visit it. Songhai is one of the major agro initiatives that many states in Nigeria had tapped into. Apart from Lagos, Songhai farms are in Katsina, Rivers, Enugu, Delta and Ebonyi States.
For experts, multifunctional agriculture is an umbrella term that combines agricultural production and environment with services to society: care farming, farm education, farm shops/short chains, agricultural day care, agricultural nature management and agrotourism.
Advocating for multi-functional farms, the Rector of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ogun State, Dr Samson Odedina, said such farms are absolutely essential for agricultural sustainability. Speaking with The Nation, Odedina said his dream has been to establish a multi-functional farm where he lives and enjoy good quality of life.
He explained that multi-functional agriculture encourages not just secure food supply but promotes activities such as leisure farms, educational farms, therapeutic farms, social farms, food farms and environmental farms to offer services and products concerning cultivation, recreation, learning, care, direct marketing, landscape management, and environmental measures.
For this reason, Odedina said Nigeria has to adopt a multi-functional approach to agricultural development – one that focuses on on-farm productivity and climate adaptation and mitigation, value-addition, and household health and nutrition.
SOURCE: THE NATION