Nigeria cultivates a large array of food and cash crops among which rice has emerged as the fastest growing sub-sector and a popular staple food, especially for urban dwellers. Rice is cultivated in virtually all of Nigeria’s agro-ecological zones. These versatile attributes make it a unique crop with various potentials for enhancing productivity, thus this had made rice to be specially named the ‘wonder crop’.
Enhancing rice productivity through modern knowledge
I recently participated in a 5-day Capacity building workshop on Best Practices for Rice Production in Nigeria by the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, in partnership with CORAF/ WECARD with funding from USAID.
The main objective of the event was to equip participants with modern knowledge in order to enhance rice productivity and profitability. Promoting the uptake of improved rice production technologies, agronomic practices, new varieties, enhance institutional and organizational capacities of farmer’s organizations leads to improved access to services to its members, and increased access to profitable markets for small holder rice farmers in Nigeria.
During the workshop, several agricultural professionals trained us on vital areas of modern rice production covering some like: rice growing environment, field establishment and methods of planting, growth phases and physiology of plant, integrated nutrient management for increased rice yields and production in Nigeria, amongst many others.
My journey as a young agriculturist
After the technical sessions, we went to NCRI Rice research and production fields as well as farmers’ fields in order to get on-farm knowledge and practices through the research scientists, superintendents and farmers. This properly equipped me with the knowledge and skills to contribute my quota meaningfully towards achieving the ambitious goal of rice sufficiency by the end of 2015.
My journey as a young agriculturist has been very fulfilling and though challenging, the opportunities that lie at the end of every milestone have kept me going due to my strong passion for agriculture. My first field experience as an agriculturist was in 2011 at the Teaching and Research Farm, University of Agriculture Makurdi during my six months Industrial Training. We were involved in the production of rice, maize, cowpea, soybean and cassava. I recorded the highest yields from my rice plot and made good sales from them. I also worked with rice farmers during the extension work. Since then I have developed keen interest due to the potentials of this ‘wonder crop’.
Nigeria – an arising Agriculture Power House
I am a corps member serving with NCRI Badeggi currently under the rice research program. Hence, I work with senior colleagues and rice farmers to ensure the research we carry out is relevant and applicable to solving the current challenges rice farmers are experiencing. We are conducting field trials on new accessions that have just been breed. There are a lot of boundless opportunities across the rice value chains ranging from production through processing and storage to marketing and so forth.
When rice farmers have access to viable and high yielding seeds from research institutes, reputable seed companies, National Agricultural Seed Council, ADPs and Ministries of Agriculture as well as other inputs such as adequate fertilizers, effective agro pesticides, credit and loans, modern production and processing technologies such as mobile soil testing kits, Sawah eco-technology and enabling infrastructure are provided. When these are provided through government assistance, then Nigeria can once again be on the path to rice sufficiency which will mark the end of rice importation. This is a sure path to wealth, job creation and food security.
For as we do, I have every faith not only that we shall succeed, but that, through our passion and efforts, our Nation will once again be able to hold up its head high within the community of nations and be a food basket for Africa and the world. Together, we can be great again! Today our future lies before us. I can see Nigeria arising as an Agriculture Power House. Nigeria will arise, my friends. Agriculture was Nigeria’s past and agriculture is Nigeria’s great future!
Picture credit: Rice fields, by Jose A. Warletta.
First published on Ypard website