irrigation

Technology as a key to agricultural growth and success in Nigeria

“As we search for a less extractive and polluting economic order, so that we may fit agriculture into the economy of a sustainable culture, community becomes the locus and metaphor for both agriculture and culture.”  ― Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place

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By Olasupo OJO

The prevailing economic situation in Nigeria has prompted the need for a diversification to ameliorate the economic challenges hitting the country in the face. Oil prices have dropped drastically, the Naira was depreciating at an alarming rate until recently, and the prices of commodities have risen.

Agriculture has become the talk on everyone’s mouth, a means to liberate and sustain the economy. Needless to say, that many have forgotten that the 60’s – early 80’s are far from different from the 21st century that we find ourselves. The era when the population was barely 45 million, employment rate was high, the economy was stable and agriculture was a joyous occupation. But the “oil boom” came along and agriculture was long gone. Paying less attention to agriculture resulted in a decline in policy support and public funding for agriculture, strong decline in domestic production and rising level of dependence on agricultural imports. Now, population has grown to over 180 million, oil is losing its value and the naira’s value is dwindling. Isn’t it time to go back to the 60’s? A resounding ‘yes’.

The truth is that agriculture can take us back to where we were. Little wonder then that the government is doing everything within its reach to resuscitate this sector of the economy. The role of the public and private sectors in agriculture, the farmers, youths and women, donor organizations, research institutes, health care organizations and other organizations or agencies that play a role in the agriculture value chain can’t be overemphasized. But, it is noteworthy that just like science and technology have played their roles in our lives in this century, they are also a backbone to achieving the long-term goal of sustaining the agricultural sector of the economy.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is shaping the world, improving lives, making things easy and transforming the continent. In the world of agriculture too, a lot is being done to improve seeds and increase production. This will also help in restoring increased production of food in Nigeria.

Here are some technological inventions that will definitely improve the agricultural sector of the economy:

Mechanization

The 60’s are far gone, the era of farmers using crude farm implements like hoe, sickles and cutlasses. Painfully, many farmers still use these tools in their farming operations, the effect? Low supply of farm products, poor efficiency and sustenance of products. Mechanized form of farming involves the use advanced technological machines, tools and techniques in rearing plants animals, this will:

  • reduce energy exerted in the agricultural process
  • improve productivity
  • improve life span
  • regular supply of farm produce
  • enhance economic growth

Nigeria faces a Hello tractorslot of challenges in this area. For example, the land use decree (1978) makes acquisition of land difficult in a way making it difficult for peasant farmers to acquire sufficient land mass to practice mechanized farming. Unavailability of infrastructural facilities like good road network, communication facilities and transport system. Illiteracy among farmers and sufficient funding.

The use of tractors, boom sprayers, ploughing machines and pumps are mechanized tools that will help reshape the agriculture sector and help farmers. A revision of the land use decree of 1978 will help farmers acquire more acres of land to practice this form of farming.

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

Simply put, agricultural biotechnology is the manipulation of crops and animals or their parts for the production of value added goods and services for man’s use.  It is being used to address problems in all areas of agricultural production and processing. This includes plant breeding to raise and stabilize yields; to improve resistance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses such as drought and cold; and to enhance the nutritional content of foods. Despite reservations about GMO plants, security and regulatory agencies have stood up to defend advantages of this plants. South Africa for example has recorded remarkable increase, remaining till present the leaders in Africa in the use of biotech crops. In an interview with UK MP Owen Paterson by SASHNEE MOODLEY, South Africa as realised an economic gain of $1.15-billion between 1998 and 2012 from the use of genetically modified (GM) crops or biotech crops. Sudan has also increased its biotech cotton hectares by almost 50% to 90 000 ha. He said, “although humanitarian and environmental groups have disputed the use of GM technology on crops, studies have shown that GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22% and boosted farmers profit by 68%.” Nigeria can definitely increase its crop production through the use of biotech plants, having them available, educating rural farmers on how to successfully maximize profit and strengthen the food growth of the country like other African countries like South Africa and Sudan. Read more on Biotech here from a Nigerian health practitioner.

Information and Communications Technology

The Internet is a standing topic in newspapers and on television, and the number of users doubles every year. IT can be used a tool for direct contribution to agricultural productivity and an indirect tool for empowering farmers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way agriculture and allied activities are conducted. The main objective of ICT application, from a development perspective, is that of empowering people through knowledge.  It increases the effectiveness of their development efforts through informed decision making and through their capacity to harness science and various forms of knowledge to achieve the objectives of poverty eradication,
food security and sustainable development. This would be an effective tool for the very large uneducated populace farmers in the country and also help foster a better understanding of farming practice and marketing among the youths who are eagerly delving into farming today.

esoko-com

Photo Credit- Esoko.com

The 60’s are here in the 21st century, Agriculture should be fully worked on and modified in order to meet the needs and number of populace in the country. Application of technology in agriculture accompanied with the best policies can liberate Nigeria from the shackles of poverty, high cost of living and unemployment ravaging the country currently.

How Africa can withstand the growing threat of climate change, North-west Nigeria as a case study

Climate change is one of the biggest challenge man has had to face as it relates to agriculture and environment, although it is felt more in some regions than others. A couple of weeks ago I took a trip of the North-western part of Nigeria, observing natural terrains, topographies and climate effects in drought, erosion, heat waves and desertification. This was my first trip to northern Nigeria, during this trip I observed firsthand the extent to which climate change affects agricultural activities. The journey started from Ilorin through Niger state then arriving at kebbi state. The journey was long but it was worth it exploring Nigeria’s landscape. I was particularly fascinated with the plain landscapes and guinea/sahel forests which is gradually losing its thickness through kebbi and sokoto states and cut the journey at zaria, kaduna state.

 

water body around the niger region during the dry season

Water body around the niger region during the dry season

One thing common when going through these regions is the vast area of plain land and the approaching extreme temperatures felt in extreme blowing heat (heat waves) and sandstorms. Feeling this extremes firsthand in far kebbi and sokoto states wasnt funny as one who grew up in southern Nigeria. I mostly observed decline in forest resources and the presence of drought prevalent in this region. This situation has made farming in northern Nigeria highly vulnerable to climate effects hence, the need for climate-smart agriculture should be implemented as a trending topic locally and should be discussed more. Agricultural Production activities are more vulnerable to climate change than other sectors in terms of production output, storage and transportation of produce among others.

A while back a farmer friend of mine shared with me of his experience on the farm how he lost all of his farm produce to high solar intensity in Saki Ibadan. He related his experience to the realities involved in climate change, its issues and to practicing agriculture in Nigeria today. As we all know climate change has been a threat to agricultural activities prevalent in northern Nigeria especially as it is mostly dependent on weather conditions. One stark and hurtful reality is the fact that enough investment infrastructures are yet to be built or put in place to support the available resources in the north in physical factors of production in land and labour e.g incentives should be put to encourage the almajiri children in the north who usually roam about begging for alms to get them to the farm.

Climate change pose great threat to the stability and sustainability for sufficient food production in the agricultural sector in Nigeria. To increase food production it is important for Nigeria’s agricultural policy and development plan to give climate change issues serious consideration for agricultural, industrial and commercial activities in Northern Nigeria. In this blogpost I am going to share some of my recommendations in improving agriculture especially in the extreme temperate regions of Northwestern Nigeria

1. Irrigation infrastructures: it is important to note that the north-west is blessed with enough agricultural resources (land, labor) to feed Africa going by the fact that larger percentage of the agricultural land is left plain and unused until the rain comes. One should note that irregular weather patterns play dominant role in agriculture and has direct impacts on soils structure, moisture, fertility and hence productivity. One should understand that irregular rainfall can affect yields negatively if rain fails to come at the critical growing stage for the crop.

Moreso, majority of these farmers are financially incapacitated and have an overwhelming desire for government to support them by helping to construct earth-dams and boreholes for them on their farms and villages.

Bare land found within sahel northern region that could be used with better irrigation infrastructure

 2. Afforestation: deforestation is a situation where forest resources are lost faster than they are replaced and is a major contributor to climate change. In Northwestern Nigeria the primary forest region is the savannah (guinea, sahel) – though unlike the southern region – trees are not able to proliferate in this part of the country because of low amount of water supply due to irregular rainfall season. Supported trees planted here will serve as shade for crops and help alleviate extreme heat providing adaptation for extreme and direct effects of sunshine while also protecting the soil from erosion effects.

Sahel/Guinea Forest region in the north-west

Sahel/Guinea Forest region in the north-west

 3. Indigenous adaptation measures and practices: Adaptation come in form of farming experience – the more experienced farmers are, the more likely they adapt to changes in climate conditions on their farm. These changes in usual method of practicing farming teaches them to diversify. Adapting multiple mixed cropping systems, practicing zero tillage by making ridges, planting cover crops, switching from crops to livestock and from rain fed dry land to irrigation. Access to technical and extension service facilities, credit facilities, encourages farmers to share their experience for other farmers to learn from and influence adaptation positively.

In order words, for development of agriculture in the northwest, government should encourage easy access to farm assets in machineries, improved seed varieties and extension agents, educating farmers providing them with information on technologies and recent adaptation measures. This is usually important for future adaptation and mitigation strategies. The extension service can also help farmers in understanding several variables which are often used in determining the sensitivity of certain crops for optimum productivity. These variables includes; rainfall, potential evaporation, radiation, temperature, humidity, sunshine hours. etc

 4. Assessment and knowledge support: Stakeholders should ensure efforts are put in place to ensure farmers in the northern region continue to practice their trade providing an enabling environment for productive crop production, supporting the farmers while taking critical look at new environmental conditions created by climate change in such areas while ensuring research work reach farmers in the region. More NGOs need to put in more discuss on climate change issues, its adaptation, food security, climate-smart agriculture into their campaigns.

 5.  Capacity building and demonstration: Attention should be catalyzed to focus on funding, advocacy to action to promote resilience to climate change and training of new-entrant farmers on recent technologies and ICTs.

More ways of supporting and relieving climate change impacts on smallholder farmers can be found here “IFDC’s perspective on Alleviating Climate Change – One Farmer at a Time

In conclusion, In line with rainfall pattern of the Nigerian climate, the country has a wetter south and a drier north with vegetation categorized into forest and savannah. The savannah region especially guinea and sudan are the major grains, tubers, grasses, vegetables and cotton growing region, while the tropical evergreen rain forest belt bears timber production, forest development, cassava production and growing of plantations consisting of fruit trees such as citrus, oil-palm, cocoa, rubber among others.

In most scenario impacts of climate change in the Northern part of Nigeria are mostly negative, there is the need for effective and reliable access to information on climate issues with sponsored go-green campaigns, credit and grant facilities in encouraging new-entrant farmers, thereafter combining access to extension which ensures the farmers makes the right decision and protects him reducing the risks involved.

 

Young entrepreneurs advocates for more private partnerships in agriculture

 

Adesola Yinka on the farm

Adesola Yinka on the farm

The initiator of the Entrepreneur Youth Cooperative Multipurpose Society, Ms. Adesola Yinka has called for  more private partnership in Agriculture especially in  provision of Incentives inform of Fertilizer, seed,
Pesticides and Irrigation system

In an Interview with Agropreneur Naija!, Adesola stated that the private partnerships will go a long way in boosting agriculture business and encourage young farmers. She said “Agriculture is a business and like every other business, it has to be nurtured to maturity, a viable business that requires lots of investment and dedication “

Adesola continued by saying that a lot of youths are interested in agriculture adding that there are numerous ways agriculture will be made easy for the youth saying that young people, most especially in Nigeria have no interest in agriculture because Nigeria is still very backward in infrastructural development. “Outside Nigeria, hardly will you find a region where hoe and cutlass is the major cultivation system. The world of agriculture has been completely mechanized leaving us behind.
No youth in his right mind will ever want to go through that system” She said

She said “To have access to mechanized agricultural tools in Nigeria, you will go through hell. Government policy on Land is nothing to write home about. You can only have access to land if you are well connected, yet these lands are wasting away. Government protocols and procedures about agricultural facilities are killing. No unemployed youth can afford it”

Adesola continued by saying that every state has one type youth empowerment scheme or the other and yet many youths are not benefiting from it. She said that youths can work with private investors and government to constitute themselves into groups usually called out growers or cluster farmers and manage the farm for them saying that the yields and returns can now be shared at a percentage. She said” This will provide a win-win situation, the youth are empowered and the investors make profit”

 

She however said that The future of Agriculture is bright adding that we can tackle the problem of corruption is will go a long way  saying that corruption is the debarring force for every sector of our economy including agriculture.”  Money allocated for agriculture is siphoned into someone’s account. Even the G E S fertilizer does not reach many farmers.

 

Furthermore, Adesola said “We have the land, We have water for irrigation, Our soil is fertile,
We can plant all season because our weather is favorable yet we import from countries that hardly have 3  to 6 months of good climate system. We import food from countries that have no sufficient land. They plant most of their crops in Green house System because of insufficient land and we still import from them, it is sad”

On the Entrepreneur Youth Cooperative Multipurpose Society, Adesola said that  the society started out as a Young Farmers Cooperative and Along the line some other youths that have little
or no interest in Agriculture or farming showed interest and it prompt the name to be changed to reflect multipurpose for all enterprising youth

 She said that The main Objective is to encourage youth to save towards a projects and get multiple money  saved as loan from the cooperative she added that the interest rate is a digit and the repayment is flexible.

She also said that the society do personal projects through cooperative effort and
Part of our upcoming project for the first quarter of this year is to set up a cassava chips processing factory near our source of raw material

She however mention some of the challenges they face which includes unemployment, private investors not believing that agriculture is a viable business, land, banks not giving loans for startups most especially for youth groups.

Photo Credit : Yinka Adesola