• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Bridging Nigeria’s farm yields gap to tackle rural poverty

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At the outskirts of Ajokete village in Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State is four hectares of land belonging to Temidayo Adegoke, a 62 years old farmer who farms maize, vegetables and cassava.

Despite being a farmer for over 10years, Adegoke is still unable to improve his livelihood and does not want any of his seven children to be a farmer.

“For many years I have worked so hard on my farm and yet I have very little to show for the hard work,” he told BusinessDay.

This is because he has recorded a particular yield per hectare over these periods, as he is unable to find the right hybrid seeds and seedlings for cultivation.

In the past, he has purchased several seeds labelled as hybrid from the market only to later discover that they are adulterated or fake.

This forced Adegoke to result to replanting the grains harvested from his farm for maize and vegetable production as well as stems for cassava.

As a result, he has maintained 1.2MT tons per hectare for maize and 2MTtons per hectare for cassava, when his peers in other African countries are growing between 3MT and 6MT per hectare.

The situation has made Adegoke income remains’ perpetually low with it having a negative impact on his livelihood.

Data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) shows that Nigeria records the least yield per hectare among its peers.  For tomatoes, the average yield per hectare in Nigeria is 7 metric tons (MT), Kenya’s average yield for the crop is 20MT, Ghana tomato yield is 8MT and South Africa’s average yield for the crop is 76MT.

Similarly, for maize – which is the most consumed grain on the continent, Nigeria’s yield per hectare is 1.6 on the average despite being the second largest grower of the crop while Kenya and Ghana have same average yield of 2MT per hectare and South Africa’s average yield is 6MT per hectare.

For potatoes, which is the best rounded and nutrient root in all of Africa, Nigeria’s yield per hectare for the crop is 3.7MT, Kenya average is 15.5MT and South Africa average yield for the crop is 38.8MT.

Nigeria’s average yield per hectare for rice paddy which is the most consumed staple in the country is 2MT, while Kenya, South Africa and Ghana has same average yield per hectare of 3MT

According to a recent data by the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world with 91.8 million people living in extreme poverty.

A 2010 data from the World Bank collection of development indicator states that rural communities account for 52.8 percent of poverty rate in Nigeria.

Smallholder farmers accounts for the larger population in rural communities and have remained poor despite the enormous potential in the agricultural sector.

Their limited access to improve seeds and seedlings have made Nigeria’s farm yield and income from farming activities remain perpetually low,  thus, leading to high production cost and making the sector unattractive to the younger population.

In addition, farmers  failure to adopt good agronomy practices has also made yields per hectare for various crops to remain low.  

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Owing to the low crop yields, Nigeria now records huge demand-supply gaps in most of its staple foods, even as the population growth rate stands at 2.6 percent per annum and projected to surpass the 300 million people mark by 2050, according to The World Population Prospects 2017.

“Nigeria has the lowest yields per hectare globally. We abandoned agriculture for a very long time when other countries were developing theirs. It is now we are coming back to it and there is still a lot that has to be done,” Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) said at CEO’s breakfast meeting in Lagos last year.

“In tomatoes for instance only one percent of Nigerian farmers plant their tomatoes using hybrid seeds and seedlings. In Ghana 40 percent of their farmer’s farm with hybrid seeds and in Kenya it is 68 percent of their farmers that use improved seeds and seedlings,” Ijewere said.

Apart from low yields, infrastructural deficit across the country is also a challenge to farmers’ income, as it has continued to erode their profit and impact their capacity to expand production negatively.

Half of the fruits and vegetables grown in Nigeria often get riot on farms before they get to the markets owing to inadequate storage facilities and huge road deficits, experts say.

“Post-harvest losses in Nigeria are huge due to inadequate storage facility in the country,” said Mawuli Coffie, team leader, West Africa Food Markets Programme.

Coffie stated that the despite the country is not growing enough owing to low yields per hectare, he says most of what is grown often rots in the field because it is difficult to move them easily from the farms to the market and the facilities to store them are lacking also.

Investments in the country’s primary agricultural infrastructure will help integrate the poorer sections of the population into a sustainable process of economic growth and development, experts say.

In turn this will reduce poverty by providing jobs directly and indirectly that will serve as a stimulus to the Nigerian economy and agricultural sector specifically.

Also, high logistics cost has limited farmers to easily access markets with their produce while reducing their profits.

“Farmers pay so much transporting their produce from the farm to the market because the roads are very bad. This further increase the cost of production and deter farmers from easily accessing the market and moaking most to resolve selling their produce to middle men who reap them off,” Lawrence Afere, founder and CEO of Springboard Nigeria.

Afere said that Nigeria can only feed itself and improve farmers livelihood when infrastructures needed to boost productivity across the value chain are provided, stating that infrastructural facilities such as storage, good road and adequate access to quality seed varieties will lift farmers out of poverty.

Experts say that the country can only tackle its poverty issue when the incomes of smallholder farmers who account for 65percent of the rural population are improved.

They say that the government must create the enabling environment for growth in the sector and for it to attract seed investors that does not just export put develop and breed their seeds here.

Isaac Ogara, secretary, MSN and a lecturer at the department of Agronomy, Nasarawa State University said that there is need for capacity building for farmers on good agronomy practises.

“Farmers must also ensure that they carry out good farming practices by ensuring that they carry out all the cultivation practices according to recommendations and dry their crops properly. Crops must be properly dried with moisture content of about 12-14 percent,” Ogara said.

Josephine Okojie