Sasakawa Africa’s work is helping Nigeria achieve goal 2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition as well as promote sustainable agriculture
Standing proudly on his paddy field, thirty-two year old Sani Dantsoho is admiring its greenish yield certain that this planting season will be like no any other one before it! It is already obvious this year’s harvest will double, if not triple his regular harvest on the same farmland. This is even though he had only invested a fraction of what he used to spend on fertilizer for the rice-field.
“I was investing up to ₦23,000 on fertilizer every season, and what I usually get after harvesting the rice was never more than 5 bags, which doesn’t cost more than ₦32,000; this is too little for the energy and time I am investing on the farm,” Dantsoho, a smallholder farmer and father of 3 tells this correspondent on his small rice farm at Agin, a rural community in Jigawa state, northwestern Nigeria.
Dantsoho and hundreds of other smallholder farmers in Jigawa state and across Nigeria are beneficiaries of the crop productivity enhancement intervention of the Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) program of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), which has been in existence in the country since 1992, and has been working with government agencies to raise agricultural productivity including improving the marketing of food crops like rice, maize, and groundnut.
“Sasakawa brought us modern techniques of farming, I was guided through the various stages of crop production; from planting to harvesting. I was made to understand that certain farming practices of mine like applying fertilizer on the rice seedling only 30 days after transplanting was wrong! I was instead asked to apply the fertilizer just a day after transplanting,” recalls Dantsoho.
Dantsoho, who has been a farmer for now 20 years said he was initially skeptical of the advises of the Sasakawa-trained extension agent thus was only grudgingly obeying his rules including being asked to apply 25kg of NPK fertilizer to his rice-field – as against the 50kg of NPK fertilizer he was applying on the same paddy field in previous seasons.
“I was then asked to water the field after 10 days and guided on how to ensure proper sanitation, and was later given another 25kg of fertilizer, this time Urea, which the extension agent also guided me through its application process. Weeks after, my rice began to flourish, based on what I am seeing, I expect to harvest like 15 bags of rice from this field – against the 5 bags I was harvesting previously,” says a visibly happy Dantsoho.
Saleh Yellow, a friend of Dantsoho’s who is also a rice farmer and many other farmers in Agin and its environs are now adopting Sasakawa’s modern techniques of crop production. Dantsoho was the one who introduced Yellow to the Sasakawa-styled farming of rice and guided him through the entire processes – from transplanting through fertilizer application, and water management. “It’s obvious I will be reaping a lot this year!” says Yellow.
Another farmer, David Gilengu is a civil servant-turned-farmer who has been practicing Sasakawa-styled maize farming in Maiganga village of Gombe state, since 2012. He became interested in the maize farming after seeing a Sasakawa community demonstration farm in his community and was impressed by its yield; thus, he acquired a plot of land and adopted the same process. He has now acquired 3 more farms of various sizes and produces maize on all plots, the proceeds of which he says has improved his economic status, significantly.
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), whose vision is of achieving a more food-secure rural Africa with increasing numbers of prospering African smallholder commercial farmers through technology transfer and improved access to extension services, is a nonprofit founded by the late Japanese philanthropist Ryōichi Sasakawa and is since inception being overwhelmingly funded by the Nippon Foundation, a charity he also founded.
Sasakawa Africa’s Global 2000(SG2000) program, alongside its sister program, the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) program – which works to strengthen extension education – have both helped changed the lives of millions of smallholder farmers like Dantsoho, Yellow and Gilengu across Sub Saharan Africa. Beginning from 1986, the SG2000 program has successfully implemented food crops improvement interventions across 14 Sub Saharan African countries like Ghana, Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria, amongst others.
Through its SG2000 program, Sasakawa is leading efforts to modernize the techniques Nigerian smallholder farmers use to produce food, by helping them access credit, acquire inputs, and market their harvests more successfully, while at the same time helping policymakers come up with more effective smallholder-friendly policies that encourage efficiency and participation across the agricultural value chain.
And since its inception in 1991, the SG2000-Nigeria program has successfully supported more than 1 million smallholder farmers across 9 states of the country’s agriculturally-rich northern region, working with more than 2,000 extension agents on the diffusion of improved wheat, maize, rice, cowpea, soybean, groundnut, millet, sorghum, sesame, and cassava technologies. The program is currently active across the Nigerian states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, and Zamfara.
An important aspect of the program’s work in Nigeria is working with Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs); by getting various categories of famers organized into networks and associations, including women farmers’ and farmers with disabilities (from state down to local government level) Sasakawa is ensuring inclusivity and gender balance in its quest to help Nigeria end hunger, achieve self-sufficiency and attain food security.
Hauwa Hina is the coordinator of one of Sasakawa’s women farmers’ networks named Tunga Women Rice Processors Association in Gombe state which has been well organized such that they are now formally registered and operate a bank account. The association’s members have been capacitated across the rice value chain: production through processing including packaging.
“We have been trained on rice production and processing, we are now packaging the rice we produce to sell in the market. We also got a support in the form of a capital from Sasakawa which we are also investing into rice production and processing and getting returns; our members now enjoy loans from the profits we are making as an association,” reveals Hina.
In the past 3 years, Sasakawa’s Famers Based Organisations (FBOs) program has across Gombe state alone formed and strengthened over 140 farmers’ associations like the Tunga Women Rice Processors Association, aimed at enhancing their effectiveness and making them sustainable such that they could survive even beyond the SG2000 program, according to Gambo Isah, the program’s coordinator.
“We have been trying to get the Farmers Based Organizations (FBOs) organized because it is more cost-effective and sustainable to work with the farmers if they are organized into groups and networks,” adds Prof Sani Miko, country director of the Sasakawa Global 2000 program in Nigeria. “The FBOs were in disarray, dysfunctional and weak; they neither had business ideologies nor focus.”
Prof Miko, who decried the low numbers of FBOs in Nigeria said the program would continue organizing and building the capacity of more FBOs until reasonable numbers were achieved. He stated that unlike in countries like Ethiopia were farmers’ associations have as many as 150,000 members, with offices all over the country and could independently cater for up to 30% of their fertilizer needs; the story was entirely different in Nigeria!
Prof Oladele Idowu, coordinator of the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) program in Nigeria agrees. He said most of the biggest multinational companies in Asia working across the agricultural value chain started as FBOs, citing an example of Columbia’s coffee farmers’ association, which he says now controls the price of coffee in the global market, and has grown from a 15-member to a 500,000-member strong association – with its own research center, researchers and extension staff.
“FBOs are trained to transform from viewing farming as a way of life to seeing it as a business. Thus, the farmers are taught how to develop enterprises that are able to purchase inputs in bulk, establish links with marketing companies and ensure group dynamics, viability and success by pulling together their resources to achieve what they cannot achieve individually. Sadly, in Nigeria, our efforts to create farmers associations in the 70s and 80s didn’t succeed,” laments Prof Idowu.
Usman Sulaiman is the chairman of the Tudun Wada/Doguwa Apex Farmers Association in Kano state whose formation was also facilitated by SG2000-Nigeria. The association’s members have benefit from the program’s capacity building across the maize value chain including marketing strategies.
“Our major challenge has to do with access to credit facilities and agric inputs which include seed, fertilizer, pesticides as well as marketing of our produce. Seed is very expensive! We will like the government to consider subsidizing the inputs and linking us up with buyers for our produce to avoid losses on the part of farmers,” begs Sulaiman.
Beginning From 2009, SG 2000-Nigeria adapted Sasakawa Africa’s value chain-based approach launching 5 different thematic areas of work including crop productivity enhancement ( the most emphasized theme); post-harvest handling and agro-processing; public–private partnerships and market access; human resource development as well as a theme on monitoring, evaluation, learning and sharing.
Idris Garko is the coordinator of SG2000-Nigeria’s crop productivity enhancement theme who calls on Nigeria to increase investment in research and development of high-yielding varieties of seeds and ensure public-private partnership with seed, agrochemicals and fertilizer producing companies to subsidize farm inputs for the millions of resource-poor farmers in the country. He also calls for improving agric extension services and capacity building for the farmers on accessing finance as well as appropriate usage of fertilizer and pesticides.
Garko said although Sasakawa’s operations were constrained by funding thus limiting their reach, his organization’s farming technology and improved agronomic practices had led to significant rise in yields for crops like maize, ground nut and millet across the Nigerian states where SG2000-Nigeria have thus far intervened.
“Across the northern states, farmers of maize now get between 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare against the national average of 1.6 tonnes; they now get between 1.2 to 2 tonnes per hectare on millet and groundnut, respectively, against the national average of 0.6 tonnes per hectare. Moreover, our farmers of cassava in southern Nigeria get between 25 to 40 tonnes per hectare, against the national average of 20 tonnes, and this is in addition to the fact that our technology has significantly reduced fertilizer usage,” reveals Garko.
Although Nigeria boasts a very fertile and arable land as well as a very conducive climate condition for farming, for now over forty years the country has been failing to produce enough food for its local consumption talk less of surpluses for export, unfortunately. This is even ironic considering the fact that the country used to be 95% self-sufficient in food production and agriculture was its biggest foreign exchange earner!
As Nigeria’s population is projected to reach 400 million by 2050, it is obvious that adopting modern technologies of farming such Sasakawa’s improved agronomic practices may hold the solution to it’s food insecurity challenge. By doing so, the country will not only be achieving self-sufficiency once again, instead it will also be improving its foreign exchange earnings and creating jobs for its increasingly bulging youth population.
Achieving a green revolution in Nigeria will also mean achieving goal 2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seek to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition as well as promote sustainable agriculture.