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Battle Against Hunger: Farmers Return To Class

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The introduction of Farmer Field Business School by IFAD-CASP to farmers in Nigeria has opened a new vista in the business of farming in the country. JOSEPH CHIBUEZE reports

Mallam Sani Danjuma Dambo, a peasant rice farmer from Dambo village in Bakura Local Government Area of Zamfara State is dreaming big. He dreams of moving from subsistence farming to commercial farming. He dreams of sending his four children to the university from the proceeds of his farm. He is dreaming of having a good life.

Dambo, now in his early sixties has always been a farmer, struggling to make a living for himself and his family. But this year, he can look forward to a better tomorrow.

Dambo is not alone in this dream of a better tomorrow. In fact he is just one of 30 other farmers in his community and thousands of other farmers in 727 communities in 104 local government areas across seven northern states of Borno, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto and Yobe.

The source of their new hope is the new agronomical practices they just learnt from the Climate Change Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme (CASP) of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The programme currently being implemented in the seven states, runs what it calls Farmer Field Business School (FFBS) where the farmers who are formed into groups are taught modern agronomic practices and climate resilience as well as post-harvest handling and marketing of CASP-selected value chain crops.

The Farmer Field Business School, runs like every other school except that it is not within the four walls of a building. The farmers receive their lessons sitting comfortably under a tree where the instructor takes them through the modern farming practices that will help them increase their yield and of course, boost their income.

Beside the ‘class’ is a demonstration farm where the farmers are taken to for practical demonstration of the lessons they just received.

Dambo who was speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend in his rice farm recently said initially he did not believe in the new method CASP was teaching them because as a farmer who has been in the business of rice farming all his life, there was nothing anyone could tell him about rice farming. Again, the new method appeared to be cumbersome, why would he plant rice one by one rather than the simple way of just broadcasting on the field?

“I can tell you that it was with some level of doubts in my mind that I accepted to implement what they taught us in my farm,” he began his story of an experience that is about to change his life for better.

“I have just realized that I have been investing so much in my rice farm and coming up with what I now know to be very poor harvest. Before joining the school I had always had poor harvest, even though I thought I was doing very well. For instance last year I harvest only 20 bags of rice and I thought that was good. Joining this school has opened my eyes and I can now see that I have been wasting resources and harvesting very little.

“From the same plot that I got 20 bags last year, I am expecting 35 to 40 bags because I have adopted the modern technique. What is more, last year, I planted 20 mudus of rice seeds, this year with the improved seeds IFAD-CASP gave me, I planted only four mudus of rice seeds and I am expecting almost double what I got last year.”

He said with this new method he is inspired to move from subsistence farming to commercial farming. “Presently I have four farms, with the extra income I will make from my increased yield, I will increase my farms to 10 by next year,” he said.

National Programme Coordinator, IFAD-CASP, Muhammed Idah, while explaining the reason behind the introduction of the programme said the objectives are to increase income of the farmers, enhance food security and reduce vulnerability of smallholder farmers to the effects of climate change, particularly women and youth, in the participating states.

While informing that the programme which started in 2016 has a six year life span, he said it would cover 727 villages across 104 local government areas of the seven northern states. He also noted that the programme is using selected private extension service providers to assist in building the capacity of the farmers with the aim of increasing the yield of rice, wheat and sorghum within the period of the project. “We intend to boost the yield of these crops and others like maize, cowpea, groundnut, sesame and millet by 40 to 50 per cent, while reducing post-harvest losses by 20 per cent,” he said.

Mallam Lawan Shehu who before now was a local government agric officer, now earns a living as an Agric Climate Change Agent and serving as an instructor in the Dambo Farmer Field School/Business School. After undergoing a three week training on climate change smart agricultural practices, provided by IFAD-CASP, he was posted to Dambo to serve as an instructor.

“I am a facilitator for the Farm Field School in Dambo. I teach them how to use minimum resources to get more yield. This school has 30 students/farmers male and female. They all have rice farms of their own,” he said.

“I am teaching them the new techniques of rice farming such as the use of improved seeds like faro 42, that they should first broadcast the seeds on the nursery bed and then transplant to the field after two or three weeks planting them one seed per hole and 20cm in between. I also teach them the method of applying fertilizer.”

Elated that his effort is already yielding results, Mallam Shehu proudly pointed to the rice farm of one of his students saying: “They have already began to reap the benefits of what we are teaching them here. Some of them used to get 10 bags of paddy rice per annum, but now they harvest 20 or 25 bags on the same piece of land, with less fertilizer and seeds for planting.”

He said that IFAD-CASP gives seeds to the farmers, NPK and Urea fertilizers, herbicides as well as insecticides. But then called on the government to support what IFAD-CASP has done by giving the farmers generators to enable them pump water to irrigate their farms especially during dry season.

Alhaji Abdullahi Surajo, the head of Knowledge Management and Communication, IFAD-CASP, said IFAD Climate Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme, was a new programme in view of the threat of climate change and global warming.

Surajo explained that under the scheme, farmers would be encouraged to shift from substance to commercial agricultural production because they will have more money to do so. “Apart from teaching them modern farming practices, they are also being taught how to market their produce and we are linking them to big buyers that will serve as off-takers for them so that they can concentrate on their farming knowing there is market for their produce,” Surajo said.



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