Reaping a rice revolution in northern Nigeria

15/05/2017

By Juyin Benson and Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas, Adam Smith International

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with a population of more than 173 million, and has the largest rice production area in the continent — comparable in size to many Asian countries. Rice is Nigeria’s most important staple crop, but despite ever-growing demand, the sector remains largely underdeveloped. There is great potential for production, particularly in the north, but Nigeria is actually one of the largest rice importers in the world, importing $3bn per year.

Given the importance of agriculture for food security and rural African livelihoods — and its enormous potential to reduce poverty — investment in the sector in Nigeria has significantly increased over the last decade. It must continue to increase to support farmers in achieving self-sufficiency and begin to reduce aid dependency across Nigeria. But lack of capacity, quality inputs, efficient water management systems, insurance, storage and processing facilities, financial services and poor infrastructure make even small-scale rice production in parts of Nigeria problematic. Only 10% of Nigerian rice farmers have access to improved seed stock, compared to 25% in East Africa and 60% in Asia [2], so national production is inevitably sub-optimal. The value chain from production to marketing is also fragmented. Most rice does not find its way to market due to weak information, high transport costs and poor infrastructure.

Jigawa state is the 10th largest non-oil and gas economy in Nigeria and the agriculture sector dominates — engaging more than 70% of the population. Farmers across the state, like thousands across Nigeria, face a multitude of challenges. But the biggest challenge for farmers in Jigawa’s Hadejia valley is irrigation, an existing issue worsened by the fuel crisis which struck Nigeria in 2016. Thousands of hectares of farmland across Jigawa depend on successful irrigation due to minimal rainfall — approximately 600mm annually [1]. But restricted access to fuel and high installation and operation costs leave farmers unable to power pumping machines, leading to huge waste. Lack of crop insurance is another critical issue, not only leaving many farmers vulnerable to calamities, but also discouraging effective investment in agriculture production.

But now, hundreds of farmers are becoming successful business men and women, providing a vital boost to local economy. Through a new out-grower scheme, the Dangote Group is partnering with smallholder farmers to boost domestic rice production in eight communities across Hadejia, Jigawa. Dangote is providing farmers with high quality inputs — including seeds, chemicals and fertilizers — and fuel for irrigation, as well as technical assistance to enhance productivity.

The Dangote Group also committed to becoming a secure off-taker of the rice produced, creating a secure farm to market value chain, and guaranteeing competitive prices for the farmers. The initiative is supporting job creation, increasing incomes and transforming small-scale farmers into successful business owners. The initiative officially launched with an initial pilot of 300 farmers, across 200 hectares in five communities during the dry season. The outgrower scheme now engages 1,170 farmers across 650 hectares, covering 19 communities within the Hadeija river valley.

The Dangote Group was systematic in its approach to addressing issues faced by Jigawa farmers. With support from InvestJigawa and the Growth and Employment in States programme (GEMS3), The Dangote Group undertook a study to determine the level of support required to boost production capacity and committed to providing a range of inputs and services.

Ismaila Ibrahim, who has lived in Jigawa for more than 30 years, said: “Even though we have experience, having the advisory services is really improving our knowledge of best practice. Before we didn’t get inputs like fertiliser on time, and sometimes we had to borrow but now that’s all history. The provision of fuel is addressing the irrigation challenge and increasing our income so we can support ourselves. ”

Yunusa Haruna Gandun Sarki has been able to buy more land, can better feed his wife and children and now has secure banking to receive payment for his produce.

The out-grower model offers serious potential for sustainable change across Hadejia and surrounding communities, allowing small-scale farmers to build their businesses and no longer be reliant on a number of uncontrollable factors. After eight months, participating farmers have seen significant increases in yield. For some, previously their land produced a maximum of 2 tonnes per hectare. Now they are generating rice at 4 tonnes per hectare, with a committed business partner. Each farm is now also insured under the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance scheme (NAIC). The scheme is generating profitable income and increasing the livelihoods of hundreds.

Following success in Jigawa, the out-grower initiative is expanding to further communities around Hadejia valley and wider to Sokoto, Zamfara and Kano states; in the hope the sustainability achieved by more than 1,000 farmers in Hadejia will transpire across northern Nigeria.