We have set the pace for poverty alleviation among rural farmers in Borno State. One of our projects, Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Borno State (PROSAB), is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This clearly demonstrates that crop farming among rural dwellers in Borno State is lucrative and profitable. They not only started to produce enough food for subsistence, but also have a surplus to increase their income.
Borno State is located at the northeastern border of Nigeria with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.The state is often plagued by excessive heat, poor rainfall, and marginal soils. Infestation of the parasitic weed Striga and poor soil fertility often cause total failure of cereal and legume crops: maize, sorghum, millet, cowpea, and groundnuts leading to serious food shortages. After three years of intervention, the project has recorded a high level success in reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in the state.
Narrating the positive impact of PROSAB on his life, 75 year-old Buba Kayamda of Ngabu village in Hawul Local Government Area, where Striga hermonthica has caused serious yield losses in maize and sorghum says, “the improved maize varieties resistant to Striga, introduced by IITA are a big relief.” The septuagenarian had abandoned maize farming for more than 10 years because Striga had completely blighted his field. “IITA scientists trained me to plant soybean in rotation with Striga-resistant maize varieties … today, the weed is no more a threat and so I am liberated,” he said.
Another farmer,Madu Abubakar of Mandaragrau village says, “IITA Scientists showed me how to make money from soybean”. Soybean is a relatively new crop in the area. Last year, he bought a N200,000 multipurpose thresher to handle his farm produce and thresh for other farmers. At Miringa village, in Biu Local Government Area, Mallam Husasaini Abdullahi who produces soybean and maize seeds says “…for the first time, I am able to pay the school fees of my children in higher institutions without tears”.
According to one of our agronomist, Dr Alpha Kamara, IITA agronomist, “the improved technologies introduced to resource-poor farmers are fast changing the face of farming and food production in the State, while the cost of food is gradually going down in the PROSAB areas, leading to wider food security”. Our partners are: the Borno State Agricultural Development Program (BOSADP), the University of Maiduguri, and the Community Research for Empowerment and Development; a local nongovernmental organization to improve institutional capacity and sustain project activities in the State.Our project economist, Dr Paul Amaza enlightens on the activities of PROSAB: “We mobilize communities and engage them fully in innovative economic empowerment initiatives that improve their living standards, ensure food security, and reduce environmental degradation.”
Borno State covers an area of 69 435 KM2. The state is demarcated in four ecological zones: southern and northern Guinea savanna in the south, Sudan savanna in the south and central, and the Sahel in the north. The annual precipitation ranges from less than 600 mm in the north to 1500 mm in the south, and varies from year to year, with a trend towards lower amounts for the past two decades. According to the latest census, the state has a population of 3.35 million people.
Livelihood strategies for most men and women in the state are based on agriculture. Farming is characterized by a variety of crop and livestock-based production systems. Crops are mainly grown for subsistence. In the south, maize sorghum, and cowpea and, to a lesser extent, rice and soybean are major crops. In the north, maize is replaced by sorghum and millet, with the latter increasing towards the drier Sahel ecologies. Livestock – small and large ruminants as well as poultry are integral part of the farming system which provide income as well as safety nets. Due to biophysical conditions such as erratic rainfall, marginal soil fertility, and a nonconducive policy environment, the sector is no longer able to cater for the growing population, much less to cope with the unexpected shocks. In most parts of Borno State, farmers have been obliged to diversify their livelihood with income from outside agricultural sector.
Other major threats to rural livelihoods are related to the policy and institutional environment in which communities have to operate. Cognizant of the situation, which is also prevalent in other parts of the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) prepared and adopted, in 2001, a new national Rural Development Strategy (RDS). The aim is to improve livelihoods and food security through a process of community-based agriculture and rural development initiatives. The strategy advocates a community-driven development approach, which ensures the active participation of the beneficiaries at all levels of decision-making.
It is within this framework that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) agreed in September 2003, to finance the implementation of the PROSAB project: Its broad objects are to: (i) arrest environmental and resource degradation; (ii) promote diversification of land use systems and processing of food crops; (iii) increase agricultural productivity and incomes of male and female farmers, and (iv) enhance the capacity of male and female farmers, communities and other stakeholders. The project is being implemented over a period of five years.
For further information contact:
Public Relations Manager
Dr Alpha Kamara