Notes to broadcasters
Potatoes are the fourth most popular food crop in the world. They contain no sodium, cholesterol, or fat, and has moderate to high levels of vitamin C, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, and dietary fibre. The potatoes can be made into a wide variety of foods, including snack foods such as crisps and fries.
In Nigeria, potato production is mostly centred in the Jos region of Plateau State, where the altitude creates a cool climate that is well-suited to potato growth.
Potatoes offer a variety of benefits to farmers and consumers. They are relatively nutrient-rich, lucrative, relatively easy and quick to cultivate, do not require a lot of land, easier to cook and digest than most other staples, and do not require any processing once harvested.
This script tells the stories of small-scale farmers from Jos, Nigeria who have suffered potato blight, in their own words. We learn about their experiences and their efforts to prevent and combat the disease. In addition, two local experts give us the facts about potato blight disease: how to recognize it, and natural and chemical ways to prevent and/or combat it.
This script is based on actual interviews. You could use it as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use the script as guidance and seek out interviewees representing the different players in the potato value chain.
If you create your own programs on Irish potatoes, talk to farmers, traders, nutritionists, extension workers, and other relevant stakeholders in your area. You might ask them:
- Are Irish potatoes grown in your area? If not, why not?
- What are the major pest and disease challenges for potato farmers in your area? What
effective and affordable methods do farmers use to address these challenges?
- What services are available to help farmers manage pests and diseases?
The estimated running time for this item, with signature tune, intro, and extro, is 20-25 minutes.
Today, we will be talking about Irish potato blight disease in Nigeria. Our journey takes us to the city of Jos, in the northern part of the country. We will talk to local farmers and experts and find out about their experiences with this disease and how they have managed to combat and overcome it.
While Nigerians are mostly known for their love for yams, Irish Potatoes are actually very popular and widely-consumed in Nigeria. In fact, they are the third most important root and tuber crop produced in Nigeria after yam and cassava.
Today, nearly three hundred thousand hectares of farmland produce close to one million metric tons of potato each year in Nigeria. This yield could be the greatly improved, but famers in Nigeria face many difficulties. Difficulties include natural ones like poor weather, pests, and disease, plus social and structural challenges such as gaps in knowledge, financial difficulties, poor transport and storage facilities, and difficulty in accessing hardier and more resistant strain of seedlings (Editor’s note: also known as seed potatoes) and plants.
One of the main contributors to low yields is a disease called potato blight, or late blight. Almost every farmer who has ever grown potatoes has stories of this disease wiping out some or all of their harvest.
Today, we are going to interview farmers and experts around Jos, in Nigeria’s Plateau State, the key city in the production of potatoes in the country.
First, we’ll be talking to Dr. Daniel Lenka, who will give us a brief overview of potato farming in Nigeria. Dr. Lenka is a lecturer at the University of Jos, Faculty of Agriculture, and has worked with the National Root Crops Research Institute Potato Program. Welcome, Doctor.
Because it is a fungal disease, if environmental conditions are conducive, the disease can spread rapidly. It affects the leaves and stem, causing them to turn black. Without leaves, the plant cannot manufacture food for itself and eventually dies.
In modern times, potato blight was first found in 2014 in the Bokkos Local Government are, a region in Plateau state. Bokkos is responsible for producing about 40% of the potatoes in Nigeria and farmers were just ravaged by the disease. About 500 hectares of land were damaged and within a week, it had spread across the state and there was no area that was free from it. The cost was astronomical—not just in lost produce, but the human cost as well. A lot of farmers committed suicide after visiting their farms and finding everything lost, almost in the blink of an eye.
Pests and diseases are also big issues. One year, rodents removed half of my farm. Also, millipedes and other pests sometimes attack my plants. But the big problem is the blight, which usually comes when there’s a lot of rainfall.
HOST: Thank you, Mr. Ezekiel. Next, we will talk with another farmer, Joseph Dangyang, who has been farming for 10 years. Welcome to the program, Mr. Dangyang. Can you tell us how you got started in potato farming?
The spores can also thrive on farm tools, the infected parts of the plant, and in the soil. Because they are cotton-like, they can easily travel in the air to infect other crops.
Some planting systems also create situations for blight to thrive. For example, our farmers plant potatoes twice a year, which means that the tubers are more susceptible to disease. We also tend to overcrowd when we plant.
Another possible cause is global warming. Perhaps the change in climate has allowed the fungus to become more prolific and voracious.
I’m actually quite happy—I made my best harvest this year from a commercial perspective, and it’s very exciting as this is actually my first good harvest on my own.
The common one is potato blight. I noticed that, when my plants began to mature, the leaves withered and died. It usually happened at the peak of the rainy season.
There are a few ways we can combat blight—directly and indirectly. The first way is to use clean, disease-free seedlings. One of the major causes of blight is the fact that farmers re-use the seedlings. Infected seedling that are stored and then used during the next planting period are actually the number one cause of blight.
Another way we can combat blight is through good land hygiene and preparation practices. Make sure your tools are sterilized and your fertilizer and soil are free from infections. Don’t plant crops too close together.
Then planting at the right time. I notice one of the farmers said she only plants in the dry season. This is a good idea, but it is also very expensive or labour-intensive to get access to water.
There are also some early-maturing varieties of potato on the market that mature in less than three months. This would also ensure that the potatoes were ready before the heavy rains.
Then there is the use and correct application of fungicides. There are a few effective fungicides and you can talk to your local extension agent to get their advice on which product to use.
Finally, we need to educate the farmers about this disease and other threats to their farms and let them know about good agronomic practices.
It seems like potato blight is very common and spreads easily. But by reducing the conditions that allow it to thrive, planting a bit earlier to avoid the peak of the rainy season, planting clean seed, using early-maturing varieties, using hygienic practices, and by regular and correct use of fungicides, farmers can still achieve a healthy yield.
I hope this information helps you all on your farms. Good luck!
Contributed by: Ted Phido, writer, The Write Note, Lagos, Nigeria
Reviewed by: Lucas Garba, Director of Extension, Plateau State Agricultural Development Programme, Jos, Plateau State
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project in Nigeria in partnership with AFC Agriculture and Finance Consultants.
Dr. Daniel Lenka, lecturer at the University of Jos, Faculty of Agriculture, February 9, 2020
Bob Davou Ezekiel, farmer, Plateau State, February 4, 2020
Joseph Dangyang, farmer, Plateau State, February 4, 2020
Gbenga Oni, consultant, ACCEPT (Agric-Community Engagement-Conflict Resolution-Education-Training), and former researcher, National Root Crop Research Institute, February 6, 2020
Nandul Edward Binkur, farmer, Plateau State, February 4, 2020