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Irrigated farming is changing the livelihoods of farmers in Kwadon, a rural community in Gombe state, northeastern Nigeria. Located along a federal road, Kwadon village is easily accessible. Hills and streams surround the community, giving it a good climate, suitable for irrigated and livestock farming. Because of this potential, the people of Kwadon have over the years been involved in growing maize, onions and tomatoes during the rainy season, using traditional methods and tools. For decades, the vegetable market in Kwadon has attracted people every Monday from major Nigerian cities; they come to buy vegetables in large quantities for distribution to the southern part of the country.
Before the beginning of irrigated farming, farmers in Kwadon were mainly subsistence farmers, and barely had enough food or income for their needs. The location of Kwadon and its contributions to agriculture attracted an NGO, Sasakawa Global 2000, which built the capacity of farmers in irrigated farming. Unlike seasonal farming that depends on rainfall, irrigated farming uses various sources of water such as wells, boreholes and nearby streams, using a pump and long hose pipes or watering cans to water the soil and crops.
To further support irrigated farming, the Gombe State Ministry of Agriculture trained farmers on how to make and use organic manure, and provided them with fertilizer at subsidized prices. With improved capacity and skills, farmers have now diversified their agricultural activities and sources of income, growing irrigated lettuce, cabbage, onions and maize in addition to their rainy season farming.
New farmers’ groups have emerged and are collaborating with the State Agricultural Development Project (SADP). Through these groups, farmers access improved varieties of seedlings, and share ideas on farming and irrigation. Some of them have dug boreholes, and purchased water pumps to enhance their work. Smallholder farmers also attend their workshops and participate in radio discussion programs on agriculture.
This script talks about the benefits of irrigated farming in Kwadon, and looks at how it has improved the lives of people, as well as its impact on agriculture in the area.
This script is based on an actual interview, conducted with a farmer in northern Nigeria. To produce this script on your station, you might choose to use a voice actor to represent the farmer and host, and change the wording in the script to make it suitable for your local situation. 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 interview, and that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on a real interview.
Noma tushen arziki! (Editor’s note: This means “Farming: a source of wealth creation” in the Hausa language.)
Signature tune up, then fades under presenter
Welcome to Noman tushen arziki, a program that brings you the latest information and developments in farming. Today we are going to look at how irrigated farming improves the income of rural farmers in a village in northern Nigeria. My name is Adamu Musa Okonkwo.
Short musical break
It is September in northeastern Nigeria and harvesting time has begun. The majority of farmers are busy gathering crops, while others are busy grading and selling. Perhaps those engaged in irrigated farming as well as seasonal or rainfed farming have started planning. Some might already have obtained their seeds from the State Agricultural Development Project or ADP.
Because of the importance this program attaches to the economic prosperity of farmers, we will talk to a farmer from Kwadon, in Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area in Gombe State, northern Nigeria, to discuss how irrigated farming improves the income of rural farmers.
I rode a distance of seven kilometres on my motorcycle from Gombe to Kwadon to meet Mallam Mammada on his farm. He is a farmer both of rainy season and of irrigated crops. He has harvested his maize, cabbage, and lettuce and is preparing to plant the same crops in the dry season as part of his irrigation project.
Mallam Mammada, can you tell our listeners what you are doing right now?
Yes, as you can see, my farm is almost empty. It was a bumper harvest. So far, I have harvested my maize. What is left to harvest is some lettuce and cabbage. What I am doing right now is clearing the empty portion of the farm in preparation for irrigated farming. I am planning to plant maize again. I have purchased my fertilizer already.
Where do you get your seed corn? Your harvested maize stalks look big and strong.
I obtained the maize seed corn from the Agricultural Development Project of the State Ministry of Agriculture. We have two popular varieties: one is red and one is white. Each of the two varieties has a sweet and a non-sweet type. The sweet type is more suitable for making tuwo (Editor’s note: tuwo is cornmeal), because it is starchy.
How long have you been engaged in irrigated farming, and what steps do you follow to ensure a bumper harvest?
I have been farming for decades, but I started irrigated farming three years ago. The first step is to clear the bush on the farm and apply organic manure. Then you pump water from the borehole tap, using a long hose pipe, until the soil is fully soaked. Irrigate once every three days for maize until it has fully grown, but lettuce, cabbages and other vegetables may require more frequent watering. Then, after a week, you build ridges about 15 centimetres high, either manually or with a tractor. Then you buy and plant your seeds. Apply animal dung fertilizer two weeks after planting, when the seedlings are about twenty centimetres high. At this stage, you should weed the grass and support the growing plant with soil. Two to three weeks later, you can use an ox-driven ridger to support the maize with more soil. Once you have finished this step, you have finished the bulk of the work. All you need to do is to monitor the growth of the maize and wait for harvest.
Okay. To summarize, you should clear the bush and apply organic fertilizer first. Follow up by pumping the water once every three days, making the ridges, and planting the seeds. Two weeks after planting, you add more organic manure, then weed and support the plant with soil.
That’s right. The amount of water to be pumped depends on the size of the farm. But, on average, a one-hectare farm will require 15,000 litres of water every three days in this area.
Can you tell our listeners the benefit of this new way of farming?
There is a program called the National Program for Food Security. Under this program, we attended a workshop where they taught us new farming techniques, including spacing of seed corn twenty centimetres apart, application of fertilizer, use of chemicals, and using animal dung as fertilizer after clearing the farm. There was another training organized by Sassakawa Global 2000, where we learned how to use small portions of land to get maximum yield. As a matter of fact, irrigated farming has increased our yields, improved our income and provided more food to the community, and to the nation at large. So we are grateful to these organizations.
Are you engaged in farming for sustenance or for profit?
You know times are changing. In the past, I farmed mainly for sustenance, a situation that held me in abject poverty for a long time. Now that I have new skills, information, and opportunities to sell my crops at a good price, I grow other crops. Apart from maize, I also plant lettuce, cabbage, carrots, watermelon and spinach, and these vegetables now serve as a source of income. I do not have to sell my maize early because my income has improved. So, I can wait until the prices are good. With the introduction of different varieties of seeds, I plant maize three times a year. I get 40 bags of maize from each hectare, compared with 10 bags previously. After our training on vegetable farming, I started growing lettuce and cabbages. I harvested seven baskets of lettuce on these three ridges. We use two varieties from India and France. The French variety, which was planted on seven ridges, gave me 15 baskets. I sell each basket of lettuce for 700 naira (Editor’s note: about $6 US dollars or 4 ½ Euros). Since I adopted irrigated farming, my life has changed from poverty to prosperity. My economic standard has improved significantly. It has helped me to pay for my household needs, my children’s school fees, make some savings, and pay for other expenses.
What advice would you give to farmers to maximize their yields and income?
My advice to farmers is they should prepare early and start planting immediately after the rains fall. Those engaged in irrigated farming should also prepare in advance. Buy all you need, including seeds and fertilizers, and repair your pumps, using the savings from the sale of rainy season crops. Farmers should report any problem they notice on their farms to extension workers immediately. In this way, extensionists will have more time to identify and find solutions for crop diseases. If farmers plan well and save their earnings, they will improve their standard of living, provide food for the nation, and educate their children, who will support them later in life.
Signature tune up, then fades under presenter
Well, listeners, I hope you have enjoyed this interesting trip and adventure to Mammada’s farm. Please tune in next week for another edition of the program. Once again, it’s Adamu Musa Okonkwo saying, “Thanks for listening.”
Contributed by: Adamu Musa Okonkwo, Gombe State Media Corporation, Gombe, Nigeria, a Farm Radio International radio partner.
Reviewed by: Umar Baba Kumo, Gombe State Media Corporation, and Alan Etherington, independent consultant in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and ex-WaterAid staff.