Agriculture remains preferred occupation in rural Nigeria despite pandemic-related challenges
A survey in rural parts of Northern Nigeria shows that in spite of problems in accessing quality seeds and other inputs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of respondents still want to take up or continue crop farming as their prime source of income generation. Moreover, 40% of the respondents considered crop farming as a source of food security, 34% saw it as an option of diversifying cash income sources, 13% saw it as a profit-making venture and 11% as a pathway to becoming self-reliant.
As in other African countries, the effects of the pandemic have been low in the 19 states of Northern Nigeria where resource-limited farmers live and earn their livelihoods. However, some of the actions taken by the Federal and State Governments to contain the spread of the pandemic have negatively affected agri-food systems and food security. This situation was also acknowledged by African Ministers of Agriculture back in April 2020. Seed production, distribution and marketing was hampered during the lockdown period because seed suppliers could not travel between communities of resource-limited farmers and cities (usually state capitals) where most seed suppliers are based. This aggravated the challenges farmers usually face during the planting season. Further, the supply gap of quality seeds and other farm inputs was rapidly filled by dealers who sourced materials from local markets.
In order to get an idea of the general feeling about the existing situation among different communities, ICRISAT Nigeria took advantage of two commodity value chain field surveys in five states of Northern Nigeria (Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa and Kebbi) to interview 98 individuals, including 24 women. The surveys were conducted during August-September 2020. A one-page structured questionnaire was used for the interviews with a majority of respondents who had regular cash income-earning activities before the lockdown (this included restrictions on movements and physical/social separation).
Survey results revealed that:
- 48% of the respondents reported crop farming as their principal occupation before the lockdowns while 91% intend to pursue crop farming as an occupation after the lockdown;
- For the 2020 cropping season, 39% of the respondents sourced seeds from the open market, 30% from owned sources and 31% from various other sources;
- 40% of the respondents intend to continue crop farming for food security, while 34% wanted to do so for diversifying their cash income sources;
- 85% reported price increases of several basic commodities and major food items during the lockdown period; the price of rice rose by 40%, pearl millet (reported) by 25%, groundnut by 17% and maize by 18%.
Ms Halima Abbas Salisu, a 27-year-old graduate in agriculture from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is awaiting deployment for the compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps. She says, “My engagement in poultry farming during the lockdown period was an opportunity for learning and income generation for me, despite the ever-increasing cost of poultry feed and chicks.”
Similarly, Mr Dalhatu Mohammad, a 60-year-old resident of Bichi Local Government Area of Kano, working as security agent pointed out, “I now have more time to devote to farming. But as I cannot get ADP (Agricultural Development Project) extension agents and good seeds of sorghum and groundnut, I entirely rely on whatever is provided to me by friends and family members.”
While it is heartening to see that agriculture continues to be at the forefront as a preferred activity for people in rural Northern Nigeria, it is all the more critical to develop sustainable supply mechanisms of quality seeds of crops grown by the farmers, so that they can be supported in their efforts, especially during periods of movement restrictions.
About the authors:
Dr Michael Boboh Vabi
Socio-economist/M&E Scientist, AVISA Project
Abdulqudus Adeiza Ibrahim
Research Supervisor, Socio-economics