Farmers in northern Nigeria are switching over to groundnut production in the hottest months of the year. From an initial six farmers cultivating the improved groundnut variety in the 2012 dry season, today there are over 5000 farmers in northern Nigeria involved in groundnut production.
Unlike vegetables and fruits grown in the dry season, the groundnut produced during this period coincides with a peak in demand for groundnut seeds, so seed growers can tap a ready market. In addition, the groundnut crop residues provide a good source of income to farmers at a time when the price of fodder is highest. Also, the groundnut is not affected by market glut as is the case with fruits and vegetables during this period.
“I am a farmer and public servant for about 35 years now. Since this dry season groundnut was introduced 3 years ago, I got about 200 bags of groundnut last year, in addition to the fodder which I use for feeding my animals,” says Mr Abdulahi Abubakar, a farmer and a legislator. “Unlike the varieties that we used to grow during the rainy season, this groundnut is not damaged by pests.”
“There is much higher yield in dry season production. If you can get a ton in the dry season, you’ll only get half ton per ha in the rainy season. You can also cultivate this groundnut with less irrigation compared to tomato and maize. From 42 ha I want to go for 100 ha and get into mechanization. It is my wish that in the coming dry season, you will visit my mechanized farm.”
“I encourage the youth in my area to take up groundnut production. I will support them financially as they start this business,” said Mr Abubakar during a field visit organized on his farm recently. “I also want to tell them to use improved seeds and appropriate planting methods and to follow the advice given by extension officers,” he said. Mr Abubakar’s farm is located in the local government area of Ningi, Bauchi State, Nigeria.
“Kano state is among the first five states to be considered in the Tropical Legumes III project. When we started the project I was skeptical about the capacity of farmers. Fortunately, they surprised me. What I saw on Mr Abubakar’s groundnut field which alone covers 42 ha is proof that our farmers can do a lot,” said Professor Sanusi Gaya, Scientist, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, and Leader of groundnut seed production in Tropical Legumes III project.
Window of opportunity
In northern Nigeria, the dry season extends from November to May. However low temperatures during the early part of the season (November to January) implies most tropical crops will not perform well during this period. However temperatures start rising by the end of January, creating a window of opportunity from February to May, although extreme daytime temperatures (frequently 40oC) during April and May mean only heat-tolerant crops/varieties can be grown.
Preliminary evaluations were conducted on 21 elite groundnut varieties, along with local checks with farmers groups in northern Nigeria since 2011. “Harvest results led us to conclude that groundnut can be profitably cultivated during the dry season. Results of trials have shown that on-farm yield ranged from 0.8 to 1.8 ton per ha. Fodder yield can range from 2 to 3.3 ton per ha,” says Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT-Nigeria.
Farmer field days for large-scale adoption
The need to stimulate seed production encouraged ICRISAT to collaborate with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) and with farmer groups to fully demonstrate varietal performance for grain, seed and fodder production in the dry season. Therefore farmers’ field days such as the one organized in the farm of Mr Abubakar recently are often held. The field days target farmers and policy makers to attract their attention and drive large-scale adoption of dry season groundnut production.
This field day was held at Tudun Gyada, Ningi Local Government Area (LGA), Bauchi State and was attended by many dignitaries including Mr Alhaji Kwuwa Shehu Damina, Honorable Speaker Bauchi State and Dr Aliyu Gital Program Manager Bauchi State Agricultural Development Project.