Agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) are widely used in northern Nigeria to enhance groundnut production and productivity, right from storage to marketing and distribution of grain, and in seed dressing before planting. Using eco-friendly options such as groundnut haulms to enhance soil fertility are limited as these are used for livestock feed, especially in the dry season between February and June. Further, using droppings from large ruminants encourages rapid growth of weeds and other pests, adding to labor inputs required for farming.
As part of the USAID-funded project on ‘Increasing groundnut productivity of smallholder farmers in Ghana, Mali and Nigeria’, a training workshop was conducted for extension agents and field assistants to create awareness on the detrimental effects of using pesticides and fertilizers. The aim was to provide them the basic skills and knowledge to advise farmers on steps to take to minimize the negative impacts of such use on the environment, natural ecosystems and human health. The workshop brought together 91 extension agents (including 8 women), with 64 of them from project implementation partners of the Agricultural Development Programs, 6 from private seed companies and 21 from partner institutions. Most sessions were conducted in the Hausa language by resource persons from ICRISAT Nigeria.
An introductory session on the potential of groundnut nitrogen fixation turned into a discussion for sharing experiences on the soil amendment potential of the crop. Participants were made aware of the health hazards of the inappropriate use of these pesticides, which range from mild (nausea, poisoning, etc.) to fatal; pesticides can prove extremely harmful to women and children who are increasingly involved in many farm activities that bring them into contact with the chemicals. Participants also recognized that indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers can harm beneficial soil micro-organisms leading to reduced nutrient concentration in the soil, weaken root systems of crops, and increase water and wind erosion.
The workshop also delved into specific aspects of groundnut-based technologies, from production and storage to distribution of quality seeds and emerging trends and challenges of producing groundnut in the dry season.