A small group of youth from Niger learned a fast-paced composting technique. Their learnings are not only helping return profits but are also helping sustainably improve agriculture in their villages. More importantly, the composting business has allowed the members of the group to eke out a living in their villages without having to migrate for it.
With 70% of its population under 25, Niger has one of the youngest populations in the world. Most of this West African nation’s young people have limited access to technical training, advice on job orientation and inadequate work opportunities. As a result, youth in rural areas migrate to cities and neighboring countries in search of jobs. In its efforts to address the exodus, Government of Niger considers youth employment as one of its fundamental priorities to develop the country and reduce poverty.
In 2019, a USAID-funded project, Development Food Security Assistance program (DFSA/GIRMA) of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), was initiated to improve and sustain food and nutrition security while building resilience among poor households in Niger. It also aimed to develop youth agricultural entrepreneurship in Zinder region. Later in August 2020, over 150 rural youth joined an entrepreneurship incubation program at ICRISAT’s incubation center in Sadoré. The youth were participating in their first practical training in integrated pest management, market gardening, fruit tree nurseries and smart compost production.
Among them, there were 14 trained in composting. The composting training aimed at helping them build businesses that can locally supply nutrient-rich compost to farmers. This way, the youth can make a living while helping farmers raise soil fertility, contributing to raising agricultural production sustainably.
Aerobic water vapor composting (called CAV) was taught to the group. This technique saves up to 90% water and uses less labor compared to traditional compositing. It enables compost generation in just 45 days as compared to 90 days the traditional approach takes. Youth were trained in installation and operation methods. ICRISAT also provided kits that included a wheelbarrow, shovels, fork and other necessary equipment to help the youth start CAV.
Mr Fararou Ousmane from Lakiré commune of Bandé harvested 4.9 tons of compost after staring CAV. He says he is very motivated and has already prepared the inputs (millet biomass and cattle manure) for the second round of production. He hopes to produce at least 20 to 25 tons of compost during 2021 and sell them at 50,000 CFA (US$ 92.40) per ton that would earn him 50 CFA (US$ 0.09) per kilogram of compost.
Mr Saadou Sani from Angoual Gamji 2 commune, Magaria, found that the compost business has made his market garden fertile and yield more vegetables. Before, he gardened with manure directly from the cattle shed. The yield obtained was below his expectations, forcing him to migrate to a neighboring country. This year, after two months of CAV use, Mr Sani was able to harvest 3.4 tons of compost. Unlike Mr Ousmane, he is using his compost in his market garden for the production of vegetables (carrot, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, etc.).
“I am happy with the state of my vegetables and I am sure that I will earn two to three times more than in the past. At this rate, I will no longer have to immigrate because I am already gaining. The profits will firstly be used to maintain CAV and then meet the needs of my family,” he said.
In the less than two months the group of 14 youngsters has been able to produce 49 tons of good compost to improve soil fertility locally. Composting also represents a new source of income for families and stabilizes the youth in their areas.
Dr Bouba Traore, Scientist, climate and agriculture, ICRISAT-WCA
Dr Vincent Bado, Principal Scientist – Dryland Systems and Livelihood Diversification, Innovations Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT-WCA
Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative – Niger, ICRISAT