Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for people in Nigeria. More than 80% of farmers in the country are smallholders who grapple with fragmented lands, poor soil fertility, weeds, pests and diseases. These problems are usually tackled using inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides/herbicides which further exacerbate poor soil health and compound soil infertility. Moreover, the effects of climate change such as temperature increases, irregular and variable rainfall patterns, flooding of riverbanks, drought and desertification, more frequent extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity have further affected the productivity of smallholder farms. Unless urgent measures are taken to address these challenges, Nigeria’s food security and by extension the economy is at great risk.
Nigeria is also the largest producer and consumer of rice in Africa. The country produces about 5 million metric tonnes of rice against a demand of 6.8 million metric tonnes per annum. About 90% of the rice is grown on paddies by resource-constrained smallholder farmers. Rice paddies contribute about 15-20% of total global anthropological methane emissions, and overall rice farming accounts for around 2.5% of all global human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making its climate footprint comparable to that of international aviation.
To address these challenges, LINKS conducted Systems of Rice Intensification and Regenerative Agriculture pilots in collaboration with smallholder farmers in Jigawa, Kaduna and Kano states.
Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a farming method that helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions from rice production, while simultaneously improving farmers yields by up to 100% and increasing incomes for farming communities. It does this through a cultivation system of early establishment, reduced population, the use of organic fertilizer and an alternate wetting and drying system that creates aerobic soil conditions that reduce the production of methane and other GHGs.
The LINKS team worked across a number of avenues to promote SRI across Nigeria, as well as measure it’s socio-economic and environment impact. We have completed four cultivation seasons using the SRI methodology in climate smart villages across northern Nigeria.
The SRI pilot was hugely impactful.
We have uploaded a toolkit of resources to help promote SRI, including 7 training videos, training modules and a podcast series explaining the methodology (please note this is in Hausa).
Regenerative Agriculture (Regen Ag) is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystems. RegenAg solutions have been proven to increase productivity through soil regeneration, increase profitability through production cost decreases and can capture carbon. Regen Ag therefore offers huge potential for Northern Nigeria to address on-farm issues related to the climate change challenge.
LINKS undertook a range of initiatives in order to promote and support regenerative agriculture in Northern Nigeria, including:
We have attached six videos that explain the fundamentals of regenerative agriculture.
Growing cotton is degenerative to the environment, requiring a massive supply of water, mineral fertilizers and pesticides. The production of cotton and the associated negative impacts are expected to increase in Nigeria due to the imminent ban on export of agricultural commodities in plastic packaging which will be replaced by bio-degradable materials such as cotton.
LINKS received funding to pilot the use of alternative fibres in Northern Nigeria, initially working with Kenaf and Industrial Hemp. These crops use much less water than cotton, do not require fertilizer applications and help to restore degraded land.
LINKS worked with Universities in Northern Nigeria to undertake research to select the best varieties of Kenaf for northern Nigeria. Once these varieties were identified, agronomic trials took place to determine the best growing conditions and practices for the crop, with a view to piloting full scale commercial production in 2023.
LINKS also undertook a detailed value chain analysis for Kenaf across Nigeria, identifying a wide range of uses for its seeds, leaves and fibre. It was at this point that LINKS was closed, and so commercial application of the findings was not tested. However there remains huge potential for kenaf as a cotton alternative in Nigeria, and research findings from the studies have been shared with LINKS stakeholders, including the Kenaf Association of Nigeria and partner Universities in Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa.