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 is conducting Systems of Rice Intensification and Regenerative Agriculture pilots in collaboration with smallholder farmers in Jigawa, Kaduna and Kano states.
Systems of Rice Intensification in Nigeria
Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a climate-smart practice that increases the productivity of rice and reduces methane emissions by up to 64%. It involves planting of seedlings at an early stage (2 leaves – 7 to 10days), alternate wetting and drying (i.e. preventing submergence), wide spacing (0.5 to 0.75m between stands), and incorporation of organic materials. This allows for reduction of anaerobic conditions which are responsible for emission of GHGs. It also leads to less use of water and seedlings which leads to lower production costs.
LINKS is using SRI in Jigawa and Kano States to increase farmer incomes through increased yields whilst reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions, seed utilization, water consumption in a commercially and environmentally sustainable manner.
Specifically, the pilots aim to achieve:
- 1,000 farmers with increased incomes.
- 36 full time jobs for extension service providers who will continue to provide SRI inputs and share knowledge among farming communities.
This will provide the evidence required to further promote SRI with farmers and private sector aggregators, which will allow the work to be scaled up to potentially hundreds of thousands of farmers across Nigeria.
Introducing Regenerative Agriculture in Nigeria
Regenerative Agriculture (RegenAg) is a system of farming principles and practices that offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and improved health and vitality for farming communities. This is achieved by improving the nutrient (especially organic carbon) content of soils, increased moisture retention capacities, and better use of cover plants and residues. At the highest level of RegenAg, entire landscapes are regenerated by changing entire farming systems, moving to agro-forestry, creation of key-points and key-lines for holding water, and re-orientation of the entire production land for better outputs. Where RegenAg techniques have been implemented at scale they have had profound impact on whole ecosystems, with financial, environmental, and social benefits.
LINKS is kick-starting the RegenAg cycle in Northern Nigeria by supporting the initial development of a data platform which will on-board over 10,000 producers of organic sesame, groundnut and hibiscus flower. Through the platform, there will be ongoing interaction with farmers who will receive extension advice on basic RegenAg practices. This will lead to increased yields and premium prices for farmers and commodity traders. Eventually, the platform will provide the detailed data required to facilitate access to financing from global carbon credit markets, which can be used to further develop regenerative practices, leading to a positive spiral.