Rebuilding the fallen pyramids

Groundnut pyramid

Nigeria produces 41% of the total groundnut production in West Africa. The groundnut pyramids used to be conspicuous in Kano city of Kano State (northern Nigeria) and proudly pointed out to visitors. The huge piles of sacks that tapered to a point higher than most of the buildings, were a symbol of northern Nigeria’s abundance in an important cash crop. Strategically placed at the center of the production region and at the head of the railway to Lagos, Kano was once a staging post in a thriving trade to the market of Europe. Today the dusty yards where the groundnut marketing board stock- piled farmer’s harvest lie mostly empty and have been occupied by buildings.The history of groundnut in Nigeria traces back to 1912 when most farmers were encouraged by high economic returns from groundnut. The marketing of the crop was well organized. At the end of each production season, agents moved to various parts of the region to purchase the produce while some farmers preferred to carry their produce by themselves to Kano city, where it was sold at a price fixed by the marketing board. The produce was collected from strategic collection centers and then transported to the port of Lagos by train. Groundnut production in Kano and neighboring states has declined. The total groundnut production up to 1973 used to be more than 1.6 million t which has come down to less than 0.7 million t in the mid 80’s. Both farmers and traders shifted to other agricultural (e.g. cowpea, sorghum, millet) and horticultural crops. This decline also affected industries which used groundnut as a raw material. Some even closed down or shifted to other oil seeds.

Several factors led to the rapid decline in groundnut production in Nigeria. The major causes were drought, rosette virus, and general neglect of agriculture due to oil boom, lack of organized input and marketing and dissolution of groundnut marketing boards.There have been adverse changes in rainfall pattern in the last thirty years. Average annual rainfall has reduced drastically from 800 mm to 600 mm and consequently the length of the growing season has become shorter (from 4 to 3 months). Drought spells have become more frequent than ever before. This undoubtedly has led to the failure of groundnut, which requires more than 4 months with the currently available cultivars to reach maturity. Drought has also been associated with outbreaks of diseases and insect pests such as aphids. Aphids are carriers of the groundnut rosette virus, which is a devastating disease. It wipes out the entire crop during epidemic outbreak. For example, in 1975, an epidemic of rosette virus destroyed nearly three quarters of a million hectares of the crop in Nigeria and wiped out regional trade worth estimated at US $ 250 million. Subsequent epidemics in 1983, 1985 and 1988 had a major impact on farmers’ decisions. Many of the farmers who suffered financial ruin have stuck to other crops such as cowpea, sorghum and pearl millet. As a consequence, groundnut production has not yet returned to the pre-1970 levels of 1.8 million t.‎
Research on fertilizer use in northern Nigeria began in 1925. Experiments have shown that groundnuts respond to added superphosphate. Seed for planting was freely distributed to growers and cash subsidy was later introduced. This encouraged farmers to use high quality seeds and fertilizer. With the economic structural adjustment program, subsidies for agricultural inputs were removed. The decline in production and dissolution of marketing boards led to the collapse of the marketing structure that had been established. Farmers are no longer assured of a ready market for their produce. This has led to the diffused sales of groundnut and therefore, no single collection center to build he pyramids. There was complete neglect of Agriculture in Nigeria after the discovery of petroleum oil in early 70s.The consequence of this development was a more complex problem militating against effective agricultural productivity. There was a high cost of labor resulting from the exodus of young people from rural areas into urban centers in search of employment. Such people considered agriculture a poor man’s job.

With the devastating effects of the groundnut rosette disease, many farmers abandoned growing the crop. Even with the inception of Agricultural Development Programs (ADPS) and other externally funded projects, adaptive research on groundnut was not given high priority. Emphasis was placed on other crops such as cereals and cowpea.

The Federal Government of Nigeria launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) which is implemented through various crop commodity chains. The vision of ATA is to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that drives income growth, accelerates achievement of food and nutritional security, generates employment, and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food markets to grow wealth for millions of farmers. The Growth Enhancement Support (GES) investment is targeting 20 million farmers. The ATA action plan initially focuses on priority agricultural commodities including groundnut. ICRISAT and FMARD have signed an agreement on a project titled Rebuilding the groundnut pyramids: boosting farmers’ income through new groundnut varieties, cropping systems and processing technologies, value addition in Nigeria. This project will bring all major players along the value chain together, ensure they complement each other, and also ensure that ICRISAT is a major player in the implementation of the GNVC activities. In order to enhance the performance of the groundnut sector along the value chain, groundnut productivity needs to increase. Crop management practices that significantly increase yields of grain and fodder at competitive cost will be promoted. Because of largely proven integration between input and product market, Agrobuss is determine to provide market strategies,marketing strategies that link the different players will be promoted. Farmers and/or farmers’ organizations will produce for the market; they will be strengthened and organized around collective marketing in order to reduce transaction costs and increase their returns to investment.

Farmers guild to profitable groundnut production in Nigeria.                                                                                                                                                               images                   NOTE-This handbook,one of the output of the GNVC-ICRISAT collaboration,is written to help farmers,agricultural extension agents,and researchers in Nigeria and neighboring countries grow groundnut profitably.

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