A survey by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has revealed that many smallholder rice farmers in Nigeria and Africa are bedevilled by challenges in the development of agriculture. According to findings of the survey, the challenges include reliance on rain-fed farming, lack of machinery for commercialisation of rice production, use of farmer-saved seeds for subsequent production, and inadequate use of fertiliser.
The report said that many rice farms had been affected by climate change, which has caused high acc umulation of salt and its resultant environmental degradation. This development has led to the abandonment of the farms, the report noted. The survey also showed that only about nine to 10 per cent of sample rice producing communities in Nigeria practice exclusive irrigation on their rice farms. Other challenges include soil nutrient depletion and imbalances and water issues, including drought, among others.
The report said: “More than half of the sample farmers in Nigeria used farmer-saved seeds for subsequent production. The high use of saved seeds has been linked to low yields in crops. “Other reasons include lack of money to procure other inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides to guarantee yields.
“However, there is an emerging trend of youth increasingly taking up roles in rice farming in Africa.” Rice Project Manager at AATF, Dr. Kayode Sanni, in his comment, stressed the importance of unlocking Africa’s agriculture potential. Sanni noted that a lot of reforms must be put in place if Africa must achieve the desired results. The reforms must cover areas such as infrastructural development, enhancement of extension services and farmer education, access to markets, financial aid and improved seeds and technological advancement, he said. The manager also noted that there could be an improvement in rice production yields in sub-Saharan Africa through the development of and access to improved rice varieties that can withstand the adverse environmental and soil conditions in the region. With this, the report pointed out that Nigeria, the largest producer of rice in the continent, needed to increase its rice production level for her to remain in pole position in the continent.
The report further stressed that lack of modern farming techniques threatens food security in the continent. The AATF report said that until governments in Nigeria and others adopt modern technologies of farming, the continent will continue to depend on food aid from abroad. “There is need for a paradigm shift on intensive crop production since the current methods applied cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium,” it said.