Towards Higher Profits for Farmers Featured

Monday, 18 April 2016 00:00 Written by  Published in Agriculture Read 610 times
IAR fabricated machines IAR fabricated machines Yakubu Adamu Geshere

The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria work together toward repositioning farmers for higher profits in Nigeria. Yakubu Geshere writes

The Institute for Agric. Research (IAR) has been established since 1922 and holds an annual Cropping Scheme Meeting and Zonal Refills Workshop just before the rains. This year’s event held from 1st to 4th March, 2016 at the Institute’s Conference Centre in Samaru, Zaria with the theme:- Revamping Agriculture for Economic Growth and Sustainability.

IAR has an array of solutions to farming and farmers which can propel Nigeria to greater heights in realizing its self-sufficiency in food production. The Cropping Scheme Meeting is held before 2016 cropping season in order to advise farmers on the appropriate measures to take in this year’s farming on all aspects, ranging from the weather, anticipated outbreak of pests, new improved seeds/ farming methods etc. In addition, farmers will be intimated of solutions proffered for the challenges faced by the farmers in 2014, which they reported to IAR at the 2015 Cropping Scheme Meeting. The farmers are then expected to report the challenges they faced in 2015 at this year’s meeting, so that IAR will tackle them before 2017 Meeting. It is a very interactive forum in which farmers and the IAR/other research institutes rub minds.

The trio of IAR, National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), ABU Zaria and the Faculty of Agriculture, ABU, is a one stop shop for almost all solutions to farming, fishery and animal husbandry in the North West. A brief summary of the various arms of IAR is necessary so that farmers can have a bird’s eye view and avail themselves of its opportunities and services. This is because despite the enormous efforts made by the extension arm of IAR and the National Agriculture Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) also at ABU, Zaria, most of IAR services still remain unknown to most farmers and the general populace in Nigeria. Much funding would be needed to allow NAERLS reach more people, because they have been doing their best, since the days of late Garba ABCD.

IAR has the following units, each of which presented a report at the meeting:- Cereal Research, Artemisia (used for making modern malaria drug) Research, Cotton/Fiber Research, Legumes/Oil seeds Research, Fisheries Systems Research, Biotechnology Research, Farming Systems Research, Irrigation Research, Agric. Mechanization Research, Food Science, Product Development Research, Seed Production, Agric. Extension and Monitoring/Evaluation. Yes, IAR has an in-house seed production company for quality certified seeds, and also trains most staff of the seed production companies and interested individuals in Nigeria. NAPRI on the other hand is a one stop shop for all issues relating to animal production, ranging from poultry (chicken, turkey, ducks, etc), cattle, donkeys, camels, dogs etc.

The Faculty of Agriculture has the following departments: Plant Science, Soil Science, Animal Science, Agric. Engineering, Crop Protection, Agric. Economics/Rural Sociology and Agronomy.  Almost any problem on food production can be tackled by this formidable team of Departments. In addition, there is the Division of Colleges of Agriculture (DAC) of ABU, Zaria, which offers a range of courses at the National and Higher National Diploma levels in various fields. The Soil Science Dept. has one of the best equipments for soil microbiology tests in Nigeria, so the farmer is rest assured that detailed analysis can be made of the soil sample from his farm. It carries tests to determine the fertility of the soil in your farm, its pH or acidity, texture, organic matter, water retention, aluminum toxicity, macro-nutrients like NPK, micro-nutrients like iron, calcium and zinc etc. The Crop Protection Dept. does not comprise security men that protect the crops; no. The name is a misnomer and only tries to emphasize that prevention is better than cure as far as plant health is concerned. Rather, it is the department saddled with the responsibility of diagnosing any plant sickness, identifying the nature and cause of the disease, and giving medication, a sort of hospital for plants. It has the largest insect museum in the whole of Africa. This is to tell the farmer that whatever pests disturb his farm, they are already identified and can be analyzed. Generally, causes of plant diseases range from virus, fungus, insects, maggots, larva, worms, weeds, weather and soil nutrient deficiency. Birds and rodents are predators for plants.

The Plant Science Dept. houses the Biotechnology Lab which gave birth to the Sugar cane Biofactory, ABU Zaria, under the able management of Dr. Inuwa Shehu Usman. It is a commercial company that produces industrial sugar cane seedlings of high quality using tissue culture. These seedlings are disease free, being produced under high sterile conditions. If Nigeria is to realize its dream of producing enough sugar for local use, these seedlings are the only way to go for sugar cane plantations that will supply raw materials to the sugar refineries. The company aims at producing about a million seedlings per annum, and is the first fully fledged company in Nigeria to commercialize biotechnology research. The Plant Science Dept. has dedicated units each for maize, guinea corn, beans, groundnuts, sunflower, artemisia, cotton/fiber, sunflower, castor and horticulture, food science, among others. If you farm any of these crops, you can get professional advice about them here, because each unit has experts right from a professor down to the laborer, working day in day out just for the sake of the farmer.  The maize unit has produced a striga and drought resistant maize whose yield cannot be affected by striga on the farm. They have also succeeded in producing Quality Protein Maize (QPM), which has very low carbohydrate content, and can be consumed by diabetic people without any health risks. They have the short kaura, sorghum (guinea corn) of very high yield. There is also the non-shattering soya beans, which do not shatter when matured, a big problem with soya beans.  The Food Science unit tests the chemical composition of grains vis-à-vis the percentage of carbohydrate, fat, protein, moisture etc. The unit has succeeded in making bread from each of maize, millet and guinea corn flour. This is a very important development, since we can have other pastries from these, crops, which can reduce the over-dependence on wheat flour. The Animal Science Dept. also has several units.

Apart from the in-house research centres of IAR, other National Research Institutes from all over Nigeria presented research highlights as they affect the North West at the Cropping Scheme meeting. These are:- National Rice and Cereal Research Institute, Badeggi; National Institute for Horticulture, Bagauda; Forestry Research Institute, Ibadan; National Center for Agric. Mechanization, Ilorin; Lake Chad Research Institute; International Institute of Tropical Agric. IITA , Ibadan; Nigeria Metrological Agency; International Cereal Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT); Savannah Research Institute; NSPRI, National Agric. Seed Council etc. The end-users of Agric. Research, the farmers, were ably represented by the various state Agric. Dev. Projects (ADPs), as well as the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN).

Agro-based companies like Jubaili AgroTec and premier Seeds were also in attendance. Some agro-products, chemicals, seeds, books and equipments were exhibited at the event.

The National Agric. Seed Council reported that a total of 73 seed companies from all over Nigeria produced 37,934 tons of certified seeds in the North West last year, coupled with 569.5 tons of foundation seeds. On their part, the National Agric. Research Institutes (NARIs) collectively produced 24.8 tons of breeder seeds and 71.7 tons of foundation seed in the region last year.

I listened with dismay at an FRCN Kaduna radio interview (Katsina Gagara Gasa) in which a big time cotton farmer from Kankara was lamenting the stunted growth of his cotton farm. He attributed this to the seeds and said him and others with the same problem approached the village (district?) head. They were promised a solution and that up to the time of the interview (about a month ago) nothing has happened. He is not aware of where to look for the solution. Their problem has nothing to do with the traditional ruler and very little to do with the government per se, but everything to do with IAR. He should try to approach IAR. The problem may be the seed, nutrient deficiency in the soil, or some worm working below ground, virus and/or fungus attack etc.

IAR has the facilities to diagnose and solve his problem, and they will be happy about it. IAR encourages farmers to avail themselves of its services, because its doors are opened wide for farmers. If need be, they will dispatch a team of experts to the farm and make investigations for all possible causes of the problem.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists held its meeting in Sokoto state of recent, and they were charged to make effective news reporting on agriculture. This article is a response to that request, and an attempt to help the Federal Government in its drive for an alternative to oil as revenue base.

Last modified on Monday, 18 April 2016 06:09
Yakubu Adamu Geshere

Yakubu Adamu Geshere, a seasoned writer is also a consultant in solar related issues. He writes in from Zaria, Kaduna state.