After observing the benefits of a new composting method during an exchange visit with the RFS Ghana project in 2019, the RFS Nigeria project has trained more than 2,000 farmers in 70 communities in the construction of elevated compost trenches to allow for improved on-farm composting.
Nigeria has a land area of 91 million hectares (ha), of which 86 percent (78.5 million ha) is suitable for agriculture. Yet, only about 33 million ha are currently being used for farming activities. Like many African countries, growth in the agriculture sector is constrained by poor infrastructure, customary land tenure, limited access to finance, limited agricultural extension and low-quality inputs. However, with the right input support for resource-poor farmers, the country’s agricultural sector holds enormous potential to reduce poverty and improve regional food security.
Fertilisers will play a key role in the country’s agricultural transition; yet, Nigeria’s average fertiliser consumption trails behind global averages for developing countries. Nigeria imports the bulk of its fertiliser and, despite the size of its market, is a price taker in the international market. Upward price fluctuations, resulting from the oil and food crises, and inefficiencies in the domestic supply chain result in high prices that few smallholder farmers can afford.
This problem is not unique to Nigeria. During the 2019 RFS Annual Workshop, country project teams visited various project sites in north-east Ghana where the RFS project had introduced farmers to a new method of composting, one that was able to successfully decrease the farmers’ reliance on imported synthetic fertilisers. By constructing elevated composting trenches and layering on-farm materials such as cattle dung, poultry litter, harvested green leaves, pre-dried leaves and mud, the smallholder farmers were able to produce enough high-grade biofertiliser for use on their own farms and for sale.
After seeing the success of the composting initiative first-hand, the Nigeria team decided to apply this same technique to their project communities, starting with 10 communities in Benue State. In August 2020, with support from Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, the project trained 365 farmers in the production of high-grade biofertilisers using tools and bioresources that were readily available. Due to the success of the pilot, the project has since implemented the training in all 70 project communities, reaching over 2,000 farmers.
The aim of the training was to teach farmers how to construct elevated compost trenches and integrate biofertiliser use within their farming systems. During the training, farmers were taken through the composting process in two phases: (1) the construction of a compartmentalised elevated trench; and (2) the biofertilisation sandwich process.
With their new production skills, these resource-poor farmers can now produce high-grade organic fertilisers that pose no threat to biodiversity and environmental landscapes – at almost no cost.
Before now, the purchase of fertiliser has been one of the greatest challenges we face during the production cycle of our crops. But this training came to us as a great relief, knowing that there is an equally reliable means by which our crops can be fertilised without the financial hurdles.
Farmer, Buruku LGA, Benue State
By using fertilisers produced in
their own backyard, these farmers are able to increase the organic matter
content of their soils, thus improving soil structure and soil fertility in the
long-term. Together with good agricultural practices, the use of biofertilisers
is expected to increase crop yields in the project area by at least
By reducing their reliance on imported synthetic fertiliser, each farmer is able to save roughly USD 84 per ha of land each cropping season. These savings will allow farmers to redirect their income toward more worthwhile ventures, like new productivity-enhancing technologies. This, in turn, has the potential to improve food security and reduce poverty within the region.
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