Indeed in Nigeria, like in most countries across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in various critical health and economic challenges which have impacted on the lives of the people.
The impact of the current pandemic on farmers’ in Nigeria especially Kano state, the country’s foremast agricultural and commercial hub cannot be overemphasized. Definitely, farmers’ means of livelihood was threatened by the pandemic thereby worsening food and nutrition security, raising unemployment and aggravating poverty.
The lockdown enforced by the State and Federal government’s that affected all segments of the society hindered agricultural activities such as farming and livestock development, since there was no fodder for the animals, thus, making faming households more vulnerable.
Specifically, farmers in Kano could not generate income, suffered production losses and hardly got access to agro inputs and labour. And since there was travel ban, they could not get access to markets in cities and towns, to sell farm produce, livestock and products like milk and butter.
For their families, the situation was also miserable as the pandemic resulted in shortage of food, reduction in food diversity and reliance on support from donor organizations. Incidence of malnutrition worsened especially among the children.
The sad experience provides important lessons for strengthening the resilience of the agro-pastoral system in the State, and the livelihoods of households that depend on it.
Given the foregoing scenario, there is the imperative to find ways to step up the resilience of the farmers for faster economic recovery, by improving income, mitigation poverty, creating more jobs as well as effectively tackling food and nutrition security concerns.
In this regard, The Kano State Agro-Pastoral Development Project, financed by the Islamic Development Bank and the Lives and Livelihood Funds, initiated and completed repairs of the Watari dam and Irrigation Scheme, which is XXXXX and has potential to provide XXXX jobs.
The dam and its irrigation infrastructure, constructed over 40 years ago had not undergone any major repairs for more than twenty years.
Consequently, parts of the downstream infrastructure especially the canals, embankment and reservoirs have become silted and, in most cases, broken down.
Non repair the infrastructure caused more than 2, 314 farmers to lose their means of livelihoods, as only about 52 percent can cultivate their crops twice a year, while the rest of the farmers can only cultivate their crops during the wet season as a result.
Again, out of the existing 962 hectares of farmland covered by the irrigation scheme, about 45 percent of the land is not in use due to the dilapidation of the irrigation infrastructure, leading to huge economic loss for thousands of farmers. The situation was worsened by COVD 19.
Apart from renovating the dam, KSADP has concluded arrangement to develop an additional 1,000 hectares of irrigation land in the area for irrigation farming. This development will enable XXXXX farmers in the area to engage in both wet and dry season farming activities which will enhance their income, standards of living and increased food production.
At the moment, XXXXX from Dawakin Tofa, Bagwai and Bichi local government areas are benefitting from the renovated project, planting Rice, Tomato, Onions, Maize, Wheat, Cucumber, Cowpea, Groundnut, Cabbage and Watermelon.
The cost of hiring of renting a farm in the irrigation scheme has increased from N170, 000 per ha to N280, 000 per ha now. The cost of paddy before COVID has increased from N13, 000 to N18, 000 now, while middlemen who collect N700 only as commission, per bag of paddy now collect N1500 for the same service.
Production of rice also increased from 60 bags per ha to nearly 110 bags of paddy after the repairs. Thanks to the KSADP-SAA technical cooperation aimed at enhancing farmers’ capacity to produce more. More rice millers, agro products dealers, cloths and phone repairers have sprang up in the area owing to increased production.
The dam repairs have also provided ample opportunity for jobs for youths and women in crop production, processing and marketing. Many of them no longer travel to Kano city for menial jobs while some have gotten married and purchased water pumping machines, motorcycles, standing fans, television sets and generators, as indicators of their new status in the society.
Besides, under the KSADP-SAA crop value chain intervention, 450, 000 small holder farmers in Kano will benefit from access to extension services – information on best practices, input access, market access and skills/ technology development, which are intended to help them to improve their productivity and living standards. More 112, 000 farmers, formed into groups in 20 local government areas of the state, have started to benefit and six new mini rice mills have been established and are being managed by the farmers.
The KSADP has also signed an MOU with Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, to impact 100, 000 farmers across the legumes value chain.
This includes a special training component for women in agriculture, to teach beneficiaries the significance of adequate and quality nutrition on pregnancy outcomes and child development, highlight the benefit of proper nutrition and teach women how to prepare nutritious foods from locally harvested agricultural products.
To address challenges Livestock issues against the backdrop of COVID 19 Challenges, KSADP initiated a livestock vaccination exercise in 2021 where 701, 042 cattle and 663, 570 sheep and goats were vaccinated. The endeavor was conducted by 520 inoculators and a number of volunteers, under the supervision of 25 Veterinary doctors.
This resulted in tremendous improvement in the livestock health leading to improved milk and beef production in the state. This encouraged the project to organize another vaccination in 2022, to guarantee ample supply of milk and meat, which provide a vital source of nutrition for the populace, especially vulnerable groups such as children and sick people.
Given the foregoing outcomes, it is clear that improving the resilience of agricultural production is one way of ensuring that future crises have a more limited impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of Kano.
AMEEN K. YASSAR
COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST, KSADP