Smallholder farmers learn new methods of farming to cope with shocks that drive food insecurity

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect the livelihoods of communities across Nigeria, there is an urgent need to enhance long-term sustainability and resilience of food production systems, build greater community resilience to climate risks, and other shocks that drive food insecurity.

Agriculture shapes Nigeria’s physical landscape and remains a significant contributor to the country’s economic and social landscape, accounting for some 22 percent of the national GDP and providing employment for about 70 percent of the labor force. However, with over 90% of its agricultural production being rain-fed, Nigeria’s smallholder agriculture remains vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Theses climate-induced environmental changes on smallholder crop production are compounded by local land and wider ecosystem degradation. On the other hand, smallholder agriculture, given the application of appropriate and sustainable farming practices and an enabling governance and infrastructure environment, can be sustainable and contribute to both mitigation and adaptation of climate change and land degradation trends.

UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) are assisting farmers most vulnerable to climate change through trainings on appropriate agricultural inputs, skills, tools & practices.

Conflicts, insurgency and insecurity are causing farmers to abandon their farms at critical times, exacerbating challenges of low yields. Prevailing insecurity continues to negatively affect livelihood activities in the Nigeria, with Northern Nigeria witnessing the highest number of affected households with consecutive years of substantially below-average harvests, and restricted income levels, resulting in severely reduced food access and low dietary diversity.

At present, smallholders produce about 80% of the food consumed in the country but participate only weakly in supply markets. Because smallholders typically control very small areas of land and are therefore unable to produce significant marketable surpluses of food after satisfying family requirements, It is difficult, if not impossible, for most of them to enter value chains as individual farmers. When considered as more compact groups of farmers, however, engagement in value chains becomes a more viable proposition, particularly in terms of supplying commercial quantities of food to (small and large) urban markets.

Women Empowerment

As contributors of up to 80% of agricultural labour, women play key roles in food production and income-earning, natural resource management and as decision makers on household food and nutrition security in the landscapes of northern Nigeria. These roles are not, however, fully recognized, resulting in their disempowerment.

Women have over the years established more defined roles in agriculture. In Nigeria, they are involved in agricultural production, processing and utilization, but their roles have been significantly affected by socio-economic factors such as income, education and access to infrastructure and finance.

Through our support, Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) is currently working with women and youth to promote participation in rice and groundnut production, processing and marketing, and supports a revolving fund through which women smallholders can access finance and other inputs to scale up improved production practices, and to also raise awareness on food and nutrition security at household and community levels.

With focused and female-targeted interventions through the project, an expected outcome will be the removal of constraints affecting women’s ability to improve efficiency in agriculture and to engage in profitable stages of the food value chains. Women smallholders will be specifically incentivized through improved access to skills, finance, markets and information that can contribute to reducing barriers to participating in agriculture.

14,000 women and 28,000 youth are being incentivized to participate/engage in increased groundnut and rice production and processing for improved income and nutrition

Youth Empowerment

Youth’s insufficient access to knowledge, information and education, as well as their limited access to land and financial services also limits their productivity and capacity to acquire the necessary skills. The government has, however, recognized the untapped potential of youth in Nigeria, and is, through recent policy pronouncements, planning to make concerted efforts towards improving women and youth’s participation in entrepreneurial initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Youth farmers need access to competitive markets not just for their produce but also for inputs, assets and technology, consumer goods, credit and labour. Information flow, training and capacity building for farmers on the appropriate agricultural inputs, skills, tools and technologies and sustainable practices, on markets and access to finance are often limited and curtailed by structural inefficiencies in the sector.

Through the project, Smallholder farmers and agricultural workers are being empowered by providing them with the knowledge and skills that they require both to enter the market and to improve their terms of participation. Assured market access and good knowledge about SLWM practices by farmers will act as catalysts to improving agricultural and food security in project areas.

The project’s intervention is explicitly designed to accelerate the adoption of proven sustainable agricultural practices that have been present in many parts of the Sudan-Sahel agro-ecological zone of Nigeria but have yet to be adopted at scale. The GEF intervention will enable this scaling up, including greater value addition and access to markets by the users of the natural capital base in the target agro-ecological zones (including farmers, pastoralists and people using natural capital for manufacturing products). This will also assist in reducing the “gender gap” in agriculture by specifically targeting women to enhance their income security and productivity.

A major component of the project is devoted to pilot testing and up-scaling sustainable agricultural and food production practices and processes, focusing on the use of integrated natural resource management, sustainable land and water management and climate-smart agricultural approaches that can increase food production and promote environmental sustainability and resilience to climate change and other shocks and stresses.

The project is being piloted in 7 states and 350 agricultural extension workers and thousands of farmers are being trained on climate smart agriculture. The 5 year project is in its third year and significant improvements have already been recorded in quantity and quality of crop yields.

Written by: Rejoice Emmanuel, Communications Associate

Photos: UNDP Nigeria

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