“Before I got involved in this project, I only had a small family and could hardly imagine to be able to feed my children properly or send them to school. Today, I take very good care for all of them. I can see a bright future for me, my family and my community,” says Bala Yahaya, a farmer from Kadawa, in Kano State, Nigeria.
Bala, a fulltime farmer and wheat grower, is in his early forties and looks energetic and happy. “I have sent one of my sons out of the country to learn French, I have another child in college here in Nigeria, and two in secondary school, and all this has been possible as I started to work with the new wheat seed varieties from the ICARDA SARD-SC project,” adds Bala.
Bala has been a farmer for 15 years and says that previously he could harvest 22 bags of 100 kg wheat per hectare, using traditional farming practices and seed varieties he got from his fellow farmers. In the last three years his produce has increased to 35 bags per hectare. He explains that because of the low yields, he used to farm wheat on just one or two hectares per season and the rest he placed under various vegetables and maize. Now he has eight hectares under wheat, uses parts of it as cash crop. Bala notes since he can store wheat for a long time, it is possible for him to sell at a very good price.
Previously, Bala didn’t have a ready market to sell his wheat to, but State Government of Kano and the Flour Millers Association have committed to all the wheat produced in the area. Although there is no price agreement with the state, Bala hopes that they buy a 100-kilogram bag for USD 125, since at that price he will make a good profit.
In the meantime, his family has been taken for trainings on making bread, pasta and cakes. With a little credit, his family could diversify to process and market the wheat products by themselves and sell them directly to local markets where the demand is huge.
Bala Yahaya is one of the 5,000 farmers in Nigeria benefiting from interventions of the ICARDA SARD-SC project. Nigeria, one of the three hub countries for SARD-SC, currently spends USD 4.6 billion on wheat importation. With funding from the African Development Bank, so far four new high yielding and drought tolerant wheat varieties have been released to farmers. These varieties are producing between 4-6 tonnes per hectare, a much higher yield, compared to average yield of 1-2 tonnes per hectare with the conventional varieties.
The project has enlisted 5,000 farmers in Nigeria alone to participate in the on farm adaptive trials, quality and technology verification, and multiplication of the new high yielding varieties. ICARDA SARD-SC has also provided a number of equipment and heavy machineries to the farmers including four seed cleaners, four mechanized bed planters, two motorised reapers, 60 sprayers, 30 spaghetti making machines, three ovens, four flour making machines, a generator and three dough mixers.
The ICARDA SARD-SC project has also provided 40 metric tonnes of wheat seeds to farmers and offered several in-country trainings to them. The project has also developed the capacity of researchers through short courses overseas and fulltime scholarships for PhD and M.Sc.
The ICARDA SARD-SC project works with the Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR, the Lake Chad University, wheat growing states, the private sector and other partners to develop new seed varieties, test and deliver better agronomic practices to farmers and assist in marketing of their produce.