By Olamide Tejuoso
“Ahhh … My pineapples suffered”; this was Mr. Oduola, a commercial Ibadan-based pineapple farmer‘s outburst when asked for how he has fared this season. Dry season farming in Nigeria, usually occurs between the month of October and March, according to climate readings based on the tropical nature of her climate. This climatic variation has contributed to the multifaceted challenges, which the agricultural sector is experiencing presently, thus threatening food security, generally. This season is usually characterised with limited or lack of rainfall asides outbreak of some diseases and pests. Most of that the crew from FarmingFarmersFarms spoke to, depend heavily on irrigation systems, especially drip irrigation systems, to water their farms.
Meanwhile, for Mr. Oduola, who had been farming for the past six years said, relying on irrigation for his over 10 acres of pineapple farm, is too much cost to bear. He rather prefers to bear and see yellow leaves and dehydrated plants, till rainy season comes. “Now that rain is coming back gradually, they (pineapples) will be so so happy …”, he hopefully stated. The present farming season, coupled with the prevailing economic realities in the country, has in recent times, compounded some of the problems many farmers have been facing, especially in terms of ensuring continuous production, procurement of equipment to ensure all-year-round farming, and getting rich feed for livestock. However, many Nigerian farmers have remained resilient in the face of circumstances, while also staying committed to food security. Despite being battered by drought, and other extreme weather patterns, they often find ways to survive a situation and even overcome the challenges posed by the worst of all seasons. For instance, Mr. Ariwoola, who has been farming for the past six years, describes the season as “harsh” on every producer.
Speaking on pig farm setup, he decried how that the cost of setting up a mini pig pen has now increased by 300% while the cost of feed had also shot up. “Herdsmen aren’t keeping off our farms either. Some weeks ago, I personally chased some guys off my tomato field”, he said. For Ifeoluwa, a woman farmer in her early thirties, who has been a farmer for seven years; vegetable farming is the best option for her this season, at least, till rain comes. “I don’t do tomatoes because of white flies and all. The cost of production for tomatoes usually increases without commensurate profiting”, she stated. Cucumber, Soko (African Spinach), Tete, lettuce, and a little bit of sweet corn, are what she does during dry season. For her farm, drip irrigation is her saviour for these times, which even had her invest in a new variety of soko, which according to her, is commanding market.
For some farmers, the dawning of dry season is to stop farming. However, such is not the case of the tenacious Mr. Adegoroye, who is a defiant rice farmer, who also ventures into Habanero and tomato farming this season. He mentioned how that these two crops usually sell more at this time, leading to more sales because of how some farmers, especially local farmers, who can’t afford irrigation would have stopped farming. This according to him, brings more patronage to him as a commercial farmer. Although dry season farming, besides ensuring food security, helps the soil temperature, ensuring continuous soil moisture and land fertility in the long run; farmers go through many challenges to ensure they get good yields. Meanwhile, some of the popular crops planted in this period are usually staple crops, which include; capsicum, onions, tomatoes, ugu, ewedu, maize, carrots, cucumber, okra, spinach, sweet potato and sweet corn, among others.
… Work is usually cumbersome in the dry season
An average farmer cannot, but anticipate the beginning of rainy season after a few months of dryness. Just a day ago, one vegetable farmer on Facebook, kept advising for help to water his farm. This simply describes how Dry season consumes lots of efforts according to Mr. Adegoroye, who has been farming for the past 10 years. He has this to say, “It’s really a strenuous period because you have to ensure constant water supply, and also guard against pest and infection outbreak”. Good coordination, proper planning on water irrigation, use of appropriate chemicals, are measures vital to surviving the dry season. For Miss Wurola, the season is not only dry, but also challenging despite the fact that she did more of vegetable farming, on a land near a river side. She lamented how that it is difficult getting farm workers because many farm labour would have travelled home and to different locations for festivities. “Many of them are yet to be back and it’s hard getting labour and getting them on time …”, she stated. This according to her, has a huge effect on productivity. According to research, time, capital investment and labour are the three most important factors that make the season strenuous for farmers, as the period usually demand all diligence.
… The joys
Despite the dryness of the season, there are joys that come with dry season farming for farmers especially the commercial farmer. This particularly has to do with increased price of fresh agricultural products since lesser number of farmers are producing as compared to raining season. Miss. Ifeoluwa earlier mentioned spoke elated with this reporter on how she made better sales from cucumber and sweet corn, as compared to during the raining season. “For cucumbers, we did N13,000 per bag last month, as compared to the N5,000 we used to sell. We now sell sweet corn at N500 per kg as compared to N400 we used to sell before”, she noted. It is obvious that the law of demand and supply has a huge part to play here considering the fact that small-scale farmers, who largely depend on rainfall, have suspended farming till later. Similarly, Miss. Wuraola noted how that her farm now sells vegetables at a higher price considering the cost of production and efforts put into making the agricultural produce available. It can be deduced here that fresh agricultural produce are typically in short supply during the dry seasons, thus providing business farmers with unusual opportunity to establish a source of revenue for about five to six months before it starts raining.
The way forward
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger; sustained, active and timely assistance are what would make agriculture survive all seasons in any nation or state. For many local/subsistence farmers especially, the winding down of the raining season indirectly winds down their farming investment. Farmers’ capacity must be enlarged and this cannot be done outside of support from everyone. One of the help farmers in Nigeria can use in and out of season; is the channeling of water from rivers, through a reliable irrigation network systems in all states, just as it is done for power generation through hydro and gas-fired thermal power plants. There must also be knowledge taught to farmers about how to use irrigation systems to manage farming during dry seasons. In short, a public and functional irrigation network is necessary for all-round farm produce supply in order to ensure food security in the nation, come shine or rain.