After the first year’s success, Alhaji Bala Turawa plans to expand his production and sell to agro_processors, raising his family’s income.
When Alhaji Bala Turawa joined a USAID initiative to increase agricultural productivity, he had faith that his harvest would increase. What he didn’t know was how small changes could lead to such big results.
Alhaji, who farms maize and sorghum in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, partnered with the USAID_funded Maximizing Agricultural Revenues and Key Enterprises in Targeted States project, or MARKETS. The project is working to move agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming by connecting farmers, agroprocessors, distributors, and other players in the value chain.
Farmer Reaps Rewards of Training
For Alhaji, who decided to grow sorghum for the project, MARKETS provided access to superior seeds, linked him to a guaranteed buyer for his crops, and trained him in best farming practices to maximize his yield.
At first, Alhaji questioned the new sorghum farming techniques he learned about in the training. For example, he was dubious when MARKETS’ extension agents explained that he needed to delay planting his crop, because the seeds were a late_developing variety. Although other farmers were already working in their fields, he decided to give waiting a try.
Alhaji learned other new techniques as well, such as planting only two seeds per hole when he was used to planting several, spacing his plants closer together, and thinning his field two weeks after planting.
Perhaps most surprising were the new fertilizer application techniques he learned. “When I planted maize, I used several bags of fertilizer per field. I didn’t believe it when we were told to use only five bags.”
MARKETS’ extension agents showed Al_Haji how to make the most out of his fertilizer by using a bottle cap to measure the proper amount to apply and by placing the fertilizer between plants rather than throwing it across his field.
Even before harvest, Al_Haji knew that the new techniques were working. “Other farmers’ crops grew and stopped,” he said. “Mine grew and grew.”
Neighboring farmers also were shocked by the size and quality of the grain he produced — as was Al_Haji himself. Whereas he previously harvested ten to fifteen 100kg bags of sorghum per hectare, after participating in the MARKETS project his harvest grew to 30 bags per hectare.
For the first time, he had enough grain to both meet his family’s consumption needs and sell his excess crops to commercial processors, providing extra income for his family.
Al_Haji says that next year, he will plant even more of his fields using the new seeds and techniques. “I have learned that success comes from adhering to the recommended practices.”