DEVELOPING VEGETABLE PRODUCTION IN SOUTHWEST NIGERIA
In the northern part of Nigeria, the dominance of vegetable cropping has graduated to an unbeatable level. Vegetables such as cucumber, watermelon, cabbage, green pepper, lettuce, tomatoes and so on; have dominated the farming of the north. Despite the proximity of the region with the Sahara desert, it is surprising to see and witness the continuous success of vegetable farming in the region.
THE STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
What major factor has enabled the sustenance of vegetable farming in the northern part of nigeria? Researchers from the AGRO RENEWAL MOVEMENT INTERNATIONAL visited Sokoto, in Sokoto state to find out how farmers in the region have been coping with the harsh weather conditions and vegetable farming. Sokoto state is one of the worst hit of the rampaging Desert encroachment. The popular caliphate experiences its peak of rainfall between the months of July and August and even during this period, the sand storms and strong winds still do not favour the cultivation of vegetables.
However, the support the state has received from the Federal Government has been the major difference. This is not to say that other parts of the country has not been supported by the Federal Government, but the way the northerners have put the assistance received is where the comparative advantage lies. It can therefore be concluded that the Federal government’s and paliatives are not the major factor in the success of vegetable farming in northern Nigeria.
Malam Mohammed Bagudo, an indigene of Kebbi state but a vegetable farmer in Sokoto state took us to the storehouse of some Local Governments in Sokoto where grains and fertilizers were kept and distributed. We also visited some farms in the locality where vegetable cultivation is the priority.
In this article, the ARMI also looks into the EFFECT OF ADEQUATE IRRIGATION IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF VEGETABLES IN THE SOUTHWESTERN AND SOUTH SOUTH REGION OF NIGERIA. When vegetables are mentioned in southern nigeria, what comes to the mind of the average Nigerian are the greens- the Celosia spp, Talinum triangulare, Amaranthus esculentum and so on. Only very few will think of watermelon, cucumber, golden melon amongst others as vegetables. This is because not until recently, the cultivation of these crops have not been popular in southern nigeria. The aforementioned crops have been the sole responsibility of the northerners to cultivate, and the southern counterparts as their target market.
In the last couple of years, all these have changed. The cultivation of cucumber and some other vegetables have been witnessed in many parts of southern Nigeria, yet, the northerners still boast of a better cultivation and yield. After carrying out intensive research by the AGRO RENEWAL MOVEMENT INTERNATIONAL (ARMI) in Sokoto, Kaduna and Adamawa, the following factors were considered the backbone of vegetable farming in northern Nigeria.
The utilization of government palliatives in the north has been superb compared to its southern counterparts. The rate of embezzlement in the south has been proven to be higher, especially funds directed towards the development of agriculture as this is mainly due to the belief in white collar jobs in the region. Funds have either been diversified into industrialisation or embezzled. This is not so in the north where agriculture is the main hold of development, and funds are diversified from other sectors into it. The governors and political leaders in the south west, south South and south east must be able to go back to the papyrus of knowledge and be reminded that industrialisation alone is causing more harm than good to the region. The job opportunities in agriculture far surpasses whatever industrialisation has put on the table. If appropriate agricultural funds and palliatives are not properly disseminated, the progress of agriculture in the region will continue to wane.
ADEQUATE AND EFFECTIVE IRRIGATION SYSTEM
The biggest problem of the average vegetable farmer in the north is the unavailability of water. This is also their biggest strength because the problem has been identified and effectively tackled as both government and individuals have been investing seriously in irrigation. The North-Central highlands has been the major source of rivers in the region, where rivers such as Hadieja, Yobe, Sokoto, Gana, Rima, Kaduna and Nogada are the most notable. The North Central highland covers one-fifth of the area, ranging from Kaduna to Jos. However, the rivers from this highland has been well utilized by the government for the development of agriculture and benefit of the peoples.
Although there is adequate rainfall in southern Nigeria, the government of the region has not done enough to harness this natural resources. This might be due to disinterestedness in agriculture. It is so difficult to point at what the government of the region has been able to do with its six month of rainfall within a year.
Annoyingly, the high amount of rainfall has resulted in the challenges faced by farmers in the region. It is true that vegetables need a lot of irrigation, but it is also true that this high amount of rainfall is the genesis of many pests and diseases in the farming of vegetables in the region.
INFESTATION OF DISEASES
The availability of water enhances the multiplication of fungi and bacteria, therefore, the replication of pests and diseases. Contrary to the dependence on rainfall experienced in the South, the north has developed a good drainage and irrigation system which does not cause harm to their vegetables. The use of Drip irrigation has also helped to reduce the cost of application of fungicide and the budget on disease eradication.
For vegetable farmers in the south to compete with their fellow northern farmers, the problem of irrigation has to be tackled especially since the rains from above cannot be stopped or should not be stopped, it is imperative that farmers be enlightened on ways to effectively control pests and diseases within its region. In the next edition, the eradication of the hurdle of pests and diseases on the vegetable farms of both northern and southern nigeria will be concisely discussed. so, we implore readers to watch out for this column.
Perhaps, there are other factors that have improved the growth of vegetable farming in the North, it will be of great benefit if the government and individual farmers adhere to some of the recommendations of this article. Vegetable farming in nigeria can not only be a source of income to many nigerians, it will help improve the health of the populace through production of quality fruits and vegetables, and gradual eradication of food poisoning among citizens. This way, we can continue to feed the people and secure the nation.