Transforming farmers’ lives with climate and pest resilient seeds in Kaduna State, Nigeria

Mallam Idris Biye from Biye village, Kaduna State in Nigeria explains how being engaged in testing STMA varieties transformed the lives of many families in his village. Credit: IITA

“My name is Mallam Idris Biye, but my people here call me Yellow Biye, perhaps because I am fair in complexion, compared to many of my neighbours. I live in Biye Village, Kaduna State, Nigeria; I farm maize, soybean, sorghum and millet. But my favourite is maize.

Biye has always been an agrarian community and we love farming very much. My parents and grandparents were farmers, and we are proud to be among the very few people that feed humanity. But recently, we discover that our land is not as fertile as it used to be. When we were children, we witnessed huge harvests by our parents and, therefore, believed that farming was a profitable economic venture. My parents and grandparents built their houses and homes from proceeds in agricultural businesses.  They travelled to Giwa, Funtua, Katsina and Kaduna to sell off their grains in exchange for money. Although education was not that common then, we had everything we wanted while growing up. But today, things have changed for bad for farmers. We no more understand the onsets of rains, as they change too frequently and unpredictably. There is also the problem of very long dry spells, and even drought in the midst of supposedly rainy season. So we were really concerned.

         Added to these, is the problem of high incidences of pests and diseases on our maize today may be fall army worms, tomorrow it is streak! Then there is striga, that parasite weed that has become a nightmare to maize farmers in our area. All these put together, we became unsure and worried of what our future as farmers would be and more worried about the future of our children. Like many of my village men, I thought of changing my profession maybe learn mason, be a trader or some other work. But even then, I was seriously short of cash. Already, I had withdrawn two of my children from the school they were attending because I couldn’t meet their fee obligation. I relocated them to a cheaper school, which was also very low in standard, compared to the previous one. The small kiosk I operated to augment family income remained mostly closed because it was out of stock.

          This frustration led to one thing and another until we came in contact with NAERLS, which is the STMA Promotion organization in Nigeria. First, we made a passionate appeal to the NAERLS Adopted Village Project to make Biye village one of its focal areas. Luckily for us, we were adopted. They built an Agricultural Research and Extension Outreach Centre (AREOC) for us; facilitated us into forming strong farmers groups; linked us to credit facilities with a Microfinance Bank in Zaria and provided us several extension materials from which we learn a lot in agricultural production, marketing and utilization.

      Through the NAERLS Adopted village project, the STMA Promotional team got to us, and this tremendously changed our life. My major concern in my maize farms had been on how to access maize varieties that can withstand long dry spells, striga-infested soils and soils low on nitrogen. The STMA Project is like a miracle, a godsend! The team work with us farmers as equals in the agricultural venture, not like some ‘superior people’. The field demonstrations we had together was very participatory, a learning process for all of us. Besides linking us to seeds and other agro-input suppliers, we receive so much extension and advisory support from them.

      Just in three years (2016-2018), my story has changed! The STMA project empowered me with the necessary information and linkages to become a proud farmer again! My 2018 harvest was a bumper. And I’m not the only one; all of us that embraced the STMA innovation have been smiling to the bank, and we’re well respected in our community. I recently purchased a new motorbike and I conveniently feed my household with nutritious foods through proceeds from my maize farms. My children are all back to our schools of choice and high standards. My shop in Samaru Market is fully stocked. In all, I am happy to be identified with the NAERLS-STMA team.       In recognition of the impact of STMA activities on our farming businesses in Biye community, our farmers’ cooperatives presented to NAERLS a Distinguished Award of Excellence in supporting development activities in the community.

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Posted on Annual Planning Meetings, News release, West Africa News, May 5, 2019

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jbossuet

Agriculture expert and research-for-development communications specialist with 20 years international development experience including food and nutrition security projects in Africa and Asia. I work at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Nairobi to showcase the impact of maize and wheat science for better livelihoods in Africa. I am interested in any new solutions to key development challenges like fight against malnutrition, gender gap, how to scale sustainable intensification practices.
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