Helping rural farmers embrace better farming practices

Two farmers walk behind two large animals plowing a field.

Mercy Corps’ Agricultural Livelihood and Market Recovery Intervention (ALMRI) program, funded by European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (GIZ), is revitalizing the livelihoods of 4,500 smallholder farmers in Southern Borno, Nigeria, by building their knowledge on improved farming techniques; strengthening agricultural supply and distribution chains; and providing inclusive financial services.

How a farmer is embracing improved farming practices

Alhaji (Sir) Baba Plato is a well-known entrepreneur and smallholder farmer in his community in Peta village, Kwaya Kusar Local Government Area in Borno state, where he lives with his two wives and twenty children. Coming from a lineage of farmers, he has spent most of his life learning the traditional methods of farming which have been passed down from generation to generation in his family.

“The traditional way of farming is all I have ever known and it seemed useless to learn new techniques for farming. Since this is what my father and forefathers have been using for years even before I was born,” he said.

In 2018, Baba Plato joined the Agricultural Livelihood and Market Recovery Intervention (ALMRI) program because he became willing to learn better techniques that would help him increase his harvest from his farm produce. He was also determined to help other men in his community break away from traditional methods of farming and embrace the new ways so they could thrive. This led him to donate part of his farm (25x25 square meters) to serve as a model farm for the ALMRI program.

In every community ALMRI works in, lead farmers are selected to be trained on good agricultural practices and farming business skills they are then obligated to step-down their learning to other farmers in their community. Model farms were set up for practical training and demonstrations on improved agricultural techniques so the knowledge acquired could be cascaded to other farmers and then practiced on their own farm plots.

A farmer happily holds some produce they grew.
With modern farming knowledge, Baba Plato is anticipating to harvest more produce next season than a yield using traditional methods.

“After the training, I was eager to practice everything I had learned while comparing it to my traditional methods on another plot. As a lead farmer, one of my responsibilities was to share what I learned in the training to my family and other farmers in my community. I also made sure I informed the other farmers anytime I observed something new about how the plants were growing,” shared Baba Plato.

In a bid to ensure this intervention is sustainable, Mercy Corps partnered with the Borno State Agricultural Development Programme (BOSADP) to utilize its network of agricultural extension agents. The agents were trained and linked to the rural farmers' Mercy Corps works with. These agents are then able to provide hands-on support to farmers by showing them how to apply fertilizers, herbicides and provide solutions to any plant diseases the farmers may encounter.

“During the training session all the lead farmers, participants, and non-participants go to the community model farm to learn. Furthermore, we were also attached to Agricultural extension agents for more support on any issues we may face with our farms,” shared Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the lead farmers.

After much monitoring and comparing, Baba Plato was able to start seeing some results which made him excited. “Before I usually harvested a bag of maize on this small plot of land but during the harvest, I noticed that the yield increased to a bag and a half with higher quality crops.”

Baba Plato sees a brighter future for himself and those around him as he looks forward to reaping more in his upcoming harvest since he has been utilizing all the new techniques religiously from what he has learned. “I feel empowered with this knowledge on better agricultural practices and the improved seed and fertilizers I now have access to.”

Mercy Corps is working with Contec Global Agro Limited, a company that develops a wide range of organic farming products, and is supporting Contec to expand its supply and distribution systems through more farmer and trade-focused marketing strategies in Southern Borno state.