Rice production and processing in Kebbi State: Stories of thousands of farmers (Part 1)

BACK in 1994, while I lived in the north, Kebbi was the first state we would go to purchase rice paddies – to process and sell to the southerners who came to buy in bulk. The entrepreneur with minimum capital sold 10 bags of processed rice per day. I specifically mentioned 1994 because that was the year I started venturing into various businesses in the north – Shea butter and groundnut oil processing, cooked meal, kunu, boil eggs. Rice business had been one of the major agricultural businesses of the people of Kebbi State and other parts of the north since 14th century.

On July 30, 2016, I came back; primarily to investigate the impact of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrower Programme on rice production in the state, eight months after it was launched. I have spent hours with rice farmers in the state and here are my findings so far (please note, my journey is nowhere ended and this post is just about a few findings).

Argungu: 60,000 hectares of rice, thousands of farmers

About 50 kilometres from Brinin Kebbi is Argungu local government area, situated on the Sokoto River. According to my tour guide, Mohammadu Yahaya, the city hosts more that 70,000 people and is one of the agricultural centres in Kebbi State, along with Yauri (which I am headed tomorrow), Dadi, Bagudo and Koko/Besse LGAs (places I intend to go to today if the rain lets up), and other parts of the vast, beautiful state.

Argungu boasts of key crops like tobacco, peanuts, rice, millet, and sorghum and hosts an annual international fishing competition. But since my primary assignment here is rice, a CBN Kebbi Branch took me to Mallam Yusuff Gabi, Argungu LGA coordinator of the Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), who told me that the city has “at least 60,000 hectares (he emphasised “at least” three times and demanded that I wrote it down in capital letters) of rice and thousands of farmers who produce 80 bags of rice paddy per hectare. Apart from rice, sorghum, millet, etc, the city produces yam, sugarcane, maize and other things, for subsistence, as well as for commercial purposes, Gabi told me.

Myself on a 40kilometre of rice plantain in one of the farms in Tungar Zazzagawa.
Myself on a 40kilometre of rice plantain in one of the farms in Tungar Zazzagawa.

Gabi said he believes that Tungar Zazzagawa, Gulma and Sarwa, villages that farm and produce thousands of tonnes of rice could actually produce more if the Federal Government would provide mechanised solutions to their local farming processes.

According to him, although the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has helped “tremendously” in improving yields, thousands of hours and resources are lost to manual farming in which he said more than 80 per cent of the farmers engage in.

It is therefore, his suggestion that the government provides tractors, irrigation systems, and more accessibility to funds to help feed the nation.

Adamu Maigoro, who I found on the farm in Tungar Zazzagawa, said he was grateful for the single digit interest rate on loan acquired from the ABP, but would want the government to see to the issue of machines to help sustain the programme.

Maigoro, who didn’t give consent to me taking his photograph, agreed that there was a need for the country to officially recognise the role of women in food production and security. Although he wasn’t particularly keen on women engaging in manual farming, he reasoned that they could be encouraged to fill the gap in the value chain process.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook via @Olurounbi for live updates on this journey.