Farm mechanisation is one aspect of agriculture which has made agriculture easy, profitable and attractive to Nigerian farmers, especially the youths.
The conventional ways of farming which are manual, have not yielded much result as people especially youths have dumped their hoes and cutlasses to seek white collar jobs, thereby leaving agriculture solely for the aged in the rural areas.
It is at this backdrop that the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), through one of its intervention schemes, Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP) with the support of United Kingdom Agency for Technology Development (UKAID), deployed machines to assist farmers in the cassava value chain.
These machines will assist cassava farmers in harrowing, ploughing, planting and harvesting of cassava with ease.
During a field visit to Oyo State which is part of the states this project is being implemented, the Communication Office of AATF, Mr Umaru Abu revealed that the Foundation traveled across the world to look for machines that will ease the stress of cultivating cassava in Nigeria.
According to him “When we kick started this programme, we first of all went around the world to identify technologies that are easily adaptable to improve cassava production in Nigeria and also to address all the constraints in the cassava value chain, and that is what we have been able to achieve with CAMAP.
“After the search for technologies to improve cassava production, we settled with China and Brazil where we got the cassava planter which makes planting cassava easy.”
Abu explained that “before a farmer could be part of this programme, he must have a minimum of one hectare, and the farm should be about 5 kilometres away from where there is good network of roads because we are thinking of the harvest season where trucks will be coming in.”
Furthermore, the Country Coordinator of CAMAP, Mr Ayodele David further explained that the farmers who are preferred to be in a clusters will pay N47,000 which covers ploughing, harrowing, planting and spraying.
David also revealed that from calculation, it is expected that the farmer will get an income of about N400,000 per hectare following the good planting spacing of 0.8 metres and other agronomic practices.
His words: “With mechanisation, the yield of cassava is more than 20 per cent higher than manual. If a farmer was able to get 20 tonnes per hectare, and a tonne is sold for N26,000, and if a farmer is doing a full scale mechanisation for one hectare with us, he pays N47,000 (N14,000 for ploughing, N 11,000 for harrowing, N13,000 for planting and N9,000 for spraying).
“So if the farmer spends N47,000, buys his input (cassava stem), for one hectare, between 60-70 bundles are needed at N350 per bundle, a hectare of cassava planted with the machine gets about 12,500 stands of cassava. During harvest, each stand gets at least 2kg of cassava tubers.”
In Igunrin Village of Isenyin Local Government Area, a group of 15 young farmers called Path-P Agricultural Enterprises, cultivated 40 hectares of farm land with the assistance of AATF through the CAMAP programme.
These group of young farmers had in the past years ventured into other agricultural value chains without getting any tangible result, until they eventually adopted mechanisation in cassava farming.
The young farmers reportedly sold some of their belongings and leased the 40 hectares of land for N167,000 from the community, cleared the land and provided cassava stems. Then AATF provided the farm machines, fertiliser and chemicals.
According to the leader of the group, Abdulrazak Abdulwaheed, “We leased 40 hectares of land from the community at the cost of N167,000 for one season. We bought axes and other implements to clear the land which took us two and half months and then AATF came in. After our agreement with them, they supplied us with inputs.
“We have seen maize planter but we have never seen cassava planter. When AATF told us that they will bring cassava planter and harrower, we didn’t believe it until it arrived our farm.
“When the machine was brought to our farm, AATF provided the operator of the machine to put us through on handle the machine. They enlightened us on farm mechanisation, they brought all the implements we needed in the farm, like tractor, harrower, plough, planter, boom sprayer, chemicals, 80 bags of fertilizer, and they also brought the money to buy fuel for the tractor.
Recounting their challenges, Abdulwaheed said “Land acquisition was one of our major challenges. There were controversies in acquiring this land, but after the intervention of the traditional ruler of the community, we were given the go ahead to farm on the land.”
Explaining further on the functions of the machines, Abu said “If you are using a two-row planter, you can planter one hectare in 45 minutes, but the manual planting takes about 22-man days to cover an hectare.
“The planter also applies fertiliser simultaneously as it is planting. We also identified a harvester which harvests an hectare in one hour 25 minutes. We started off in 2013 effectively, supporting farmers in Kwara, Osun, Ogun and Kogi 100 per cent. The primary aim is to ensure that mechanisation is adopted.”
This CAMAP programme is targeting 3.5 million farmers in five years, and the major objective of the project is to increase the income of farmers, and improve their standard of living.
In Ogun State, the CAMAP programme is supporting farmers to cultivate 65 hectares of cassava farm in Ayetoro cluster, Yewa North local government.
The Ayetoro cluster, according to Mr David, “is one of the clusters coordinated by IFAD and Value Chain Development Project (VCDP) which is being implemented in six states across the country. Ogun State is part of the benefiting states.”
Idowu Friday, leader of one of the groups in Ayetoro cluster, with about 25 persons in the group, said “We cultivated the 20 hectares last year through mechanisation. When we are using manual, we can cultivate about one to two hectares in about two weeks, but by using mechanisation, we were able to cultivate 20 hectares in a day.
“The profit margin has increased because when you cultivate with mechanisation, the yield increases due to proper spacing. We are expecting 30 tonnes per hectare, but before we adopted mechanisation, we were getting roughly 10 tonnes per hectare.”
Abu further noted that the target of CAMAP is to move away from the average six to eight tonnes per hectare to 45 tonnes per hectare.
However, he said “So far in Osun State we have achieved 35 tonnes per hectare. Currently, our average is 28 tonnes per hectare in all our areas of intervention.”
Explaining further, Abu said “the project also takes care of agronomic practice, so we ensure that the right agronomic practices must be done for us to be able to achieve what we are looking at. We supported them with fertilisers. We are working with the extension unit of all the states where we are working. We went into an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development during the last administration.
“As an organisation, we work through partnership. We identify the technologies, bring them to Sub Saharan Africa for them to be adopted. In the course of that, we build the capacity of the National Research Stations who don’t have the capacity to meet up with this modern technologies. We build their capacity both in human and infrastructure.”
On sustainability of the mechanisation project, Abu explained that AATF is in an agreement with the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM) to domesticate the technology, and currently, NCAM has been able to fabricate its own machines.
“We went into an agreement with National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM). Part of the arrangement we had with the manufacturers of the machines was that they gave us the go ahead for us to domesticate the machines. So we trained NCAM, gave them one set of the machine with full compliment for them to uncouple and then learn through that process. Now they have been able to produce their own planter.
“We are also looking at the entrepreneurship aspect where we build individuals, especially youths and women who are our primary target such that they will access these machines and provide services within a given cluster farmers because mechanisation is very expensive. That is why we jump-started by supporting them for three years”, Abu added.
The plan of the project is that the first year, AATF provides the improved cassava stem, plough and harrow the farmer’s land, provide four bags of fertilisers, spray the farm, and more importantly, look for off-takers because before cultivation, there should be market.
AATF identified some people who use cassava for industrial purposes and went into an agreement with them. It is also expected that when the farmers harvest, 60 per cent of the stems will be given back to AATF to support other farmers.
This is the kind of project the government at all levels need to embark on to diversify the economy.