Smallholder rice farmers are facing challenges, a survey by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)  has said.

These include reliance on rain-fed farming, use of farmer-saved seeds for subsequent production, lack of machinery to support commercialisation of rice production, and low use of fertiliser.

According to the report, abiotic constraints associated with soil nutrient depletion and imbalances (salinity, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities) and water availability (drought and excess water) contributes significantly to low rice productivity in Nigeria and other African countries.

The study further shows that with climate change, there are many rice farms that are being abandoned due to high accumulation of salt leading to salinity which leads to environmental degradation.

It shows that only nine per cent and 10 per cent of sampled rice producing communities in Nigeria practiced exclusive irrigated rice farming.

Rice Project Manager at AATF, Dr Kayode Sanni, said there is need to put in place reforms necessary to unlock agriculture’s potential for Africa to achieve desired growth in its agriculture sector and to create jobs for the youth and achieve food security.

He highlighted the reforms to include access to land, improvement of infrastructure, enhancement of extension services and farmer education, access to markets, finance and good quality seeds and adoption of new technologies.

According to him, There is potential for increasing the yields of rice in SSA through the development of improved rice varieties with the ability to do well and produce more grains per hectare under the different adverse environmental and soil conditions of Sub Saharan Africa.

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“More than half of the sampled farmers in Nigeria used farmer-saved seeds for subsequent production. The high use of saved seeds has been linked to low yields in crops.

Other reasons include lack of money to procure other inputs (fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides) to guarantee yields.

However, there is an emerging trend of youth increasingly taking up roles in rice farming in Africa”, the survey stated.

It further recommended the need to invest in new farming technology for Africa from better seeds to digital tools to machinery as the best opportunity for transforming African agriculture into an engine of economic growth that will have benefits far beyond the farm sector; and use of new rice varieties and other innovations to ensure farmers can adapt to climate change, address the challenges to help them improve productivity.

Source: Info Digest

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