Agriculture: How Songhai farm template is making a difference

Successive governments in Nigeria have come up with a number of strategies and approaches to address food scarcity that could lead to full blown food insecurity in the country. As ambitious as those approaches were, they failed to achieve much, owning to policy inconsistency and abandonment by succeeding governments. The Muhammadu Buhari-led government has indeed shown some flashes of seriousness and determination in its resolve to make Nigeria a major food hub in the continent and globally.

To achieve this very important feat, the administration is reforming and repositioning the agricultural sector to meet the food needs of Nigeria and serve as net exporter of agricultural commodities. The government is anchoring its food security drive on existing and reliable bodies like the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs).

There are several initiatives aimed at seamless implementation of RBDA’s mandates, one of which is the domestication of Songhai Farm, as a model that would facilitate Nigeria’s expedition to self-sufficiency in food production.

The Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority (UNRBDA) under the leadership of Prof. Mohammed Abdulkarim Ali, was rated the best amongst others for its commitment to the implementation of the Songhai farm prototype. Already, Nigerians are beginning to reap from the Songhai farm in Minna, the Niger state capital. Whilst the Ouando Centre, the main experimental site of the Songhai Farm in  Porto-Novo in Benin Republic currently sits on over 22 hectares of land, the model farm Minna, which is one of its prototypes resides on approximately 7.51 hectares (75068 m2) and lies at an altitude of 310 m above the mean sea level, with a cultivated area of about three hectares within the premises of the UNRBDA headquarters.

An integrated system of farming that combines different agricultural activities to increase food production and maximize returns per hectare was enabled in the Minna Farm Model, with the support of some expatriates from Songhai Farm in Benin Republic. Residents from communities around the model farm in Minna have continued to throng the sales unit to procure various products of their choice, ever since commercial activities commenced in the farm. They’ve developed an affinity for the model farm for a single reason- all products from farm are organically produced.

As products disappeared from the shelves, sooner were products replaced in their troops to meet the daily needs of customers. The constant demand for smoked fish, eggs and processed Gari- mixed with coconut or with pineapple have kept staff at sales point busy all day. Already, the farm management is planning to deploy some state-of-the-art storage facilities for preservation of other perishable crops like pawpaw, cucumber and okro that are often scarce, no thanks to their shorter life span.

The managing director has repositioned the farm as a model to draw huge revenue from training, entrepreneurship and agricultural needs of Nigerians. Also, there are eight sections in which various agricultural activities are organized into a functional unit to profitably harness resources. These are: agroforestry (orchard), poultry, fishery, market garden (arable farm), ruminant section (livestock), processing, bio-gas production plant and sale point. Various groups mostly women have received trainings in poultry, fish and agroforestry farming.

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