Meeting the challenge of improved seeds for planting

Ismaila Reza is running a business that’s helping his community of Bankogi in Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State overcome the challenge of getting improved-quality rice seeds for planting.

The 29-year-old is one of a few rice seed entrepreneurs catering to the community’s need for improved rice seeds to push out use of old, lower quality rice seeds from the market.

“Our main challenge is seed,” said Reza. “IFAD gave me opportunity to produce seeds for my community and the local government areas. Not even just Wushishi. The entire Niger state has challenge of rice seeds.”

IFAD is the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which funds the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) to improve agricultural value chain in Niger and five other states.

“What we used to plant is grain, not seed. But now we have good certified seeds that produces optimal yield,” said Reza.

That meant switching from ‘Washagi’, the common rice variety previously grown by farmers in the community, to FARO rice varieties 44, and 52. Reza joined Bankogi Nasara Gwari Cooperative (with 25 members, 20 males, 5 females), which enabled him to get training by AfricaRice under IFAD –VCDP to become a rice seed entrepreneur.

On his farm in Bankogi, he chose a portion protected from cattle intrusion to make his nursery bed. Each planting season, he hires at least 10 hands to help with field work, and pays them N1,000 for six-hour work.

For a start, he was given starter pack of 50kg improved breeder seeds from the IITA, Ibadan, seeded 7kg of FARO 52 then transplanted, making sure to stick to required spacing of 20cm by 20cm.

“I applied NPK and allowed it to tiller. I sprayed my selective herbicides and then insecticide to prevent insects from attacking the grains,” said Reza.

He has cultivated three cycles of production since being trained and has gone into branding and packaging them. VCDP buys seeds off Reza to sell to other rice growers across the region. “Now I am the supplier. I don’t produce paddy anymore, I produce seeds now. It wasn’t a mistake shifting to seed production. Our challenge has been quality seed,’ said Reza.

Reza has realized not less than N1m from sales in each production cycle, while also reserving some for subsequent cultivation.

“I am making more from producing seed than paddy. I harvested 2.9 tons from 0.5 hectares and earned N1.1 million in the first cycle, the second cycle yielded 3.0tons and the third 2.9 tons from 0.4hectare of land, because I sold each kg at N400”.

“I live in the family house, but with this money I have started my own building, a 4-bedromm house which is currently at roofing stage. I sent my two children and two siblings to private school and bought a motorcycle.

“For now, I am contributing more to the family. I am not the head of the household, but I feel better than before. Previously I have the intention of contributing, but I never had the means. But with the coming of IFAD, I have full hope of doing anything to help my family and community.”

Reza’s achievement has aroused the interest of many youths in the community into farming. “I am a graduate, but I prefer farming because I believe what I get in one production cycle is more than what I would get as a civil servant per annum,” said Reza.

Reza is a graduate of Microbiology, from Niger State Polytechnic, Zungeru in 2013, but he is not interested in picking any government job, as he is more comfortable operating as a seed entrepreneur.

“Many youth are now going into farming in my community because they envy my achievement, also because VCDP has supported us with simple machines like power tillers, threshers, reapers and even transplanters”.

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