80 bags of maize per hectare achieved in Soba Nigeria

-By Zanau Hassan
Yesterday I met Mallam Tanimu Soba a farmer who achieved the highest yield of 8 metric tons per hectare (80 bags) under the Babban Gona Project in Soba, Kaduna state. I was in Soba to supervise a small farm project in company of my friend Samaila, who told me of Tanimu’s achievement and how Babban Gona decided to make him an Agro Dealer to sell the Babban Gona farm inputs in Soba town as a reward for his great achievement. We rode on a bike to look for Tanimu who then took us to his agro dealer shop in the grain market.
Achieving 80 bags per hectare in a country where national yield average for maize is less than 2 tons/hectare (20 bags) is a feat that cannot be overlooked. In other countries, Mallam Tanimu will be visited by research institutes, ministry of agriculture and seed companies to investigate his processes and procedures in achieving 8 metric tons per hectare, while journalists and media houses will make him a celebrity, but that is not the case here in Nigeria where nobody cares.
For me, it was a honour meeting him to discuss how he made it happened. I listened very attentively from land preparation to harvest. He told me how he prepared his one hectare land by first of all incorporated poultry dung and rice husk (buntun shinkafa in Hausa) on the soil. This was done in order to improve the soil organic matter and the ability of the soil to retain moisture, nutrients and proper aeration. These are very critical in the performance of the crop roots in ensuring uptake of nutrients and moisture in order for the crop to do well. Another thing Mallam Tanimu did was to innovate on planting, planting has been one of the challenge of the Nigerian farmer. I have spent four years trying to work out a planting solution to farmers that will increase plant population with accurate spacing and planting depth. Tanimu told me how he use 2 by 2 inches wood to create a 25cm pointed edges that when you press it on the ridges, it will create holes at 25cm each then another person will follow to drop one seed per hole and the same hole is create 5cm away to apply fertilizer at planting and buried.
After that, he talked about how he applied his fertilizer at 3 different stages. The first was that he used 2 bags of Diamonium Phosphate (DAP) and one bag of urea which he mixed and apply at planting. The second stage of application was at week 4 after planting, he mixed 2 bags of urea with 1 bag of Diamonium Phosphate (DAP) to bury it and the final stage was to apply 2 bags of urea when the maize has started cobbing. This brings total 3 bags of DAP fertilizer and 5 bags of urea fertilizer making it 8 bags of fertilizer in all per hectare.
He told me that the farm was closed up with canopy that you cannot enter through it and it was dark green. During planting, he ensured every seed germinated to ensure his plant population was intact and that the cobs per plant was 2.
At harvest, the Babban Gona team were around to thresh using their own threshing machine, bagging and weighing to certify his yield per hectare which they authenticated.
Having listened to processes, I then told him about some of the innovations we have developed over the last four years working with our rural farmers especially the innovation on improved planting, which was originally developed by Dr Yusuf Ballah of Albit & Agro Yola which is a manual planter that gives you even plant spacing and depth. It can be wooden or metallic, I drew it for him on a piece of paper, he was so excited and that he is a welder as well and will create one for himself. I also told him about the manual Hand Push Planter as well as the Portable Auto Seeder that plants and apply fertilizer at once.
We later talked about how it has become so difficult for farmers to achieve optimum yield and the challenges of lack of tools as well as the lack of knowledge sharing or knowledge hooding which has kept our farmers in the dark for many years. Also, how researchers have not been able to help solve some of the basic problems our farmers have been facing for a very long time. Imagine till date, we are not able to replace hoe or even develop tools that can enable farmers to plant and apply fertilizer with ease and accurately with less energy.
Achieving 8 tons per hectare of maize is miraculous in Nigeria, even though there is no magical about it, but it is surprising to many of us and farmers most especially. Innovations like this will make farming more attractive and very profitable.
On the return on investment of 80 bags at the average price of N13,000 per bag is N1,040,000 and you could imagine he did not spend beyond N250,000 per hectare out of which he spent a little above a hundred thousand on seeds, fertilizer and pesticides.
Yield increase is very critical to our agricultural development in Nigeria today and all that need to be done, must be done to support farmers to achieve optimum yield per hectare.

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