Dry Season Farming in Nigeria: Profitability; Challenges

Nigeria is a huge agricultural country, yet all-year through farming poses a challenge. Many farmers face the challenges of dry season farming in Nigeria. Because of the high cost of crop products in Nigeria during the dry season, the dry season farming business is one of Nigeria’s most lucrative farming practices. Despite the lucrative nature of dry season farming in Nigeria, not all farmers in Nigeria can participate.

Several farm produce face scarcity during the dry season; this mostly affects vegetables as they usually find it tough to survive in the hot Nigerian dry season weather. Also, while other plants can be preserved for a few more months after harvest, most vegetables can’t be preserved for over a week without special measures. This makes dry season farming of vegetables and like crops highly lucrative. Vegetables are important sources of vitamins and other important nutrients. Our inability to maximize dry season farming of these classes of crops poses a dietary challenge.

Apart from vegetables, several other plants don’t ideally perform well during the dry season in Nigeria. This makes dry season farming in Nigeria a lucrative venture. Fresh vegetables, potatoes, onions, ¬†etc., can take advantage of dry season farming, but so far, only a small percentage of Nigerian farmers can navigate the challenges of dry season farming in Nigeria.

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Challenges of Dry Season Farming in Nigeria

Lack of Rain

The primary challenge of dry season farming in Nigeria is the lack of rain. As the name signifies, Nigeria’s dry season is a period with very limited rain. This is usually between the months of late November to early March. Rainfall is the primary provision of water for agriculture in Nigeria.

The lack of rain during the dry season threatens agricultural production. Vegetable production relies a lot on sufficient moisture. The lack of rain during the dry season means most vegetable crops lacking a deep root system will easily dehydrate. When this happens usually the plants die off. This makes dry season production of most vegetables a complex venture.

Lack of irrigation equipment and application

Nigeria is yet to maximize our irrigation potential in farming. Even those living near natural body water like rivers, lakes and islands have not maximized irrigation farming. This is rather surprising because the South of Nigeria, which holds a majority of the country’s inland and territorial waters, is not very committed to farming, while the North, which is more passionate about farming, doesn’t have much inland nor territorial water. This disparity in water availability and farming interest across the regions threatens dry season farming in Nigeria.

The limited inland water in the North, which is more passionate about agriculture, poses an irrigation challenge. Perhaps the North has as much natural body of water as the South; it is more likely that the North could have prioritized irrigation farming.

Desertification: Desertification is another challenge to dry season farming in Nigeria. Earlier, we noted that the North of Nigeria is more passionate about agriculture than the South. But the Northern part of Nigeria, which stretches into the Sahara desert, is constantly threatened by desertification. Vegetable farming remains a priority when we look at dry-season farming.

This is because of its importance in our diet and the preservation challenges. But vegetables are very environmentally sensitive. Production in the arid North will require an abundant water supply; this is a bit challenging for now, given that it is hotter and natural water bodies are limited. Desertification remains a very big challenge in the North. Despite the North’s agricultural prows, dry season farming is not operating at a maximum capacity given desertification and hotter dry season.

Increased cost of production

During the dry season, the soil is tougher. This makes farming practice harder. Despite assured profit at the end, dry season farming puts up a higher operation cost.

Most vegetable farmers are subsistence farmers. Several can’t practice large-scale farming since vegetables have no standard means of preservation. Large vegetable farms may produce beyond demand, thereby leading to spoilage and losses.

Vegetable farming, for now is best suited for subsistence farming. For this reason, manual Labour is the most popular with vegetable farmers. When manual Labour is needed to till the soil in the dry season, the Labourer would likely increase his price. This is understandable as the soil is hardened. But for the subsistence farmer, this increase in the cost of production can be discouraging. Most vegetable farmers migrate to other businesses during the dry season. Some will wait for the next season.

Lack of Natural Water Bodies

For some communities, there’s no natural water body. Sometimes, even accessing drinking water during the dry season is a big challenge. For such communities, Nigeria’s dry season farming business is not for them. This lack of a natural water body impacts several agricultural communities in Nigeria.

Lack of Irrigation Experts and Equipment

Since the major agricultural communities in Nigeria lack adequate natural water bodies, it presents a situation where agricultural scientists and other experts don’t pay serious attention to irrigation methods or equipment. Some irrigational tools and methods are also sophisticated, and inadequate experts in the fields pose a challenge to dry season farming in Nigeria.

Some irrigation tools are also very costly, which complicates the challenges; we noted earlier that because of the nature of vegetable farming, it is usually practiced by subsistence farmers. This makes it hard to procure equipment for dry season farming in Nigeria.

Limited government support for dry-season farmers

While the Nigerian governments at different levels have paid attention to farming generally, right from time, there has been limited attention to dry season farming. The government pays very limited attention to the cultivation of vegetables. But crops like rice, beans and tubers like yam and cassava get the biggest focus.

Given more focus, these crops usually perform well in the rainy season and can be stored longer, either in their original form or processed into preservables. For example, in the case of cassava it is processed into garri while yam tubers can survive for months without spoiling. Grains can even last much longer.

The government at different levels pays attention to these foods that are not easily perishable. Because these crops are not easily perishable, the rainy season production is enough for a prolonged supply. This isn’t the case with vegetables, but the government doesn’t pay much attention to vegetable crops or give much support to their dry season farming in Nigeria.

Abundant vegetables and other similar plants can be produced even in the hottest Nigerian weather, given adequate government attention. Not just vegetables, several other crops, including maize, and peppers, can be produced during the dry season, which calls for greater government focus.

How Profitable is Dry Season Farming in Nigeria

It is sensible to ask, what is the return on investment of vegetable farming in Nigeria? This question is important since vegetable is the major focus of dry season farming in Nigeria. The ROI of Dry season farming can turn out to be about 200% profit.

During the rainy season, vegetable farming usually has a return on investment of about 100%; this return is like a standard; sometimes, it can be more, and at other times it can be less. Vegetables are three times more costly during the dry season in Nigeria if one is fortunate to find a sustainable supply during the season.

It will be a little complicated for us to deeply assess the profitability of dry season farming in Nigeria. Most dry season farmers are subsistence vegetable farmers with very limited data tracking. Apart from limited data tracking, production is just very scanty. Naturally, since dry season farming is mostly vegetable and other crops that easily mature, it becomes a little tougher to ascertain profitability during the dry season.

We can only conclude that dry season farming could return about 200% profit by leveraging cost data during the rainy season. The rainy season price is the standard pricing. Also, the cost of production and irrigation can impact the overall expenditure when we look at large-scale dry season farming in Nigeria.

Most dry-season farmers don’t pay attention to a production price change since they cultivate a small portion. This small portion is usually cultivated by their wards or even themselves. Most dry-season vegetable farmers are women who usually moisturize the farm with water from the well or stream.

For local women who have the chance of dry season farming, the cost of production doesn’t always factor into the pricing of the vegetables, but scarcity does. We will not work with the 200% profitability of subsistence dry season farming as we want major players to take the business seriously and supply the country with much-needed fresh vegetables and other such crops during the dry season.

When we potentially factor in the cost of irrigation, production and other necessary aspects of standard dry season farming in Nigeria, we can expect a 130% profit from dry season farming in Nigeria.

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