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Published On: Tue, Nov 11th, 2014

Jigawa farmers plant cowpea 3 to 4 times in a year, says Expert

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The effort by scientists to end the era of disease-free cowpea (beans) was penultimate week brought to the fore at the Institute for Agricultural Research in Zaria, Kaduna state, during a two-day training organised for journalists by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. In this interview with Mohammed Kandi, an expert from Jigawa state Agriculture and Rural Development Authority, Salihi Suleiman Birnin Kudu, said Maruca (disease) resistant cowpea varieties will increase farmers’ income four times more, in Jigawa. Excepts:

How is Cowpea cultivation in Jigawa and what are its major constraints?

Well, in Jigawa state, cowpea is one the crops that are grown by every farmer. But with the improved variety, you find farmers growing it about three or four times a year using the rainfall, the residual moisture, irrigation facilities and even sometimes, the crop survives the early drought or the early season of rainfall. So, farmers in the northern and southern parts of Jigawa state grow cowpea all year round.

The farmers also grow the improved variety as a sole crop where they plow as many hectares of land as possible. But the main problem with cultivating cowpea on a vast farmland is the insects. Most times, the farmers had to resort to using chemical spray. Also, there are two huddles when using chemicals, as sometimes you’ll find that those chemicals will cost the farmer more and they have to also know the techniques of the spraying even though they are trained by experts and some organizations.

Besides, there are hazards in using the chemicals because they don’t take what I will call the security measures in spraying when using chemicals. Alhamdulillah, for eating, you find that cowpea is one of the crops that from the seed, if you’re planting them, you’re planting the remnants of the insects. Hope you understand what I mean. I mean it attacks the crop right from the seed to the field uptill harvesting time.

This makes cowpea a very crucial crop. But it’s one of the crops that grow under 40 – 50 days if you’re using residual moisture or irrigation. In Jigawa state, whoever wants to grow cowpea can grow as much as he can. The weather is favourable, the land is efficient and Alhamdulillah, the farmers have irrigation facilities and they will tell you that if you asked them.

What are the economic benefits and losses to farmers and consumers?

The thing about cowpea is, it comes at a time when it is crucial to the farmer. If he plants it early, it comes at a time when he needs money to finish other crops. And the old cowpea, that is, because of the poor storage facilities, you find the new cowpea as ‘hot cake’.

The crop sells at a very high price. Also, the farmer has cowpea as food and as cash crop to finish other agricultural activities during the seeding before other crops come up. It is the last crop or second to the last crop that comes out in the field because it is the one that you sell directly; you don’t have to keep it because one of the problems of cowpea is the storage.

What is your opinion on Cowpea’s deadly Maruca disease?

Of course! Maruka is one of the major problems the farmer battles with because he has to spray the farm at least three or four times. Maruca is a field crop disease. But there are other insects that also follow cowpea to the storage facility.

How would you compare effect of Maruca, cost of chemical spray and farmers yield?

You know the survival of farmers sometimes is more like the survival of the fittest. If you make the benefit analysis, you find that these farmers have not yet gone commercial per se. most times; they are growing to meet their immediate needs. What are his needs? The social needs, food needs; in the other sense, once he can get money at a time he needs the money, sometimes the farmer doesn’t look at the economic implications of his loss or gain. The main profit, for the farmer, is getting it when he needs it. But it’s not his fault because he’s constrained with the techniques of existing varieties to a large extent and that of good storage techniques.

What are the economic benefits of having Maruca-resistant cowpea?

If the farmer can get a Maruca-free cowpea variety, it’s a four-fold increase to his income. Like I have said before, cowpea is a crop that you can grow 3 -4 times a year—the rainy season, residual moisture, irrigation. Farmers will also need drought-resistant cowpea because Maruca is not the only problem the farmer has. Sometimes drought can affect the crop. So definitely, it will be the sole cash crop for the farmer.

Furthermore, the farmers’ profit could be seasonal. Last year, beans of 100kg cost up to N28, 000 per bag. There is no other crop, except maybe benne seed that will cost that amount. So if a farmer can produce, at least 3– 4 bags, he’s getting N28, 000 or even if he gets N20, 000, times it by 3 or 4, that will be N60, 000 not as a sole crop, and that might not be the main crop on his farm. He grows other crops on the field. You understand what I mean? So it’s just a pillar to his income; and you know, like I’ve told you, his social needs and other things.

How will you describe the farmer’s relationship with research institutes in the country?

There are a lot of improved varieties now on the field or from the same source of research institutes given their mandates in the country. The researchers are really doing their best in carrying the farmers along. They knew farmers plight and they developed or breeded the high breed variety, because the local cowpea doesn’t grow under irrigation but rather at the end of the season. With low rains and less insects, the farmer is safe on that side. But with the improved varieties, you’ll have to do chemical spraying.

Well, to the farmer, talking of GMOs, it’s the consumer that will think of genetically modified variety not the local farmer, even though his yield matters to him. But for the farmer, he’s looking for what can fetch more money for him. So, the education and awareness campaign by the government through the radio stations about whatever crop really matters a lot to the farmer. The farmer is always looking for the crop that can be grown under favourable climatic condition with minimal cost and high income.

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