The forgotten groundnut pyramid of Northern Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the main producers of groundnut. It produces 41% of the total groundnut production in West Africa. The groundnut pyramids used to be noticeable in city of Kano State (Northern Nigeria) and proudly pointed out to visitors. The huge piles of sacks of groundnut that tapered to a point higher than most of the buildings, were a symbol of Northern Nigeria’s abundance in an important cash crop. Strategically placed at the center of the production region and at the head of the railway to Lagos, Kano was once a staging post in a thriving trade to the market of Europe. Today the dusty yards where the groundnut marketing board stock- piled farmer’s harvest lie mostly empty and have been occupied by buildings.
The history of groundnut production in Nigeria traces back to 1912 when majority of the farmers were encouraged by high economic returns from groundnut. The marketing of the crop was well organized. At the end of each production season, agents moved to various parts of the region to purchase the produce while some farmers preferred to carry their produce by themselves to Kano city, where it was sold at a price fixed by the marketing board. The produce was collected from strategic collection centers and then transported to the port of Lagos by train. Groundnut production in Kano and neighboring states has reduced. The total groundnut production up to 1973 used to be more than 1.6 million to which has come down to less than 0.7 million in the mid 80’s. Both farmers and traders shifted to other agricultural (e.g. cowpea, sorghum, millet) and horticultural crops. This decline also affected industries, which used groundnut as a raw material. Some even closed down or shifted to other oil seeds.
Several factors led to the rapid decrease in groundnut production in Nigeria. The major causes were drought, rosette virus, and general neglect of agriculture due to oil boom, lack of organized input and marketing and dissolution of groundnut marketing boards. There have been adverse changes in rainfall pattern in the last thirty years. Average annual rainfall has reduced drastically from 800 mm to 600 mm and consequently the length of the growing season has become shorter (from 4 to 3 months).
The Federal Government on has inaugurated the Nigeria Groundnut Value Chain, which is expected to produce 120,000 metric tonnes of groundnut grains valued at N24bn ($155m). It said the inauguration was to revive the already abandoned groundnut production system in the country as well as restore the groundnut pyramids in the northern part of the country.
The main objective of the value chain is to drive the development of the groundnut sub-sector in conjunction with stakeholders along the value chain to improve production, processing, marketing and export of the produce. The groundnut value chain will produce an additional 120,000 metric tonnes of groundnut grains valued at N24bn ($155m) and supplied to small, medium and large-scale processors.
It was said that the project would be implemented directly in 15 states, including Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Benue, Borno and Gombe. Others are Kebbi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states.
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