When Al-Haji Bala Turawa joined a USAID initiative to increase agricultural productivity, he had faith that his harvest would increase. What he didn’t know was how such small changes could lead to big results.
Al-Haji, who farms maize and sorghum in Nigeria’s Kaduna State, partnered with the USAID-funded Maximizing Agricultural Revenues and Key Enterprises in Targeted States project
. The project worked to move agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming by connecting farmers, agro-processors, distributors, and other players in the value chain. For Al-Haji, who decided to grow sorghum, the project provided access to superior seeds, linked him to a guaranteed buyer for his crops, and trained him in best farming practices to maximize yields.
At first, Al-Haji questioned the new sorghum farming techniques he learned about in the training — for example, when the project’s extension agents explained that he needed to delay planting because the seeds were a late-developing variety. Although other farmers were already working in their fields, he decided to give waiting a try.
Al-Haji learned other new techniques as well — planting only two seeds per hole when he was used to planting several, spacing his plants closer together, and thinning his field two weeks after planting.
Perhaps most surprising were new fertilizing application techniques he learned. “When I planted maize, I used 20 bags of fertilizer per field. I didn’t believe it when we were told to use only five bags.”
The project’s extension agents showed him how to make the most out of his fertilizer by using a bottle cap to measure the proper amount to apply and by placing the fertilizer between plants rather than throwing it across his field. Even before harvest, Al-Haji knew that the new techniques were working.
“Other farmers’ crops grew and stopped,” he said. “Mine grew and grew.”
Neighboring farmers were shocked by the size and quality of the grain he produced — as was al-Haji himself. Although he previously harvested 10 to 15 100-kilogram bags of sorghum per hectare, after participating in the project, his harvest grew to 30 bags per hectare. For the first time, he had enough grain to meet his family’s consumption needs and to sell the excess to commercial processors, providing extra income.
Al-Haji said he would plant even more of his fields the following year using the new seeds and techniques. “I have learned that success comes from adhering to the recommended practices,” he said.