Niger State agriculture is a key component of the economic sector contributing 80% of the State GDP and 75% of the entire population actively engaged in farming. Data from the State Ministry of Agriculture shows that the State has a 4,134,909-farming population spread across 838,463 farm households. This is not surprising as the State is blessed with 62,992.30 square kilometers of arable land (about 83% of total landmass), a key factor of production. In addition, about 1,313,004 hectares of land in Niger State are suitable for irrigation with only 25% currently under irrigation farming.
With its large arable land, Niger State has positioned itself to take advantage of the teeming opportunities in the sector to avert food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria. Like most states in the North Central region of Nigeria, agriculture is mostly practiced at the subsistent level and usually during the wet season. Commonly cultivated crops include rice, maize, soybean, shea, cowpea, and vegetables while livestock is raised for meat and milk including poultry, sheep, goat, cattle, and aquaculture. The State boasts of dams, irrigation sites, and grazing reserves stretching over 10,000 hectares. Farmers grow grains in the wet season and vegetables in the dry season using the irrigation sites maintained by the government.
Owing to its population and human resource potential, Niger State is positioned to meet the labour demand by investors and development partners alike. The State has aligned with the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) aimed at boosting the rapid development of modern agro-processing capacity in the Country. This initiative sort to stimulate private sector investments to drive a market-oriented agricultural transformation in Nigeria.
Critical to note is the compounded challenges of low crop and livestock productivity as well poor value addition and processing that has continued to increase smallholder farmers’ vulnerability, adding stresses and shocks thus dwindling their resilience. Improving farmers’ livelihood through knowledge management, technology transfer, and policy formulations centered on income growth, livelihood enhancement and environmental balance remain paramount to achieving global SDGs. It is for this reason that the State and its partners have identified investment in smallholder agriculture as a critical milestone for poverty alleviation, food security, and nutrition improvement. Specifically, a flagship programme, christened “Agricultural Value Chain Development (AVDEP) in Niger State” has been conceived. The flagship will seek to develop and strengthen the crop and livestock value chains in Niger State to ensure improved productivity and markets for food security and improved livelihoods
The core objective of the flagship is to support the State to develop the priority agricultural value chains such as rice, maize, soybeans, shea, sorghum, cowpea, livestock and aquaculture through linkages to inputs and output markets and enhancing their productivity by 50%. AVDEP intervention in Niger State will focus on maize, rice, soybeans, cattle, poultry, and aquaculture through tier approach. The first tier of value chains will compose the maize, rice, and soybeans, while the second tier will include the livestock, poultry, and aquaculture . For each of the crops, the program aims to engage about 400,000 smallholder farmers (maize 30%, rice 50% & soybean 20%) in 25 local government areas (LGAs) of Niger State between 2022─2027. The programme is premised on the AGRA’s experience and lessons from partners on the consortia models where smallholder farmers are better prepared to adapt to stresses and shocks giving their access to information and extension advisory services, group management skills, and quality input supply chain management (e.g. fertilizers, improved seed, storage facilities, logistics and transportation, finance, insurance, and mechanization).