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Overview: Guiding Investments in Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Africa (GISAIA): Nigeria

GISAIA is a grant to Michigan State University/ Agriculture and Resource Economics Department (MSU/AFRE) from the Gates Foundation Global Development Program. The grant supports efforts at improving the incomes and food security status of African farmers and consumers through policies that improve the profitability of cereal crop intensification. AFRE faculty are working with African universities, institutes and governments in seven countries: Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The goal is to support the implementation of effective policy and programmatic strategies that help African farmers become more productive and food-secure. GISAIA activities in Nigeria are centered on three of the four larger research themes for GISAIA countries.

Research objective 1: Devising strategies to promote the sustained, profitable use of fertilizer and improved seed for the main food staples.

In very few areas of the continent is there a clear consensus about what constitutes “appropriate technology packages” for improved small-farm productivity. For example, based on the assumption that it is profitable to use rates higher than currently observed, the prevailing conventional wisdom supports that inorganic fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa is too low. Yet there is limited rigorous empirical evidence to support this notion. Under this objective, the research team in Nigeria explores the profitability of inorganic fertilizer use for cereal production in Nigeria. This research uses a recently available nationally representative panel data to test different hypotheses related to the efficiency and profitability of modern inputs used for the production of rice, maize and sorghum. A Randomized Control Experiment on the adoption of a particular method of inorganic fertilizer application for rice production has been conducted in Kwara State Nigeria. The experiment seeks to understand the productivity effects of input intensification strategies that are meant to be less damaging to the environment and to explore how the diffusion of technologies can be effectively designed in rural Nigeria.


Research objective 2: Quantifying and enhancing the impacts of input subsidy programs.

There remains great controversy about the role of input subsidies as a sustainable strategy for increasing smallholder productivity. Policy makers often lack solid information on the costs and benefits of input subsidy programs or how to design them in a way that generates greater benefits from the costs incurred. Throughout most of Nigeria’s recent history, fertilizer subsidies have been a dominant component of agricultural input programs. Consequently, it is imperative to generate rigorous empirical research to inform the design and implementation of such programs. Under this objective, the analysis seeks to provide solid evidence on the impacts of subsidy programs implemented in Nigeria and how the Nigerian experience compares to those of other countries. This should generate the necessary dialogue within governments about the effectiveness of such an approach to promote sustainable intensification as well as to inform on how and when such programs can achieve greater positive impacts on smallholder farm productivity.

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Research objective 3: Identifying promising innovative private sector approaches for promoting sustained input use by smallholder farmers that can be scaled-up for wider replication.

In several African countries, including Nigeria, the private sector is initiating a number of innovative approaches for sustainably delivering productivity-enhancing inputs and extension messages to small-scale farmers. For example, several fertilizer companies in Nigeria have developed schemes where fertilizer is made available to smallholder farmers at planting time through entrepreneurial farmers in their communities that serve as both sales agent and trainers on new technologies. However, there are surprisingly limited number of empirical studies which actually assess these schemes in a way that can create opportunities for learning, improvement and scaling up. Under this objective, we seek to identify, assess, and extend promising private sector-led (and public-private sector) approaches for replicating and scaling up programs for sustainably delivering modern inputs to farmers. In Nigeria, we specifically consider the case of input provision on credit to smallholder farmers. Research under this theme uses a framed field experiment to simulate a market for input on credit and understand the conditions under which input on credit arrangements between input dealers and farmers is likely to work. The research will also generate discussion on ways such arrangements can be supported.

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AFRE PhD student in a lab experiment session with farmers in Kwara State, Nigeria ( July 2014)

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(Views expressed by the correspondents do not necessarily reflect the views of Michigan State University)