An evaluation of improved sole-crop production technology on small farms in Northern Nigeria under different farm power sources: a multi-period linear programming approach

Ogungbile, Abraham
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The basic problem of small farms in Northern Nigeria is low productivity and consequently a chronic low farm income. Potential strategies often suggested to solve the problem include: (a) the use of improved technology such as commercial fertilizers, insecticides, improved seed varieties and planting materials. This form of technology is considered capable of increasing output on the existing area currently under cultivation, (b) agricultural output can also be increased by bringing more land into cultivation. This approach will necessitate the use of some form of labor-augmenting chemical or mechanical devices relevant to the felt needs of the small farmer in order to absorb resulting extra labor requirement;This study employs a combination of the two strategies above in solving agricultural development problem in the Zaria area of northern Nigeria. It compares the production potential and optimum growth paths consistent with the use of improved practices and employment of three different power farm sources, namely: (a) human labor only, (b) chemical weed control, and (c) oxen power. A five-year multi-period linear programming technique is used to analyze the impact of adoption of improved practices, utilization of alternative power sources, varying wage rates, and different labor supply situations on small farm income, resource use, employment and farm growth;When hired labor and borrowed capital are unrestricted, the maximum attainable farm size of 12 hectares is achieved regardless of farm power employed. Oxen technology generates the highest income, followed by hand labor system and the least results from the use of herbicides. However, annual income for the first year when the farm size is about four hectares is highest for the hand technology. The use of oxen and herbicide completely solves the labor shortage problem during the peak growing season, when the farm size is within six hectares, but the problem resurfaces when farm size exceeds six hectares. The use of herbicide does nothing to solve labor shortage problem of the harvesting season while oxen utilization offers little relief. Only oxen technology exhibits some cost advantage as farm size increases;With increased wage rate, farm size under the hand and herbicide technologies cannot attain the specified maximum at the end of the planning horizon. The maximum farm size is achieved under the oxen technology even tough there is a substantial reduction in income;When the quantity of labor that can be hired during the peak growing season is restricted, net incomes under the three power technologies not only decline, the optimum crop patterns also change. Farm growth is retarded for the three technologies. A farmer operating under the oxen system is able to achieve an average farm size of ten hectares, his counterpart using herbicide can cope with nine hectares, and that using hand tools alone can maintain only seven hectares.