Smallholder oil palm farmers improve their livelihood in Nigeria

Nigeria is the fifth-largest producer of palm oil globally with less than two per cent of total global market production. About 80 per cent of palm oil production in the country comes from dispersed smallholder farmers. Given the right capacity building, Nigeria can improve palm oil production. Solidaridad has been working with farmers and national stakeholders to contribute to this prospect.

Sunday Oyama Odong, programme participant from Cross River state

Making sustainable practices the norm

Integrating smallholder oil palm farmers into the palm oil supply chain has increased farmers’ yields from 2.7 to 7.4 tons per hectare in Nigeria. This result was achieved under the project “Integrating Independent Smallholder Farmers in Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain Through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Certification”—The RSPO project. 

This was initiated by Solidaridad to make sustainable agricultural practices the norm for at least 3,000 independent smallholder farmers and to support 2,000 farmers towards certification. 

Prior to the intervention, funded by the RSPO Smallholder Support Fund and supported by Henkel, the average harvest was between 2.7 to 3 metric tons of fresh fruit bunches per hectare. Moreover, farmers lacked appropriate farm management skills.   

Building capacity

In 2015, during the commencement of the project, Solidaridad conducted a survey in two states — Cross River and Akwa Ibom states — which indicated that most of the oil palm farms were hardly slashed, pruning was not done correctly, access paths and circle weeding were not created in the farms, and there was no ground cover management. All these resulted in poor yield leading to low-income levels.

To bring about the desired change, Solidaridad started building the capacity of the smallholder farmers in best management practices and formed them into smallholder independent groups in the oil palm producing communities. 

Farmers were trained on practices, such as ground cover management, pruning and canopy management, crop residue and fertilizer application, and harvesting techniques using demonstration plots. The project also used the training of trainers’ approach to ensure that more farmers are reached.

So far, 3,000 smallholder farmers in the Cross River and Akwa Ibom states have benefited from the capacity building training aimed at boosting their yield. This has improved the livelihoods of participating farmers.

Improved livelihoods

Sunday Oyama Odong, one of the beneficiary farmers in Cross River state says, after a year of applying the knowledge he acquired from the training in his oil palm farm, his yield has improved. 

“Within a year, I got one metric ton of fresh fruit bunches from the same plot I was struggling to get half a ton in the previous seasons. As of February 2019, I had recorded up to 7 tons of harvest per hectare.  I now harvest three times a month during the peak season,” he says.

Sunday indicates that his livelihood has improved as a result of the income he generates from his farm, and he can now support his children’s education.

Another beneficiary farmer from Akwa Ibom state, Mbang Bassey Samson says he and other farmers have been receiving training from Solidaridad since 2017 on how to maintain their farms. 

We were trained on how to apply fertilizer, create field paths and weed. Since we adopted the practices, our yields have improved, and our incomes have increased.” – Mbang Bassey Samson

Widespread adoption 

After years of implementation, another survey was conducted, which showed an increase of fresh fruit bunches from 2.7 to 7.4 tons per hectare per year (0.62 tons per month), with some farmers recording up to 10.4 tons per hectare. 

This, Egong Owai, field agronomist at Solidaridad says, has helped improve the livelihood of many farmers who can now support their families with income from their oil palm farms. 

“So far, 47 independent smallholder groups, comprising 5,223 farmers, have been formed in the project areas. These are adhering to best management practices on 8,532 hectares of oil palm fields” says Egong. 

The RSPO project forms part of Solidaridad’s efforts to promote sustainable oil palm production in West Africa by increasing efficiency and productivity,  at both the farm and processing levels.

Read more about our work in Palm Oil.