Mr Lateef Bello with his poster at the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium.

Best Poster Award for Graduate Explores Improved Rice Productivity in Nigeria

Agricultural Economics scholar, Mr Lateef Bello received an award for the best poster in the Master’s category at UKZN’s annual Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS).

The poster was on the productivity impact of improved rice varieties’ (IRV) adoption, using the example of smallholder rice farmers in south-west Nigeria.

Bello graduated cum laude with a Master of Science in Agriculture in Agricultural Economics degree at UKZN’s September ceremonies. His research, supervised by Professor Lloyd Baiyegunhi, was on IRV adoption and the technical efficiency of smallholder rice farmers in Ogun State, Nigeria.

According to Bello, the research assists efforts to increase the productivity of rice in Nigeria – the largest consumer of the crop in Africa. The importation of rice into Nigeria was recently banned, making it vital to improve productivity of the varieties grown there to bolster the livelihoods of farmers, particularly smallholders who produce 90% of locally grown rice in Nigeria.

Bello, who is from Nigeria, chose this topic because of the shift into rice production by many farmers following a push from the government to increase agricultural production for the sake of the country’s economy, which is diversifying so that it is not dependent solely on its crude oil. He explained that agriculture was a major contributor to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) until the discovery of crude oil, after which it has contributed only up to 30%, with the balance of crops such as rice and wheat being imported.

He said that since Nigeria’s agro-ecological environments did not support local rice varieties, IRVs that are suitable for all agro-ecological zones, boasting drought resistant and high yielding traits, were developed. Despite this, yield has remained low due to low adoption of these IRVs.

Bello investigated the low adoption of agricultural technology and IRVs amongst smallholder farmers, looking at the determinants of adoption in this group. He found that extension services were not strong enough to promote the use of these IRVs, recommending that government improve these services, and cited the need for private organisations to supplement government extension services. He added that involvement from farmer-based organisations was key, and that synergy and collaboration between farmer-based organisations, seed companies, government, and other stakeholders would contribute to facilitating the adoption of IRVs.

Bello noted that farmer access to credit is key in expanding farmland and access to IRVs, which would enable higher yield and productivity.

Before joining UKZN, Bello attended Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Nigeria. After hearing about UKZN from people he knew who had studied there and because of its high ranking, he chose to pursue his master’s degree at the Institution. He plans to continue to PhD studies at UKZN, doing research into youth participation in agriculture.

Words and Photograph: Christine Cuénod