For many years, Nigeria has been struggling to attain self-sufficiency in rice production. Different programmes including the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) have been introduced to reduce rice deficit in the country.
Despite all these efforts put in place, Nigeria still remains the second largest importer of rice in the world, accounting for 25 per cent of the continent’s import. Local production is done on 2.8 million hectares of farmland.
Nigeria produces 2.55 million metric tonnes of the estimated 6.1 million metric tonnes it consumes annually. It is further projected that Nigeria’s rice consumption will rise to 35 million metric tonnes by 2050, increasing at the rate of 7 per cent per annum due to estimated population growth.
But experts believe that to feed the projected growing population, the Federal Government must consider Integrated Rice-Duck Farming (IRDF) technology since the conventional ways of planting rice in the country cannot meet demand.
Rice-duck farming is an integrated type of farming technology, that is especially suitable for resource poor farmers to produce organic rice at low cost.
The evidence from various Asian countries including India, Japan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam and some other countries, has proved the integration of ducks in rice field as a successful and productive farming technology.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that integrating ducks in rice farming have been proven to increase 30 per cent higher yield with about 60 per cent higher net return.
This technology has also proven to be far better than conventional ways of growing rice as the same cultivation area can be used for not only rice production but also subsidiary products like meat and eggs. At the same time it reduces labour inputs through control of weeds and insects by ducks.
Experts are of the opinion that growing rice and ducks together in an irrigated paddy field could well be a solution to providing food security for a surging population in any developing nation. This method of farming has reduced poverty, hunger and brought inclusive growth to a large segment of the population in the Philippines.
Technically, if government can invest and empower farmers to adopt the technology, Nigeria will save $300 million in import substitution annually.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), IRDF technology will enable farmers grow rice without using pesticide or herbicide. They will also earn extra money when the fully grown ducks are sold or when they start laying eggs.
The UN agency said, “beside its economic benefits, this technology is especially environmental-friendly. The application of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides can be reduced thereby improving soil quality and pest control.
“The additional benefits of this good practice option are a higher food security to small farming households in times of calamities and on long-term basis the contribution to reduce methane emission. Hence, integration of duck in lowland rice production is recommended as climate adaptation and mitigation option.”
Therefore, experts urged the Federal Government to partner FAO and one the Asian countries to adopt integrated rice-duck farming by training a large number of Nigeria’s farmers to embrace the technology.
A Bio-technology Engineer, Roshan Shetty, who runs an AgroBioTech Channel in India told Daily Sun that the IRDF, in which ducks feed on insects and weeds in paddies and fertilise rice plants, has been a flagship of Asian sustainable agriculture movements.
He added: “Farming is being revolutionised by a technological wave. That’s great news. By 2050, the earth’s population will be 10 billion, so we need to almost double the amount of food we now produce.”
Speaking on the benefits of rice-duck farming, Shetty said ducks eat harmful insects and weeds, thereby averting the use of chemical pesticides and manual weeding in the rice field, adding that ducks get nutritious diet from eating insects and weeds in rice fields.
He explained that the droplets of ducks act as natural fertiliser to the rice crop preventing the use of chemical fertilisers. He said the continuous movement of ducks in the rice field provides natural stimulation and aeration, which increase the availability of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potash to the rice crop.
He hinted that rice-duck technology causes a reduction of emission of methane gas from rice field, contributing to reduce the global warming.
Experts have also proved IRDF technology to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits. In this type of farming technology, ducks are released in the field after 10-20 days of rice transplantation till the time of flowering. The integration of ducks in rice field creates symbiotic relationship between rice and ducks yielding mutual benefits to both entities.
In the medium to long-term, the adoption of the IRDF will contribute to improve the quality of life of farmers, as evidenced by increased savings and income, better family nutrition (chemical-free rice, duck meat and duck eggs), and a healthier lifestyle brought about by less exposure to harmful chemicals.