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Agricultural sustainability of fadama farming systems in northern Nigeria: the case of Karshi and Baddeggi

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Nigeria is endowed with underground and surface water reserves, rich pastures and favourable agroecological conditions in the country's low-lying plains with alluvial deposits, popularly referred to as fadama lands. The 3,000,000ha of fertile soils with residual moisture offer attractive opportunities for the arable farmers to grow both season and off-season high-value crops. The potential and importance of fadama agriculture for food production and economic development is crucial, given rising food prices, climatic changes, environmental risks associated with ‘modern’ agriculture, modelled farming systems and population growth. fadama areas are therefore of critical importance to the survival and economic development of millions of rural dwellers. This research surveys and analyses the sustainability of fadama farming systems in semi-arid northern Nigeria. Findings reveal a delicate interaction and negotiation across the formal and informal boundaries where traditional agricultural practices, based on an understanding of the particular physical reality and exploitation of natural synergies, are combined with inputs typical of conventional agriculture. African agriculture thus stands poised at a crossroads: whether to abandon tradition in favour of entirely ‘modern’ methods and export markets as often advocated in certain circles or to depend on time-tested indigenous knowledge systems and grassroots-defined development vision which combines popular livelihoods with respect for nature's systems.
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