KADUNA, Nigeria — As the sun appeared on the horizon in the village of Jere in northwestern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, Moses Magaji hunched over his hoe, weeding out grass from the rice plant.
“I love farming more than any other thing, but farming has also become a lot harder than it was in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” Magaji said, without looking up. Behind him, an electrically-powered, self-propelled Reinke center pivot irrigation system moved noisily back and forth across a 20-hectare paddy field.
“In those days farmers had a lot of money; we sold our crops after harvest and it was enough for us,” said the 54-year-old smallholder farmer.
In the decade after independence from Britain in 1960, agriculture was the mainstay of the local economy. Until the discovery of crude oil in 1956, farmers grew sufficient food to meet local demand but also could export a surplus of cash crops including groundnuts, palm oil, and cotton and the agriculture sector accounted for more than 60 percent of gross domestic product.