IJAYE FARM SYSTEM, NIGERIA
West Africa: West Africa is highly diverse in its human, ecological and natural resources, and in
terms of cultural, religious and ethnic background. Culturally, there are more than 2000 tribes with
distinct dialect and social customs. The population of West Africa is about 180 million, or 45% of
Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, containing about 100 million
people belonging to some 500 tribes. In Nigeria, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa are the three major tribes.
Macroeconomic environment: The Nigerian economy is dominated by the petroleum sector which
constitutes 90% of export earnings. The country is unable to produce enough rice and vegetable oil
to meet its consumption requirements, and lacks natural resources to meet growing demand for wheat,
sugar, cotton, and dairy products. The agricultural sector is dominated by small scale family farms,
which produce food and cash crops. Fertilizer supplies have increased, but due to a poor distribution
system for the fertilizer and lack of rural credit services, the fertilizer price subsidy of 75% is
benefitting mostly the few parastatel and commercial farms. Insecticides and herbicides are
expensive and only limited quantities are imported. There are no modern agricultural manufacturing
industries, except for imported wheat and breweries. There is a good network of private and
secondary roads. The country lacks; modern storage of any kind, and market prices of agricultural
commodities fluctuate widely between seasons and years. About 40% of the population lives in urban
Social environment: Nigerian people in general, and Yoruba people in particular have strong tribal
attachments such that allegiance to family, village, and large tribal group weighs heavily in their
social and political life. People are prideful and weigh leisure and participation in social events very
highly. An extended family system offers security in times of economic hardship and misfortune.
A family with good harvests will share its food and cash with needy relations. In Yoruba culture,
money borrowed is rarely returned. The Ijaye area belongs to the Yoruba tribe which is settled along
the coastal areas of West African countries. Cassava and Yam are staple foods for the Yoruba and
Igbo, and sorghum and millet are staple food for the northern Hausa people.
Ecological regions: The diverse ecology of Nigeria varies widely between highly humid rainforest in
the south near the coast, and becoming drier going north away from the coast. There are 5 ecological
HUMID RAINFOREST: long monomodal to bimodal rainy season of
8-10 months with rainfall of 1800-2500 mm. Soils are acidic and
highly leached. Vegetation is thick forest of oil palm, cacao, coconut,
plantains, papaya, and cassava.
TRANSITIONAL HUMID AREA: Bi-modal rainfall of 1300-1700
mm in 6-7 months. Soils are moderately acidic. Vegetation consists
of forest trees, oil palm, cacao, plantains, banana, oranges, pineapple,
papaya, cassava, yams, and maize.
SOUTHERN GUINEA SAVANNAH: mono-modal rainfall of 1200-
1400 mm in 6 months. Soils are eroded. Vegetation consists of trees,
shrubs, grasses, cassava, yams, maize, and groundnut.
NORTHERN GUINEA SAVANNAH: Mono-modal rainfall of 900-
1200 mm in 5-6 months. Soils are light to sandy. Vegetation consists
of shrubs, grasses, maize, sorghum, yams, groundnut, and rice.
SEMI-ARID: Rainfall 600-900 mm in 4-5 months. Soils are sandy.
Vegetation consists of grasses, sorghum, millet, groundnut, and
The Ijaye area lies in the Transitional Humid zone, 20 miles from the large city of Ibadan and
100 miles from the coast. There is bimodal rainfall of 1350 mm.(50-60") The first rainy season
starts in mid-April and ends in July. The second short rainy season starts in mid-August and ends
by November. The heaviest rains are in June and October. The second season's planting involves
more risk because the rains may not come at the right time. The dry season is from December to
February. The topography is undulating landscape covered with trees, tall weeds and grasses, and
arable fields. About 40 % of the area is cultivated, and the remainder is in short term fallow.
The village: Ijaye is a relatively large village of 100 houses and is surrounded by eight small villages.
A weekly village market is held at Ijaye where outside traders come to buy farm products. Houses
are made from local materials, except for corrugated tim roofing. Farm products are stored inside
the house. Yoruba villages do not have shops, but many families erect a stand in front of their houses
to sell daily household essentials. All households practice farming and there is no other full time
occupation, although a few farmers do part-time hired labor jobs for wealthier farmers. Village land
boundaries are not defined, and the land area is not 'known. Each Yoruba village has a traditional
ruler called the village chief who allocates land among farmers and settles local disputes.
School: The government has provided a primary and middle level co-ed school which is shared by
villages. 50% of children go to school. A 2-3 room middle school is located in the open with plenty
of room to teach children about arable farming.
Water supply: Seasonal streams containing surface runoff are the major source for drinking,
processing of harvests, and meeting other needs. During the rainy season, water sources are very
close to the houses. During the dry season, women must walk 1/2 mile for water, but it is still within
the village. 50% of households have wells. Women spend a lot of time collecting water especially in
the dry season, because they must travel further, and because more time goes into processing cassava
in the dry season and this process uses a lot of water.
Local industry: This is very limited. The village chief or another leading farmer may possess limited
skills to make and repair rudimentary hand tools. Farmers generally depend on outside sources for
supply of farm tools.
Household: Most households have 7-10 members, and some have as many as 15-20 members (the
more the better). Although it is against the religion (50% Muslim, 50% Christian), many farmers have
more than one wife because larger families can till more land. A large family is regarded as a
blessing and women who bear many children are respected. The child mortality rate is high. Sons
and daughters are equally valued. Extended family ties are strong, and this influences the social,
cultural and economic life of the household. For social events, each adult member of the family,
even if living away from home, is expected to make a cash contribution to maintain their rights and
obligations in the village. All members of the family contribute to farm work, although there is some
division of labor and specific obligations to meet family food and cash needs.
Land tenure: All agricultural land is legally owned by the government, but traditional community
land use rights are still the dominant norm. The Village Chief has the overall authority to allocate
land among the farmers. Farmers' land use and ownership rights to communal land are defined by
the planting of perennial economic trees such as oil palm, cacao, coconut, plantains/banana, papaya,
etc. Farmers generally do not know the exact size of their farms. Farm size is usually determined
by the amount of household labor available. Farms lack permanent improvements such as terracing,
drainage, etc. Some Yoruba women may own their individual plots, or may farm as part of a
women's cooperative group, and they are responsible for their own cultivation. Women's groups are
separated by age, and the groups wear uniforms. Women also cultivate compound fields near the
The farming system: The farmers in Ijaye belong to the Yoruba tribe. There are traditional farmers
in the village, and some part time and full time semi-commercial farmers. Most of the farmers are
traditional. For traditional farmers, all except tree crops are primarily for subsistence. For semi
commercial farmers, major cash crops are maize, cassava, egusi, and vegetables, while tree crops are
The traditional farming system in the Ijaye area is shifting cultivation in which farmers have
been shifting their arable fields every 3-5 years due to the decline of soil fertility, and buildup of
pest and disease pressure. The entire village community may shift from one area to another.
Recently, increased population density has led to semi-permanent cultivation practices in which the
bush fallow period has been reduced from 20 years to the current 3-5 year period, and shifting of
land is limited to fields within the village. The old shifting cultivation system was replaced by bush
fallow because of labor constraints: clearing of the long term fallow land to shift to a new area was
too labor intensive. The bush fallow area (forest) provides a natural habitat for grasscutters,
antelopes, shakes, etc. The Yoruba eat snake meat, which can be sold on the side of the road. The
short term, on-farm bush fallow, where fields are left fallow for 3-5 years, is important as a source
of fuel and for grazing livestock, and there are also tree crops on this land which are harvested
throughout the fallow period. The most important reason for the bush fallow is to improve soil
fertility, but even with bush fallow the trend over time is for soil fertility to decline. This is a
serious problem. Earthworms aerate the soil when fallow, but when the fallow is cut and burned
earthworms die off, causing soil degradation. The bush is very thick because vegetation grows
quickly in this climate. Fallow gets overgrown quickly.
There is no cattle in the system due to the presence of the tsetse fly which causes sleeping
sickness among cattle. But many households keep small ruminants such as goats or sheep. Farming
is done manually with small hand tools. There is no animal traction, and only a few farmers have
access to government subsidized tractor service. The farming system includes farming activities of
arable crops, tree crops, and some small ruminants and chickens. Intercropping is practiced to
produce a variety of food, to maximize return to labor, to reduce crop failure risks, and to reduce
soil erosion and weeds. Crops are grown in ridges and mounds, with 20-50 crops in the same field,
and 10-15 crops on one mound. These patterns are carefully planned based on microclimates.
Processing and trading activities are carried out by the wives/women in the family.
Inputs: fertilizer is 75% subsidized but most traditional farmers don't use fertilizer; herbicides and
pesticides could reduce labor inputs but a major constraint is getting the cash to pay for them.
Tools and equipment: simple, primitive hand tools are used by the farmers because they can't get
technical support for more complex technology. There is a village blacksmith who can make and
repair rudimentary hand tools, but most farmers rely on the market for tools. A complete kit of
farmers tools includes hoes, machetes, traps for bush animals, chicken cages, cacao harvesting sticks,
pots to soak cassava tubers and for palm wine, baskets, rope to climb oil palm trees, sacks, sticks for
shelling maize, maize storage cribs which are constructed to allow free passage of air to keep grains
dry and insect free. Grain quality deteriorates if stored too long, so these cribs are not common; most
seed cobs are stored with husks near the fireplace.
Tractors: If farmers had tractors they could expand land preparation and clearing to 3-4 hectares.
This would change the cropping pattern to more maize and fewer root crops. Not all fields are
accessible to tractors. All farmers want tractors because of the labor constraints and the amount of
labor required to clear and prepare fields for planting, but in the long run, tractor technology is not
feasible because it is a large investment for something that can only be used for a very limited time.
-cassava/oil palm intercrop
-groundnut/cowpea with lacunae trees
-white maize (preferred for home consumption)
Cacao: This was traditionally a major cash crop, but it was neglected after Nigeria lost its export
market due to lack of extension support service and an overvalued currency. Nigeria is an oil
exporting country, and when OPEC raised the price of oil, the currency became overvalued, and as
a result they lost their competitive edge in cacao production and cacao trees were abandoned. A
500% currency devaluation brought a resurgence of export demand for cocoa beans, and has attracted
farmers back into cacao production.(When did this happen?) The average farmer plants 1/2 acre of
cacao trees which have a productive life span of 25-30 years. The men harvest the cacao fruit, and
women remove the cocoa beans and dry them.
Oil palm: Trees are naturally established, tall, unimproved, and poorly managed. Each farmer ha;
30-50 productive trees in both cultivated and fallow fields. In the humid forest zone, oil palms art
the source of cooking oil. Palm oil is sold in local markets. Farmers also tap palm wine, a common
social drink. This is rarely sold, but shared with friends and neighbors. The oil palm groves art:
harvested by men, crushed and processed by women to meet the 25-30 kg/yr family needs.
Maize: harvested with husks and stored in the field ???? Maize husking is done by the women/coop
groups. White maize is preferred for home consumption, yellow maize for the market. They don't
like soft corn, they prefer the hard corn, which is also more resistant, stores better. (If white corn
is preferred, who buys the yellow corn? Which is soft and which is hard, yellow or white?)
Cassava: (or manioc) This is the principle crop, with yields of 7-10 tons per hectare. It provides food
security because the tubers can be stored in the ground and harvested as needed. Cassava tubers can
be stored in the ground for 12 18 months (or longer, up to 36 months, but they become more
fibrous with age and require more time to process, also in the dry season the plant withdraws energy
and water from the roots, so the tubers deteriorate over time). Farmers harvest them as the family
needs and when they can be sold in the market. No unprocessed cassava is sold, only processed.
Cassava is a food security crop which bridges food supply gaps between seasons and years, or during
the "hungry period". In Nigeria the cassava leaves are not eaten, although it is a common vegetable
in other countries. Some cassava is processed into "gari", which is cassava fried in palm oil, and this
is sold in the market.
Yams: Yams are planted at the end of the dry season in a mound with dry mulch to keep tuber dry.
It has its own moisture and uses that to sprout early, then when the rains come, the plant is already
started. Yams require processing during the dry season.
Compound field: Some households own 1/4 acre compound fields near the house or adjoining the
village boundary for growing vegetables and relish food crops. These plots are permanently
cultivated by women and they use household refuse such as ashes, goat and chicken manure, to
maintain the fertility of the compound fields.
Livestock: Women are also primarily responsible for the livestock. They raise 6-10 chickens, of
which 3-4 are sold in the market at N 5-7 per bird, the rest are home consumed. A small volume
of eggs are eaten and sold. They also raise 2-3 small goats, may sell one and consume the others.
Market prices of goats are high at N 60-70, especially during the social and religious festival period,
and there is unlimited demand for goat meat and skin. Goats are a means of wealth accumulation,
and a source of emergency cash. The goats roam freely and scavenge around eating the peels of sweet
cassava tubers, household wastes, and grazing in nearby fields. Women also gather firewood for their
own use and to sell to visiting traders.
Land preparation: Land preparation is done mainly by men, and involves use of hoes, making ridges,
making mounds for root crops. Flat tillage is avoided because it causes excessive soil erosion of 15-
20 tons/year. Land preparation involves clearing the land, which can be done any time during the
dry season. With manual clearing and seedbed preparation, about 1.5 hectares can be cleared,
prepared, and planted per year. (1/2 hectare cleared, I hectare of seedbed prep.) Seed bed
preparation is done 7-10 days before planting. Different crops are planted at different times.
Planting, cultivating, harvesting: The women help the men with planting, weeding, harvesting end
transportation, and women do all of the post-harvest activities, such as processing, marketing,
storage, and trading. Children also help with these activities, with a similar division of labor between
boys ard girls.
Processing: Womens' processing activities include soaking cassava tubers for 18-24 hours to remove
HCN, then removing the peels manually before tubers are processed into flour or "gari" (fried
cassava). Tubers are also pressed in burlap bags with large stones to remove excess water and HCN,
then grated and pounded into flour. Peels of the sweet cassava are fed to the goats. This processing
of cassava tubers is very labor intensive, and cassava production is directly related to the availability
of women's labor for processing. Yams are also pressed and pounded.
Dry season activities: Hunting, fishing, land clearing, harvesting tree crops. During the dry season
bushes and dry grasses are burnt to control weeds, reduce pests and diseases, a.d to provide P205
and K20 nutrients, and to hunt bush animals. Although these bush fires are illegal, bush fires are
used extensively by both farmers and Fulani herdsmen. These fires reduce land clearing labor input
by reducing biomass and killing trees. The Fulani bring their cattle down from the north during the
dry season to graze(because there is only one rainy season in the north). At the end of the dry season
the Fulani herdsmen set fires because they are believed to fertilize the soils and induce growth of
fresh grasses for the next year. Tall oil palm trees survive the bush fires, and other tree stumps are
left in the field to reduce soil erosion, to use as stakes for the yam crop so the vines can grow up and
get more solar radiation, and as a source of soil nutrients and organic matter. It also requires too
much labor to remove the stumps. Yams are planted at the end of the dry season. Most of the
processing of cassava and yams is done by women during the dry season.
Marketing/trading: There are town markets, and weekly or 4-day local markets. Women buy dry
maize, and green maize cobs, to sell to visiting traders. Women transport most of the crops from the
farm to the house and/or market. Women assemble yams to transport to the town markets, and they
sell tubers, red pepper, tomato and other vegetables in local markets. Women act as sellers and
wholesalers. They bring the produce to market, sell it, and buy other goods to bring back to the
village, either for household use or to sell in front of the house.
The following table shows the amount of each activity that is done by men, women, and children:
ACTIVITY DAYS % M % W % C
land clearing 25 100%
seed bed prep. 46 100%
planting 60 66% 22% 22%
weeding 135 55% 30% 15%
harvesting 100 40% 30% 30%
transportation 110 18% 55% 27%
processing 125 60% 40%
marketing,local 200 75% 25%
marketing, town 200 100%
Constraints: Peaks of labor demand are caused by weeding, harvesting of first season crops and
planting of second season crops, but peak labor demand coincides with school vacation. Shortage of
farm labor is a constraint, both because of peaks in labor demand, and because they can only work
6 hours a day due to the heat. Other constraints are lack of farm storage, credit, improved planting
material for tree crops, processing capacity for palm oil and cocoa beans, etc. Biological constraints
are weeds, cassava mealy bug, cowpea pests, and streak virus, soil erosion, leaching of nutrients, and
rapid soil degradation under arable farming.
Ceremonies/holidays: 2-3 weeks in December for holidays, marriages are usually held after the
harvest during the dry season in January or February. Naming ceremonies are held after a birth. The
population is 50% Christian and 50% Muslim.
Houses/buildings: Houses are constructed of mud, and most have tin roofs, though some have thatch
roofs. There are some grain storage structures, more in drier area. Maize cobs can only be stored
for a couple of months, especially in the more humid areas, where storage is more of a problem. Seed
corn is stored in the home by the fireplace or near the ceiling. Very little construction material is
needed from the forest or farm. Tin roofs are purchased in the market.
Food: Protein sources: chicken, eggs, goat meat, egusi melon seeds, groundnuts, and cowpeas, small
game, snakes from hunting. Staples are cassava and yams, both require processing. Yams are
preferred and are used in festivals, cassava is considered poor man's food. Due to lack of storage
facilities, food is scarce at the end of the dry season and through May, until the first planting is
Clothing: Children's clothing is least expensive, women's costs more, but men's clothing is most
Cost of living: clothing and school are an expense. Social and cultural expenses are costly, as people
are expected to give money and gifts to ensure future land rights, and leisure/social activities are very
important, people are expected to provide food and entertain.
Labor market: Some tailors, barbers, part-time seasonal work, a village blacksmith, and a night
watchman and teachers for the school, but most involved in farming with little opportunity for off
Cash: Tree crops are the major cash crops for traditional farmers. Wives trading activities and value
added through processing activities, make a significant contribution to household cash.
TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION AND ITS EFFECTS ON
SYSTEM IN IJAYE, NIGERIA
area w/improved seed: 50%
area fertilized: 0%
area tractor plowed: 0%
area treated with herbicides 0%
maize storage capacity(tons) 0
cassava processing pit: 0
area cropped(hectares): 1.7 2.
cash cost(Naira/year): 120 62
labor input(work-days/ha.): 175 9
total value product/year: 1704 228
percent of TVP sold: 15% 50
MEASURES OF EFFICIENCY:**
return to land,(naira/ha): -12 8
return to capital,(Naira): 0.6
return to labor(Naira/day): 5.3 6.
(** calculated on the basis of arable crops only)
TABLE 2: ON-FARM LAND USE FOR IJAYE FARM SYSTEM
TABLE 3: TRADITIONAL FARMER'S
KIT OF TOOLS AND
TABLE 4: DIVISION OF LABOR BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN
M & W
W & M
TABLE 5: TOTAL LABOR INPUT IN WORK-DAYS FOR
VARIOUS PRODUCTION ACTIVITIES: (for a family of
one husband, 2 wives, and four children.)
TOTAL LABOR INPUT:
TABLE 6: DISTRIBUTION OF OUTPUT BETWEEN THE HOUSEHOLD AND MARKET
PART TIME FARMERS
TOTAL 2631 1169 1462
% OF TOTAL (44%) (56%)
FULL TIME FARMERS
% OF TOTAL
PERCENT OF TOTAL
VALUE PERCENT VALUE
%TVP CONSUMED CONSUMED SOLD
VALUE PERCENT VALUE
%TVP CONSUMED CONSUMED SOLD %SOLD
TABLE 7: HOUSEHOLD INCOME
TOTAL CASH INCOME
PER- PART TIME
Feb to Dec
Labor input (man-days) for farm activities for 3 farmer
types in Ijaye area Nigeria, 1983.
I I I \ Subsistence
0 I I I I
J F M A M J J A S O N D