Farming is the backbone of Sub-Saharan Africa's economy, according to FAO, it employs over 60% of the population and contributes about 20% of the region's GDP.
The region has two distinct seasons: a wet season and a dry season. The wet season runs from April to October, and the dry season runs from November to March. The wet season is characterized by low temperatures and heavy rainfall while the dry season is characterized by higher temperatures and less rainfall. The length and intensity of each season varies depending on the region. With climate change, the season has become less predictable.
Farming in Nigeria is predominantly Rain-fed. This is the practice of growing crops using only rainwater. This can pose a challenge as it is dependent on the timing and amount of rainfall. When there is too much rainfall and poor drainage systems, it can lead to flooding and crops can be washed away while too little rain causes crops to dry out and wither.
To compensate for this, farmers can consider dry-season farming. Which involves growing crops during the dry season using alternative water sources aside from rain.
There are several reasons why dry-season farming is important such as:
- Increased food security: Dry season farming can help to increase food security by providing a reliable source of food during the dry season. This is especially important in areas where the rainy season is short or unpredictable, or where there is a high risk of drought.
- Increased income: Dry season farming can also help to increase farmers' income. Dry-season crops are often in high demand and can be sold at a premium.
The main challenge of dry season farming is providing a steady source of water with high temperatures, crops are prone to stress leading to low yield. This can be solved by increasing crop resilience to droughts
Farmers can build crop resilience to droughts by:
- Choosing drought-tolerant crops: Drought-tolerant crops are crops that are well-adapted to dry conditions. They require less water compared to other crops and can withstand high temperatures.
- Mulching: This helps to conserve soil moisture and reduce evaporation. A variety of materials can be used as mulch, such as straw, leaves, or wood chips.
- Improving soil health: A healthy soil is better able to retain moisture and nutrients. The addition of organic matter, such as compost or manure can help improve the soil
- Using irrigation efficiently: Water-saving methods should be adopted during irrigation
For areas without input to set up irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting can be adopted. During the rainy season, rainwater is collected and stored which is used to irrigate crops during the dry season. There are a variety of rainwater harvesting techniques, such as rooftop harvesting, cistern harvesting, and pond harvesting.
Dry season farming can be challenging and costly but it can be rewarding. By choosing the right crops and using sustainable farming practices, farmers can increase the resilience of their crops to droughts and increase their income while contributing to food security.