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Nigeria: potato farming… in a sack

How farming in sacks is helping farmers like Yahaya in Nigeria to feed their families and fend off food insecurity.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 19 Apr 2024

Yahaya in Nigeria tends to his potato plants in sacks. They are arranged in a small walled garden space.

Yahaya in Nigeria tends his potatoes. Farming in sacks, using poultry and pig droppings as fertiliser, is helping farmers like him overcome the problem of not enough farmland. Credit: Tearfund

Yahaya and his family love ‘Irish’. It’s what potatoes are often locally referred to as in Nigeria, and no matter where we are or what we call them, many of us would wholeheartedly agree with this love. Baked, chipped, mashed, dauphinoise-d... However you serve them, potatoes are versatile and can be served up in a multitude of delicious ways – Yahaya says his family’s favourite is to have them fried or in pottage (a kind of potato porridge).

Nutritional benefits of potatoes

Apart from being delicious, potatoes are also nutritious. They are:

  • full of carbohydrates (for energy) and fibre (for digestion);
  • low in fat, and also contain high-quality protein;
  • rich in vitamin C (which is an antioxidant) and potassium which helps aid the workings of our heart, muscles, and nervous system.

Yahaya used to go to the market often to buy potatoes for his family – which includes seven children. He says it cost him a lot. ‘I felt so stressed about how to go about the purchase of Irish for the family every week,’ he tells us. ‘[I thought], if only I could find a convenient way to produce Irish myself!’

‘I was shocked with what I saw! Sack farming has great benefits.’
Yahaya, farmer in Nigeria

To try to make a living and feed his family, Yahaya has a small business selling rice and other daily essentials, but farming for food in the area has been full of difficulties, partly because there is not enough land available. Increasing development has swallowed up space for crops, and a shortage of grazing land for livestock has caused (often violent) conflict with cattle herders.

Delicious drought-resistant, climate-friendly potatoes

However, another brilliant thing about potatoes is that they’re resistant to drought, cold, and barren land, and very adaptable. This means they are reasonably easy to grow. They’re also a climate-friendly crop, as they produce relatively low levels of greenhouse gas emissions and a very high percentage of the plant is edible. In fact, this recent study found that potatoes produce more food energy per cubic metre of water used than any major crop. Because of all of these great things, our local partner in Nigeria has been providing farmers with training on how to grow potatoes inside sacks!

Training farmers, transforming lives

Yahaya’s wife was one of the people who received this training and she passed on what she learned to Yahaya. She and other farmers were taught how to use poultry droppings and pig droppings as fertiliser to mix with soil inside sacks, creating a rich soil environment which is perfect for growing crops. The sacks also take up much less space than farming in a traditional field, and it reuses sacks that would otherwise become waste.

‘I was shocked with what I saw!’ Yahaya says. ‘Sack farming has great benefits.’

Yahaya says it brings hope for the future for farmers as they don’t need to own farmland to grow potatoes in this way. This means that they’ll be able to provide potatoes for their own families to eat as well as income for their other needs. And it will reduce the violence between herders and farmers.

‘I will make sure other farmers learn what I am practising now, which is sack farming,’ says Yahaya.

If you’d like to donate to help ensure more work like this helps people like Yahaya around the world to feed their families, you can give here. Thank you.

Pray for Nigeria

    • Pray for farmers like Yahaya. Ask God for good crops for them as they implement the training so that they will be able to feed and provide for their families.
    • Pray for an end to violent conflict and kidnappings – often directly related to a shortage of food, money and land – in Nigeria.
    • Pray for our local partners. Ask God for safety and encouragement for them and continuing innovation and excellence as they help transform the lives of those facing poverty and hunger.

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

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