The Need to Bring Back our Pyramid – By Zozo Jawal Barau

Groundnut pyramids was the invention of Alhassan Dantata a prominent nut trader who came to Kano in 1919 and within five years he was one of the most successful businessmen


Groundnut pyramids are pyramid structures made from groundnut sacks. The pyramids were built in northern Nigeria where farming is the major source of economy, groundnut farming and production was major part of economy.

The groundnut pyramid is found in Kano and was sight to behold and told a wonderful story of agricultural sufficiency and of a fruitful nation. It revealed a country that knew the way to sustainable development through agriculture, self-sustainability and hard work.

A pyramid could be built with as much as 15, 000 full sacks of groundnut. Groundnut pyramids was the invention of Alhassan Dantata a prominent nut trader who came to Kano in 1919 and within five years he was one of the most successful businessmen.

He supplied the Royal Niger Company (RNC) with most of their groundnuts. His company kept their groundnuts at facility in Kofar Nassarawa, and they stacked the bags in the shape of a pyramid before they were shipped.

Over the years Nigeria and north has gone away from farming as a result of discovering of oil, a resource with a finite life shelf. The land of Nigeria is blessed, sow a seed and it will surely grow. We have the potential to be food basket of all over Africa. When we produce our own food as we used to do in the past to a larger degree than we do today we can rest assure that no matter the global economic outlook, inflation would always be under control because we would have more than enough internally generated food to feed the population. As our imports grow and so did inflation grow.

It is appropriate to look back and remember the things that made us great back then and the agriculture is one of them. As of then groundnut industry alone provide employment of 35% of our youths, youths today are easily enticed into militancy because they have no job to keep them busy yet we have resources to create thousand and millions of jobs off the God given fertile land we sit on. In 1960s and 1970s as production in Nigeria shifted from agriculture to oil, the groundnut pyramids disappeared and I am wondering; would we be able to recreate something like the pyramid again? However, with the lost of the groundnut pyramids in the late 1970s, came the decline in agro-allied businesses.

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Farmers were left with little or no means of livelihood and then we lost the railway line, because we mostly use it to transport the groundnut. Tourists that were attracted to pyramids stopped visiting and the legume businesses get crushed. So where did the pyramid go? What was responsible for the decline? I always ask myself. It is well documented that in 1960s and 1970s Nigeria is the largest supplier of groundnut to many companies in Italy and far Asia. But when the production shifted from agriculture to oil, the groundnut pyramids disappeared. Then who is to be blame? The farmers, the administrators? The northern traditional rulers? Because all these people pilot the appears of the northern economy.

I came to realize that several factors leads to the rapid decline in the groundnut production in Nigeria which crown around the negligence of our administrators in taking action on pressing issues. The major cause were the drought and the rosette virus, and the general neglect of agriculture as oil boom, the lack of organized input and the dissolution of the groundnut marketing boards. There is advanced change in rainfall pattern in the last 40years. This made rainfall to reduce from 800mmHg to 600mmHg. This undoubtedly has led to failure of groundnut, which requires more than 4months with currently available cultivars to reach maturity. Drought also attributed with the out breaks of rosette virus carriers which wipe out the entire crop during epidemic outbreak. For example in 1975, an epidemic of rosette virus destroyed nearly ¾ of a million hectares of the crop in Nigeria and wiped out regional trade worth estimated at $250 million.

Subsequent epidemics in 1983, 1985 and 1988 had impact on farmers’ decisions. Many of the farmers who suffered financial ruin have stuck to other crops such as cowpea, sorghum, and pearl millet. As a subsequent groundnut production has not yet returned to the pre-1970 levels of 1.8million tones. Now the questions goes; why is the North not willing to shake itself out of its self-imposed lethargy and take advantage of these unique opportunities? For how long will we remain victims of the curse of oil and the dismantling of regional government in Nigeria? The curse of oil has made us seem lazy and contented with the monthly hand-outs from the federal government. I believe that if monthly allocation is stopped, the north will witness an agricultural revolution within two years that will be the spring board for an economic miracle that will change the face of the north within a generation. Why not pretend that the federal allocations have ceased in order to focus on the problems? Can northern leaders summon the political will and moral fiber that will cause them to look upon their own people with pity and resolve to push pass official indifference and develop a concerted plan of action with measurable yardsticks to chart its progress? Is north patently lazy as their sole dependence on federal allocations seems to suggest?

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The vanished groundnut pyramids which made them the world’s largest exporter up to early 1970s and the various food stuff in our markets are proofs that the answer is an emphatic no, because they bear testimony to a people as industrious as anyone in Nigeria. The only problem is that this back breaking farm work is at subsistent level. This is where the governments, leaders and wealthy moguls of the north should step into fashion out investor friendly packages that will bring commercial farmers from all over the world.

The North which once produced 80% of Nigeria’s total grains output must use its agricultural endowments to dig itself out of the hole which it dug and fell into. They most take away begging bowl and send our children to schools so as to be well equipped with farming, technology, marketing, administrative and industrial skills. The seed basic to agriculture and makes a major contribution to agricultural productivity. No crop cultivar is of value to the farmer unless its seed is available in the right place and at right time in adequate quantities and at affordable price. Thus timely multiplication and distribution of groundnut cultivars is essential if seed is to be used as a vehicle to alleviate poverty and hunger in rural and urban centers. Officially recognized channels for multiplication and distribution of improved seed are in place. Unfortunately public sector seed multiplication and distribution systems are inefficient.

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However, they are less interested in groundnut that is easily multiplied by purchasers. They can obtain higher returns marketing seeds from single hybrids where fresh seed stock must be purchased for each season’s sowing, and this is where they generally concentrate their efforts. An effective means of improved seed distribution is farmer to farmer seed exchange. This may be primed to a limited extent by supplies of improve seed from public agencies, agricultural research stations and NGOs to farmers in easy accessible villages. However, such a system is very slow. To speed up the flow of seed of adapted acceptable improved varieties to farmers, there is the need to form a network between research institutes, public and private seed multiplication and distribution agencies, agencies involved in quality control and various NGOs interested in various aspect of seed production.

This network will identify bottlenecks in the seed production chain, catalyze or instigate applied and adaptive research and policy change that may be required to ensure rapid movement of new seed varieties. With the dissolution of groundnut marketing boards, farmers are left alone and most of them are not only struggling to get seeds and fertilizers but also have problems selling their produce on remunerative prices.

➡️Additional incentives to groundnut farmers are vital which may include;

➡️Advancing money to farmers through cooperative societies.

➡️ Provision of logistics support by ministries of agriculture and ADPs

➡️Provision of extension and advisory services to farmers

➡️Encouraging formation of cooperative societies

➡️ Prizes for best groundnut farmers annually and Groundnut marketing boards should be revived or new one with 21st century policies should be established.

When we add to the equation, the equally untapped vast mineral deposit beneath the soil of the north and the potential multiplier effect, then we can begin to understand how big the economic miracle of Northern Nigeria can be.

Zozo Jawal Barau writes from Bauchi

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