Maman Sani sits in the shade of a baobab tree and praises micro-dosing. The 48-year-old farmer lives in Zinder, which is about a hundred kilometres north of the Nigerian border in east-central Niger. He has been micro-dosing his millet and sorghum for three years.
Micro-dosing is a method of fertilization which involves accurately placing small doses of chemical fertilizer along with seeds at planting time. It was introduced to Niger in 2009, and further developed by Niger’s National Institute of Agricultural Research.
An extension agent introduced Mr. Sani to micro-dosing. Mr. Sani says, “Before, from my two-hectare field, I harvested less than 100 bunches of millet. But when I started using the micro-dosing technique, I doubled my production.”
Boubacar Souley is an agronomist from Niamey, the capital of Niger. He says micro-dosing has replaced the practice of broadcasting fertilizer, or applying it in lines across the entire field. He explains: “It allows for a more efficient use of fertilizer and increases agricultural productivity in a sustainable way. [Micro-dosing uses] only a small amount of fertilizer in each planting hole.”
Mr. Sani says: “I have spent less money than in previous years. Over a three-year period, I invested only 30,000 Central African francs ($60 US) on fertilizer, instead of three times that amount in the past.”
His family’s standard of living has also improved. He says: “I have food for the whole year, and for the last two years, I have been able to sell the excess at the market. With the money I earned, I bought clothes for my wife and six children, and this year I even bought a motorcycle and a cow.”
Illa Zakari grows sorghum near his village seven kilometres from Zinder. He has also doubled production since he started micro-dosing. He says, “Apart from the increase in my yields of grain, I had a lot of millet straw. The sale of these residues has also earned me a lot of money.”
Farmers have now adopted micro-dosing in seven of the eight regions in Niger.