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Why it has been difficult to revive groundnut pyramids

It is on record that for decades, Kano State has held a high place as home to agricultural produce, especially groundnuts, hides and skin, to…

It is on record that for decades, Kano State has held a high place as home to agricultural produce, especially groundnuts, hides and skin, to the extent that the state gradually became synonymous with the famous groundnut pyramids that served as state and national symbol.

Some decades ago, the groundnuts produced in the state and neighbouring villages were gathered in one place to form pyramid-like structures made from groundnut sacks for export to other countries.

It was also gathered that in those years, groundnut production was a strong pillar in the region and the country’s economic progress. It was one of the key sources of income to the colony and the colonial masters during the colonial era.

According to a 77-year-old groundnut merchant, Malam ShehuKulkul, history has shown that groundnut wasn’t a popularly grown agricultural commodity in the region until 1912 when most farmers were encouraged by high economic returns from the commodity as cash crop. The rush to mop up the produce from the farmers made the trade well organised.

The pyramids were said to have been invented by a famous businessman in the region, Alhassan Dantata. He was one of the most successful businessmen supplying groundnut and other agricultural commodities to the Royal Niger Company (RNC). It was gathered that the pyramids were created as a form of storage methodology, where bags of groundnut were stored in the shape of a pyramid before they were taken by train to Lagos and later shipped out of the country.

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In those days, it was an attraction to see huge piles of groundnut sacks that grew higher than most of the buildings, which stood as a symbol of northern Nigeria’s abundance of blessings in agricultural commodities.

Sadly, groundnut pyramids have become history to be reminisced upon as they disappeared decades ago. The question remains: Is it possible to revive the pyramids in Kano? 

In response to this question, the Kano state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Alhaji Abdulrasheed Magaji Rimin Gado, said that with the right policy and political will, the pyramids can be restored as farmers have been trying to improve groundnut production over the years.

“The AFAN has been pushing for the inclusion of groundnut in the ongoing Anchor Borrowers Programme for years now but to no avail. Indicators have shown that groundnut production has dropped because both farmers and traders have shifted to other agricultural products, such as rice. It is also clear that if groundnut has been given half of the attention rice is presently having, the pyramids would have returned,” he said.

He further said that various research institutes had come onboard, and they have done their best in the development of different groundnut seeds. 

“The International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Institute for Agricultural research (IAR), Samaru, Zaria, have done, and are still doing their best in ensuring that a sustainable solution to groundnut production in Nigeria is achieved,” he said.

A visit to the groundnut section of the Dawanau International Grain Market revealed sketchy business activities going on. And according to a groundnut merchant, Malam Bashir Dawanau, groundnut business has been down recently due to issues related to the existence of modern groundnut processing companies that directly obtain the crop from farmers.

He further revealed that the presence of other alternatives to groundnut, such as cotton seeds and soybeans could also be contributed to the dwindling groundnut business. He also said that groundnut production had reduced as states like Kano, Katsina and Jigawa no longer produced it in bulk.

“These bags of groundnut you are seing are from Taraba, Adamawa and Maiduguri because Kano, Katsina and Jigawa no longer produce groundnut in bulk, and as such, I personally believe that the pyramids have gone forever. However, with sustainable and effective agricultural development policy towards enhanced groundnut production, the pyramids may be restored,” Dawanau said.

Similarly, an agricultural extension worker in the Kano State Ministry of Agriculture, Malam Lawal Basheer Ilyasu, said if all groundnut collection in the state would be centred in one place, the pyramids could be realistic. 

He said the emergence of mega groundnut mills, small and medium scale groundnut processing companies had contributed to the demise of groundnut pyramids as a bag is now over N76, 000. 

He explained that the increase in demand by processing companies made production look inadequate, but in reality, the farmers are doing well.    

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