A Best-Bet System of Rice Intensification and Poverty Alleviation in Zamfara State, Nigeria: A Mixed Method Analysis



Zamfara State is impoverished due to low agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and insecurity. Research has explored System of Rice Intensification (SRI)’s agronomic benefits but not its monetary and non-monetary advantages for rural households in the State.


The study investigates the effectiveness of a best-bet SRI (BB-SRI) as a poverty alleviation strategy in Zamfara State by utilizing Bakolori Irrigation Scheme as a case study. The study’s anticipated outcome is to provide insights that inform policies and practices in the agricultural sector.


A mixed-method approach, including survey and field experiment, was used to gather quantitative and qualitative data from 300 rice farming households, consisting of both users and non-users of BB-SRI in the BIS, Zamfara State. Foster-Greer-Thorbecke method with two poverty lines and a three-dimensional poverty index with three poverty cutoffs were used to analyze monetary and non-monetary poverty, respectively, while three impact parameters were estimated using two selection models.


Agriculture is a critical sector in the BIS area of Zamfara State, Nigeria, but limited electricity and large household sizes pose challenges for productivity and food security. The BB-SRI farming method, which is costlier but yields more rice, has been found to increase revenue and profitability for farmers. Poverty incidence varies significantly depending on the production method used, with BB-SRI users experiencing lower poverty rates than traditional farming methods. BB-SRI reduces non-monetary poverty by 52% among its users in BIS and has the potential to decrease poverty by 16% if adopted by all rice farming households in the region. However, the monetary benefits mainly go to those near the upper monetary poverty line, with the poorest sector benefiting the least. While BB-SRI reduces monetary poverty incidence by 83% among its users, there is a 10% increase in extreme monetary poverty. The poverty alleviation impact of BB-SRI varies across different sectors, with some showing larger reductions than others. Overall, if all farmers used BB-SRI, monetary poverty incidence would decrease by 25%, with an actual reduction of 52% among its users.


Targeted policies can ensure disadvantaged communities benefit from SRI adoption, balancing trade-offs between increased yields and reduced off-farm work earnings. Poverty alleviation policies are needed to support vulnerable populations, as SRI adoption can improve food security and livelihoods. This research on SRI’s impact on poverty reduction in Zamfara State and northern Nigeria contributes to sustainable agriculture literature and policy development.


The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a method of rice cultivation that emphasizes the use of organic inputs, such as compost and green manure, and the adoption of certain practices, such as wider spacing of seedlings and intermittent irrigation (Siéwé et al., 2023; Uphoff, 2023;). SRI has been shown to increase rice yields and reduce the need for expensive inputs like fertilizers and pesticides (Randriamiharisoa et al., 2006; Uphoff, 2007; Toriyama and Ando, 2011; Katambara et al., 2013a, Katambara et al., 2013b, Siéwé et al., 2023).

In the context of poverty alleviation in Nigeria, SRI has the potential to improve the income of smallholder farmers by increasing their rice yields, reducing their costs, and improving the quality of their produce (Mintewab et al., 2016; Siéwé et al., 2023). In addition, SRI may also have non-monetary benefits such as improved soil health (Toungos, 2018a, Toungos, 2018b), and biodiversity conservation, which can contribute to sustainable and long-term poverty alleviation (Katayama et al., 2015). Consequently, the living standards, health and education of those practicing it can indirectly be impacted.

Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa, with a population of over 200 million people (United Nations, 2017; Nwahia, 2021; UNICEF, 2021). Despite being the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria faces significant poverty challenges. According to the World Bank and the World Poverty Clock (WPC), over 40% of Nigeria’s population lives below the poverty line of $1.90 per person/day, and this number is even higher in rural areas (World Bank, 2021; WPC, 2023).

Zamfara State, located in northern Nigeria, is one of the poorest states in the country with a poverty rate of 70% (National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 2017, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 2019; Qasim, 2020). It has a predominantly agricultural economy, with smallholder farmers producing crops like rice, maize, and sorghum (Dogo, 2014). However, the State faces significant challenges such as low agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and insecurity, which exacerbate poverty in the region (Obayelu and Osho, 2020). In addition, the State has also been affected by climate change, with recurrent droughts and floods leading to crop failures and food insecurity (Ibrahim and Mohammed, 2015; Anka, 2016; Bello and Abdullahi, 2021). All of these factors contribute to a high poverty rate in Zamfara State (Abdussalam, 2015; Ekpa et al., 2017; Eduvie and Oseke, 2021).

While previous studies in Nigeria have focused on the agronomic benefits of SRI such as increased yields, reduced water usage and factors affecting its adoption (Bassey, 2016; Aliyu et al., 2020; Siéwé et al., 2023), there is limited research on the monetary and non-monetary benefits of SRI for farmers in Nigeria as a whole and in Zamfara State in particular (Siéwé, 2023). This gap in the literature is particularly significant given the high levels of poverty in the State and the potential for SRI to contribute to poverty alleviation. Therefore, this study aims to address this gap by analyzing both the monetary and non-monetary benefits of SRI for poverty alleviation in Zamfara State.

Even though studies by authors such as Takahashi and Barrett (2014), Varma (2019) and Barrett et al. (2022) have examined the welfare impact of SRI in other developing countries, they have primarily used income and living standards as indicators of poverty. However, it is well-known that an increase in income standard or a dimension of non-monetary poverty does not necessarily translate to poverty alleviation (Todaro and Smith, 2015; Ravallion, 2016; World Bank, 2020) Notably, evidence of the monetary and non-monetary poverty alleviation impact of SRI is currently scanty, both in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world. Therefore, it is essential to conduct more research to understand the full extent of SRI’s poverty alleviation potential in Nigeria.

The objective of this study was to assess the impact of the Best-Bet SRI on both monetary and non-monetary poverty alleviation in Zamfara State, Nigeria, using Bakolori Irrigation Scheme (BIS) as a case study. This involved measuring changes in monetary poverty following BB-SRI use, as well as assessing non-monetary benefits in terms of a three-dimensional poverty index where households’ level of education, health status and living standards were taken into account simultaneously. The study aims to contribute to the evidence base for the effectiveness of SRI as a poverty alleviation strategy in Nigeria, and to inform policy and practice in the agricultural sector.

Section snippets

Poverty alleviation efforts in Nigeria

Poverty alleviation is a key priority for the Nigerian government, and there have been various efforts to address poverty at both the national and state levels (Mbanasor et al., 2013; Donkor et al., 2017; Solomon, 2020; Kolawole, 2021). These efforts can be broadly categorized into monetary and non-monetary interventions.

Monetary interventions refer to policies or programs that offer direct financial support to individuals or households living in poverty (Richards et al., 2016; Primc and


The study design for investigating the monetary and non-monetary poverty alleviation impact of a best-bet SRI (BB-SRI) in Zamfara State, Nigeria involved a mixed-methods approach. The study used both quantitative and qualitative data to provide a comprehensive analysis of the poverty alleviation impact of SRI on farmers in Zamfara State.

Demographic characteristics of farmers

Let’s take a closer look at the demographic characteristics of the farmers who participated in this study. Table 3 summarizes the data for three groups: farmers who used BB-SRI, farmers who used other practices traditional farming method), and the pooled data for all farmers.

The average household size for all farmers in the study was 9 people, with a standard deviation of 6, indicating a relatively large household size that may impact food security and resource allocation. Large household sizes

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

The study concludes that agriculture is a crucial sector for the livelihoods of farmers in BIS and Zamfara State as a whole, and that the existing large household sizes could have implications for food security and resource allocation. Access to electricity is also crucial for increasing agricultural productivity. The BB-SRI method appears to be more land-use efficient than other practices, potentially improving yields and profits for smallholder farmers while promoting sustainable agriculture

Declaration of Competing Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


The authors would like to thank the TRIMING project, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the World Bank, the enumerators, and all the farmers in Bakolori Irrigation Scheme who contributed significantly and in diverse ways to the success of this work.