Team Member Spotlight: Ruth Ardzard, Nigeria
Ruth Ardzard is the Knowledge Transfer Manager for Nigeria, a position she has held since 2018. In fact, Ruth was the first hire for East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation in Nigeria, and she has built the country’s programme from the ground up.
Ruth is from Kaduna state, one of the two states in Nigeria in which EWS-KT operates. She believes that “if you want to work with the people, you have to be in the community.” All of the members of her team are also local, with strong backgrounds in agriculture.
To best serve the farmers in the area, Ruth and her team studied the learning modules in the Crop Advisor Trainer programme on EWS-KT’s GrowHow educational site. They also learned through hands-on experience, which wasn’t always easy: “We had so many moments where you try, you fail, you try, you fail. We gained experience in placement, fertiliser, using spray sparingly—only when needed and no more.”
Before joining EWS-KT, Ruth worked for Oxfam and for Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research for Development (NiWARD). She has an extensive educational background in agriculture, with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Kaduna Polytechnic; a master’s degree in agronomy from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and a postgraduate diploma in agricultural economics from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.
After 4 years as Knowledge Transfer Manager, Ruth has become an expert in strategic planning, employing local production techniques, improving market positions for smallholder farmers, and providing farmers with practical field training and demonstrations.
“I see myself as a teacher, but I also see myself as a student.”
— Ruth Ardzard, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Nigeria
Even though she is a skilled educator with years of experience, Ruth has not stopped learning.
“When I am with the farmers and I speak of my experiences, I see myself as privileged. I’m giving light. I see myself as a teacher, but I also see myself as a student,” she said. “For instance, I learned so much from the farmers about natural farming. They are able to make their own backyard manure. They also taught me the importance of using ash on onion sites. Ash contains potash, which is an essential ingredient for onion bulbing.” She is also currently pursuing her PhD in agronomy, specialising in onion production in the savannah region.
Ruth is passionate about her work with EWS-KT, and she is especially interested in improving agricultural resilience in the face of climate change and engaging and supporting women in farming. In the case of water availability, these two focuses are intertwined: climate change is changing rainfall patterns, and since men control most of the water supplies, women have particular challenges in accessing water for their crops.
“Accessing water is a barrier,” she explained. “Many women farmers give up and just wait for the rainy season. But the rainy season is so short now. The dry season is getting longer; it can last from November to July. That leaves only 3 months to grow crops.”
In response, Ruth is exploring how to help women farmers dig their own boreholes for water. She also continually looks for ways to include more women in farming. One way her team is supporting women farmers is through radio, the focus of the Programme Spotlight below.
Nigeria Programme Spotlight
The best way to communicate with farmers in Nigeria is through radio. EWS-KT’s weekly call-in radio programme (Noman Lambu a Naijeriya) is broadcast in Hausa and can be heard throughout the northern and central parts of the country.
In early 2022, to more effectively serve women farmers, the EWS-KT team in Nigeria created a new call-in line specifically for women. Two EWS-KT Technical Field Officers—one female and one male—now present the radio programme, and the female Technical Field Officer answers the phone line dedicated to female listeners and responds to their questions. This innovation has been very well received by the women, who now feel more comfortable calling into the show to get answers to their farming questions.