• Demand Palliative
Farmers in Rivers State are crying loud over massive losses incurred in the last few weeks, due to the intermittent lockdown in some parts of the state. Due to lack of attention during the period, crops like maize, okra, vegetables and other essential food crops had perished in the farms. It was learnt that crops were eaten up by pests and rodents, as farmers were unable to visit or have access to purchase chemicals to control the weeds.
One of the factors that made the case of Rivers peculiar is that farmers were not included in the list of essential service providers who were given access to move during the lockdown.
The development has not only debar them from visiting their farms, it also hindered them from taking the few crops rescued from the ruins to the market.Even, the N2b government initiative, which involved purchase of food items from farmers and fishermen for onward distribution to residents of the state, did not work for the farmers, because the farmers were unable to transport their produce to the Local Government Headquarters, where the committee designed to buy off their goods.
Also, buyers willing to buy the produce were unable to go out as at when they wanted, due to the lockdown restrictions. The Farm Manager of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Rivers State Branch, Mr. Olusegun Adunoye, said the idea of the state government buying off produce from farmers is a good one, which according to him, would enable the farmers to produce more, but he maintained that if the money is not properly monitored to ensure it serves the purpose it was earmarked, then there is a problem. He warned: “If we are not careful, the N2b project will not reach the farmers, the bulk of the money ought to end up in the hands of the farmers, and that calls for thorough monitoring”
One of the affected farmers at Rumuekini in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, who owns a massive Okra farm, Mrs. Barile Ledum, said: “You can imagine the trauma I am going through, we usually harvest okra every two days and each of the days, I get about four basins of okra, but due to the lockdown, there is no where to go and sell my okra, the whole okra is just rotting away and that’s where we feed from.
“It is too sad that there is no plan for farmers by the state government, I pray and hope government will compensate the farmers because we have lost a lot.”
Another farmer at Rumuodumanya, Obio/Akpor Council Area, Mr. Sylvanus Amadi, who is into poultry, regretted that the COVID-19 pandemic has really affected the farmers because they do not have any other productive activity except farming.
He lamented that since the lockdown, nobody buys their produce, hence making life very unbearable for them. “I have lost over 50 fowls because there is no way to go out and buy their feeds, so they died. I put all my savings after retirement to this business and now it is failing because of no-clear-cut policy by government to fight the pandemic, I call on government to support farmers with loans after this pandemic.”
Others who spoke with The Guardian, including heads of farmers association, urged government to include farmers among the essential service providers, give them inputs, loans and credit facilities, as well as palliatives and agricultural insurance to overcome the losses.
ADAMAWA State is not an exception in this challenge. Though the farmers were unable to quantify the losses recorded within the period, investigations showed losses were in farm produce and livestock.
The state chairman of Rice Farmers Association, Mr. Stephen Maduwa, who doubles as the National Vice Chairman of North East Commodity Association (NECAS), who is moved with the magnitude of losses incurred, said his association is discussing with both the Federal and State Government on the need to provide cash assistance to farmers that suffered losses, saying the gesture will encourage them to invest more in agriculture.
He said both the Federal and State Governments are working hand in hand in providing palliatives to farmers, noting that the Federal Government has made available tractors, farming chemicals, fertilizer and other agro-inputs for free distribution to farmers, to cultivate their farmlands without incurring debts.
Mr. Peter Dogo, a maize farmer from Girei Local Government, who identifies importation of processed foods as the biggest challenge facing farmers, said palliatives should be provided to farmers to recover losses incurred during the lockdown.