Few weeks ago in Kebbi State, there was dramatic accusation and denial between Senator Adamu Aliero and Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State on the one hand and ministers of agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Finance, Kemi Adeosun on other about importation of over 300 metric tonnes of maize.
While both the ministers of Agriculture and finance denied having hands in the importation saga, the Nigerian customs however admitted that there has been increased importation of maize into the country in the last few months.
Kabiru Salihu, Chairman Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State Chapter told Daily Trust that the act will reverse the huge gains recorded in the last few years of this administration and will make it difficult for those who invested massively in the production of the crop make gains.
The situation, farmers argued will not only crash the prices of maize but will also dampen the morale of farmers to invest in the production of the grain.
Currently Nigeria produces maize in an estimated 700,000 hectares which gives 10.5 million metric tonnes even though it falls short of the domestic demand of 15 million metric tonnes.
With more government input support, the country could produce about 20 million tonnes in 2018 using best agronomy practices.
Beside the danger of importation, armyworms in the last two years have been ravages farms across the country with some defying solutions.
Although minister of agriculture chief Audu Ogbeh said that government have spent over N2 billion to contain the disease, some farmers fear harvest will be low in places with severe attacks.
From Benue state, our correspondent said farmers are expecting poor yield from their farms because of the worms attack that wreaked havoc in the state this farming season.
Farmers in the state first experienced poor harvest in October last year due to the destructive activities of the bug, which experts confirmed migrated into the country.
The situation was said to have been better in some parts of Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, and Kaduna states and the FCT, where the infestations of the worms were reported early.
The maize farms in some of these states were said to have been saved after the application of some chemicals by the farmers and heavy rains.
But the situation is different in Benue State as the worms reportedly defied all solutions.
The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) had last year confirmed 100 percent infestation of the foreign pest known as army worms all over farms in the three senatorial districts of the state.
The Head of the NAQS delegation on investigation to the state, Acting Director, John Ogbaje, while briefing the Commissioner for Agriculture, James Anbua, on his team’s findings in Makurdi, said that maize farms visited were suspected to have been infested with foreign pests, therefore, timely measures including use of chemicals were to be taken to avert crisis in the 2017 season.
Sadly, those recommended measures against the pests seemed not to have nipped the challenge in the bud as it appeared the chemicals didn’t work at all or the idea was not appropriately passed down to the farmers for proper application.
Some of the farmers who spoke to Daily Trust said efforts by the state Ministry of Agriculture and the quarantine service were not enough and as such did not yield desirable result.
One of the farmers, Akor Kusugh, who lives in Konshisha Local Government Area of the state, said he cultivated one hectare of maize farm which had been ravaged by army worms despite the fact that he applied organic chemical as directed by the ministry.
Kusugh said: “I did exactly what I was asked to do with the chemicals obtained from the agriculture ministry yet my maize farm was ravaged by the foreign worms.
In the same vein, Madam Grace Enokela, who cultivated a sizeable maize garden in Makurdi metropolis disclosed that she followed all the advice given to her by the agricultural experts and also sprayed her plants at regular intervals of 10-day at between 6pm and 7pm but did not achieved fruitful result.
Also, Terkimbi Utaver, a farmer in Kwande area who cultivated about three hectares of maize farm but is yet to harvest, said that his crops were heavily infested by army worms, stressing that, “I didn’t know the actual herbicide that could kill the army worm. Ordinarily, by the size of my farm I should be expecting 60 bags but the output is not good. I pray to harvest at least 20 bags.”
For, the State Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr. Aondongu Saaku, whose two hectares of maize farm was excessively ravaged by the army worms, the reason why the pest defied solutions could be multiple as over 600 registered farmers in the state are under threat of the worms.
“The kind of maize varieties we were using before were highly susceptible to the attacks. It was just recently that they started bringing in some varieties that are partially resistant to army worms. Again, the farmers do not know how to spray their maize plants against the army worms.
“These worms come out in the evenings and so spraying is better done between 6 pm and 7 pm when they are on the surface of the plants and it is supposed to be sprayed right into the plants. But the farmers just spayed their farms as if they were after flies,” he said.
Saaku also said that all the chemicals used now are on trial and error basis, adding that none of them was specifically designed for army worms.
“I personally cultivated two hectares of maize. When the worms came, those watching the farm for me, did not know how to manage it and before I knew what was happening, the worms have destroyed my maize farm. From the two hectares, I couldn’t get even a single bag. Before now, I would have gotten more than 40 bags. It is really a terrible outbreak,” Saaku lamented.
“For now, maize goes for as much as between N22,000 and N25,000 per bag. So if I have lost 40 bags, you can imagine the loss when multiply by the current selling price at the market. And I know people who cultivated more than me, my coordinator at Otukpo, Och’Otukpo, Chief John Eimonye, lost over 10 hectares to these army worms. He didn’t get anything.
Bumper harvest expected in Kano
However the situation in Kano state is different as farmers are currently expecting bumper harvest this rainy season as all indicators have shown that, the newly farming technology that includes the choice of improved seeds, new fertilizer application method, and new planting methodology among other innovations introduced by Sasakawa Global 2000 Nigeria project has started to show signs of positive results.
Our correspondent, who visited Dogon Kawo village in Tudun Wada local government- an area popular in maize production, revealed that a lot of farmers have adopted the newly introduced farming technology after experiencing what such technology entails with assistance from the Sasakawa project.
A maize farmer Malam Abdullahi Kawu in Dogon Kawo, said the positive result of the project was what made him and other farmers in the area accept it.
“As you can see, this is the farm I have been planting maize for years; but this year all indications have shown that what I am going to get will double that of last year. I got 20 bags last year and I am expecting nothing less than 45 bags this year. The good aspect of it all is that, we were not left alone all through the processes as every inch along the way there is an extension agent to guide us,” said Malam Kawu.
On her part, Malama Amina Meha of Gidan Bawa village in Tudun Wada, the new technology has opened their eyes to a simpler way of producing qualitative maize in high quantity in the same space they were using before.
She added that, she is expecting to harvest about 50 bags of maize in an area that she used to produce about 10 bags.
“We never knew that such advantageous techniques existed until Sasakawa brought it to our doorstep. We have seen how it works in their demonstration plots; that is why we have no reservation in adopting it. I now expect to harvest 50 bags instead of the usual ten bags I used to harvest in the same area of farm. With this development, perhaps Kano state will take the lead as the highest maize producer in Africa if all maize farmers in the state adopted the innovation as we did,” narrated Malama Amina.
Similarly, communities like Cidare and Landi all in Tudun Wada have all adopted the new innovation, farmers in the area revealed that, they are optimistic that the new technology will indeed create a positive revolution in maize farming in Kano state in particular and in the nation as a whole.
According to Sasakawa’s Kano state coordinator Malam Kasim Sufiyanu, the project is aimed at increasing the yield of maize in areas identified as maize producing zones adding that what the project did was to introduce to maize farmers the new technology in fertilizer application as against the traditional way the farmers were used to and also to introduce the use of seeds that are tolerant to striga with a high yield ability.
“What we did is to assist the maize farmers to apply the new method that ensures increase in quantity of produce and allow them to make a choice of adopting it or not based on what they have seen and experienced. Gladly, all the farmers have resolved to adopt the new technology and we have assigned an extension worker to guide them all through,” said Malam Sufiyanu.
For many farmers, until government looks into importation and armyworm issues holistically, the Buhari’s Administration target of producing 20 million metric tonnes by 2018 may not be achieved.