Namoi Yusuf of Nasarawa State says the government needs to act fast to save small-scale farmers from hunger amid growing insecurity.
Namoi Yusuf is a smallholder farmer in Toto community of Nasarawa State. She cultivates cassava, maize, melon, and groundnuts. She has been a farmer for 30 years.
In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, Ms Yusuf shares an interesting story of how herders attacked her on her farm.
PT: You are not an indigene of this community, where were you farming before you migrated to Toto?
Ms Yusuf: When I was in Kogi, I was not farming, I was a housewife. I just fetch firewood and do house chores. Sometimes, I talk with my fellow women.
PT: After you moved, how were you able to get land for your farming activities?
Ms Yusuf: The first place I lived in Toto, I met some women who were farmers. One day during my conversation with one of the women, she asked if I could join her in farming, but I told her I didn’t have any land. But she offered me a little portion. I followed her to the farm and she showed me where to plant. She later died.
Subsequently, when I see people going to the farm, I ask to join them and farm. It got to a point people were not willing to share their land with me because some people were ready to pay for it. Because I didn’t have money, I lost a lot of them.
Now, I have just two hectares. Before I got this land, I had to meet a man who rented it on my behalf. They will cheat me if I go by myself because I am a woman. I have been cheated several times because of land, they sell land to more than one person. We end up struggling for land after buying. Sometimes, other co-buyers will even destroy the farm.
PT: Farmers and herders usually have serious clashes, have you had any experience you would like to share with us?
Ms Yusuf: They are here, there was one day I was on the farm ( sometime in May this year), the herders were about five of them, they came with their cows. They led the cows to my farm and I cultivated melon which was almost ready for harvest. Immediately I saw them, I started shouting “who go help me”. They ate up everything, I lost everything. They asked me to stop shouting that the farm belongs to them. They said farmers are disturbing them, that we should stay at home.
I told them that I was looking for something to eat, and vice versa. They said it is not their business. The whole farm was damaged, I had to farm it back and plant another thing. In fact, about two weeks ago, some farmers were kidnapped on their farms. Because of this, I will not visit my farm for now. I am afraid. The villagers spy on us, they tell some of the herders and kidnappers about our activities.
PT: Have you heard of improved seeds, aside from the improved seeds, how else do you access seeds and fertilizers?
Ms Yusuf: No I have not but usually, I buy from the market. Seeds are big problems because the ones we buy from the market are not usually fruitful. For fertilizers, I buy from the local government or from the market. It is very expensive in the market.
PT: Where do you sell your produce? Do you have a ready market?
Ms Yusuf: I sell at Toto market, sometimes I don’t sell everything but now people know me so, I rarely have remnants.
PT: Looking at your age, you may not be able to undergo farming labour and pressure, how do you handle it on your farm?
Ms Yusuf: Well, when my children are around, they assist me. When I was younger, I usually hired a tractor. Now I don’t have the capacity to do that. I just employ men or women to work on my farm. I pay them, for six people, I pay like N20,000. Women are cheaper, for about 10 women, I will pay N25,000.
PT: The rain came in late this year unlike the previous years, are there alternatives you have to start farming before the rain comes?
Ms Yusuf: If the rain is delayed, I just clear my land and wait, no activity.
PT: What will you say is your greatest problem as a farmer?
Ms Yusuf: I want funds, work tools and farm inputs. I cannot make progress without all these but most importantly, I want the issue of insecurity to be fought. Let the government step in and help us. We don’t have other occupations and if nothing is done fast, we will lose our lands and hunger will deal with all of us.
Source: Premium Times