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Bandits’ attacks hindering yam production – Niger farmers

As farmers begin preparation for the new planting season, banditry-prone farming communities in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi LGAs have expressed fear of hunger following renewed…

As farmers begin preparation for the new planting season, banditry-prone farming communities in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi LGAs have expressed fear of hunger following renewed attacks by bandits and other terrorists which have denied them access to their farms to prepare for cultivation.

Farmers who spoke with Daily Trust said their yams, including those they reserved as seed for planting this wet season, have been burnt by bandits while the of seedlings have gone up significantly.

Some farmers told Daily Trust that they have been cautioned by some government officials to desist from speaking about attacks on their communities if they want to be captured in the ongoing agricultural revolution by the Umaru Mohammed Bago-led administration.

Many told our correspondent that they have lost hope of accessing their farms this rainy season.

Members of the affected communities, who said they were eager to go back to farm because it was their only means of livelihood, added that while the state government pushed for realization of the National Policy on Food Security, effort must also be made to return them back home to engage in farming to contribute to the programme.

One of the farmers who wouldn’t want his name mentioned said, “I want to confirm to you that the issue is getting out of hand, and seriously, we have no hope of farming this wet season because we have been displaced. We cannot even go home to cultivate our farmlands except our leaders are ready to give us the best protection for our lives and properties.

“We still have time if government can take decisive action or proactive measures to return us to our communities,” he added.

Another farmer told our correspondent that: “Niger State, particularly Shiroro LGA, should prepare for a tough journey ahead. There is no need telling anyone that these bandits and terrorists are out to cause famine, hunger and poverty. In fact, we are already in it.”

Findings by Daily Trust revealed that communities in Allawa and Bassa/Kukokki wards in Shiroro LGA, many farming communities have been completely sacked and large hectares of arable land abandoned.

The communities sacked in Allawa ward are Gyaramiya, Unguwar-Sarkin-Noma, Kaliya-Pangu, Maganda, Samunaka, Tegina-Gaude, Yelwa, Jeloko, Bataron Jatau, Bataron-Sarki and Buduwi.

Similarly, in Bassa/Kukoki ward, the communities sacked are Roro, Unguwar-Usman, Polwaya, Karaga, Kemaka, Gwadara, Rumace, Zangoro, Kyaruwa, Masuku, Kukoki, Agwaja and  Rumace-Gari

Residents said the displaced communities used to produce maize, millet, white sorghum, soy beans, yam and cocoyam in commercial quantities and attracted buyers even outside Nigeria, especially those trading in yam.

One of the sources told our correspondent that the eight years of banditry and insurgency have led to the permanent closure of many rural markets including Allawa market, Bassa market, Kukoki market, Madaka market, Kurebe market, Kwaki market, Gurmana market, Manta market, Magami market and Kushaka market in Shiroro and Rafi LGAs.

He said the markets had served as epicenters of trading in farm produce with buyers coming from all walks of life especially those buying yam to Lagos and other parts of Nigeria.

“The only market where we now go to buy and sell is Erena market. And because of the damage done to us, many of us don’t even have means to buy inputs this raining season except we take loans. Our yam barns including the yams we reserved to plant this raining season have been burnt by bandits,” one of the farmers said.

The farmers said the quantity of yam, including seedlings, they had lost were worth millions of naira especially considering the current market prices.

Our correspondent who visited Paiko, Mutun-Daya and Gunu markets reported that 100 pieces of yam seedlings, known as kwarya, now cost between N120,000 and N150,000 or more depending on the sizes which many displaced farmers said they have lost to bandits and insurgents between January and May this year.

The Niger State Governor, Mohammed Umaru Bago, had said his administration would cultivate 10,000 hectares of land in each of the 25 LGAs of the state as part of the effort to address food security challenges.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Musa Salihu Bawa Bosso, recently told our correspondent that “as you might be aware, the state is cultivating 10,000 hectares of land in each of the LGAs. That is 250,000 hectares of land and the state government has already procured farm equipment like tractors, planters, harvesters and other simple farm implements like power tilers for mechanised farming. That’s how read the state government is to support farmers for the rain-fed season.”

While government has continued to pursue the agricultural revolution with vigour, the displaced farmers in Munya, Shiroro and Rafi LGAs who constituted a large per cent of producers of yam, maize, sorghum, millet and soy beans, want the insecurity that has denied them access to their farms for the past eight years addressed.

Commissioner for Homeland Security, retired Brigadier General Bello Abdullahi Mohammed, also told our correspondent recently that effort was ongoing in the fight against insecurity in the farming communities in the state, adding that government would provide settlement centres for the displaced persons.

“The government is taking steps to ensure that the situation is brought under control. What government is also doing is to provide resettlement centres for the affected communities because even if they return home now, there is no peace of mind. Some of them don’t even have where to sleep even if they are asked to go back home. If there is life, there is hope,” he said.



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