Watermelon farmers have recorded poor harvest this season in Bauchi State following early cessation of rainfall.
Bara village in Kirfi LGA is the hub of watermelon where residents engage mainly in its cultivation during both the rainy and dry seasons.
A watermelon farmer and trader who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Watermelon Market in Bara, Umar Muhammad, said watermelon farming experienced a serious setback this season as “Almost 90 per cent of farmers witnessed poor yield due to early cessation of rainfall.
“Initially, we planted the seeds during consistent rainfall but excess water did not allow them to germinate well. Later, the abrupt cessation of rain struck the plants before they matured. Scorching sun disrupted the little fruits at their development level which affected the growing level and sizes of the fruits.
“We have three categories of watermelon sizes: Number 1, Number 2 and Number 3. At the end of this season farmers cultivated only Number 3 due to the challenge of cessation of rainfall. But the Number 1 is the best grade which is sold at higher prices, followed by Number 2. Unfortunately, this season most farmers did not cultivate Numbers 1 and 2.”
Muhammad explained that, “Watermelon farming usually takes 65 days from planting to harvest. We used to plant the seeds between the first week of August and the second week of September, but due to the cessation of rainfall this year, they took up to 95 days before they matured and the fruits came out in smaller sizes.”
Commenting on the level of preparation for the dry season, Muhammad said the situation had forced many farmers to forget about the dry season.
He said, “We have not made any arrangement for now, except those interested, especially at the riverside where there is water. They have concluded arrangements to plant the dry season while some have sunk wells for watering the farms and others have brought the necessary tools for the exercise.”
Another watermelon farmer and trader, Adamu Sarkin Yamma Bara, said, “This season, watermelon farmers have been tested by God with very poor yields because we planted watermelon more than what was planted last season but the cessation of rainfall has resulted in poor yields. A good number of farmers have not harvested anything while a few others harvested only tine fruits.”
Sarkin Yamma who engages in both rainy and dry season farming, said the situation had compelled many farmers to abandon dry season farming because, “Many invested their whole capital during the rainy season and they have not recovered their funds due to the poor yields. Only a few courageous farmers have started clearing their farms in preparation for the dry season production.
“Many other farmers want to participate in the dry season farming to recuperate from the challenges but have no capital to buy seeds, fertiliser and insecticide. The number of farmers planning to grow watermelon for the dry season has drastically reduced.”
Sarkin Yamma disclosed that the poor harvest was not only in Bara, noting that it was spread across many areas.
He said, “I am also engaged in buying and selling watermelon from within and outside Bauchi State, because apart from the production of watermelon on my farm, I use to buy trucks of the fruit from different places to distribute across the country.
I recently travelled to Shelleng in Adamawa State, there was also a poor yield of watermelon there. I also visited Biu in Borno State; the situation was still the same, and I further travelled to Buni Yadi in Yobe State. There too watermelons did not grow well and were not available. Just yesterday (Friday) I came back from Ningi, there was poor yield. The situation is worrisome?
On his part, Yusuf Ali Bara told Daily Trust on Sunday that farmers had a very difficult experience from the beginning of the season: “We planted the seeds twice because the heavy and consistent rainfall at the beginning of the planting period did not allow the seeds to germinate. We had to plant again in early September with the expectation that the rain would last till the end of October. But despite this we ended up with very poor yield because of the sudden cessation of rain.”
Responding to whether there were other challenges apart from the cessation of rainfall, Ali said, “We have been into watermelon for many years and we know the major challenges associated with its farming for both rainy and dry seasons. We believe that the cessation of rain was responsible for the poor harvest of the fruits.
“We had in the past witnessed incidents of insects or diseases that made the leaves of the watermelon turn red, but this season everywhere was greenish and no presence of any insect or disease within or outside the watermelon farms.”