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Dry spell threatens agriculture in Borno, Yobe, Niger Republic

A prolonged dry spell, occasioned by hot dry weather, is likely to cause a reduction in agricultural output over the coming months in Borno and…

A prolonged dry spell, occasioned by hot dry weather, is likely to cause a reduction in agricultural output over the coming months in Borno and Yobe states, as well as Diffa Province in the neighboring Niger Republic.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) had on January 25 released its 2023 Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP), giving general climatic and weather forecast advisory and predicted the rainfall onset date for Borno and Yobe to start early June/July.

However, local farmers and weather experts, who also study and forecast the atmospheric outlook, expressed worry that the season may record below-average rainfall in these locations.

Many farmers that invested huge amounts of money and energy into their agricultural fields in Yobe and Borno complained that the dryness and high temperature had already caused them irrecoverable losses.

However, in Diffa Province, Niger Republic, farmers, specifically in some border towns to Nigeria, also expressed hopelessness over the condition, insisting on uncertainty over the rainfall.

Musa Abdullahi, a farmer in Diffa said, “Many farmers here are faced with exacerbating farming problems, that’s why we won’t waste another effort re-sowing. Grasses have dried at this time, what do you expect of crops?

“This season, the future of the rainfall has lots of uncertainties and many farmers here said they would want to take the risk,” he said.

Abdullahi said that for almost a month, they had not recorded any rainfall until last Tuesday, adding, “That is why no seed has so far germinated and the soil is even thirsty. We are actually witnessing a weird rainy season this time around.”

He said the situation was the same in other major cities he visited recently, such as Gigime, Boso, Kablewa, Jakori, Garin wanzam, Kinchambi, Tumar and other provinces in the country.

In Maiduguri, our correspondent who went round some farmlands reports that after the early planting, crops sprouted and beautifully grew on farmlands but gradually withered due to the long seizure of rainfall.

Daily Trust Saturday also learnt that the disturbing situation of farmlands in northern and central parts of the state, which include Jere, Mafa, Konduga, Bama, Abadam, Monguno, Kaga local government areas is not different.

One of the farmers in Molai, outskirts of Maiduguri, Aliyu Babagana, explained that the prolonged dry spell had seriously affected him and other farmers, adding that early planting had not paid off this time around.

“Walk through all the farmlands and you need no one to tell you that farmers are in trouble, not only crops but stubborn grasses have dried up. That’s why we resorted to special prayers in mosques and churches for God’s intervention,” he said.

Another farmer, Nuhu Mukaddas, also lamented that his crops had dried up, while calling on people to mend their relationship with God.

“My greatest fear is drought, especially now that we face a similar fate with Niger Republic. You know, both countries rely on each other when it comes to grains and livestock businesses. So any tendency of food crisis in Niger would definitely affect Nigeria, all things being equal.

“Before this time, once people offered the special prayer, it rained, even before they returned home, but you will wonder what’s happening now. You will see clouds as if it would rain the next minute but it would disappear,” he said.

In Yobe, a farmer, Muhammad Yunusa, said the consequences of the dry spell had caused many farmers and pastoralists to lose their livestock.

“Many people sold their livestock and invested the money to their farms, and the season didn’t favour them.

“A friend sold a ram that was priced N120,000 during Sallah period at N50,000, paid for tractor harrow and planted groundnut and corn, but they are all withered and weeds took over the field.

“Yusuf is just one of many farmers that refused to store grains in their homes to make this failed investment; and now, the price of grains is skyrocketing,” he said.

Sule also shared a pathetic story of a pastoralist that lost part of his herd—about 10 cows—at an outskirts farm in Damaturu.

“A herder tended his animals into a guinea corn farm, where the crops wilted, unfortunately, some of them fed on the rotten corn stalks and instantly started dying.  You know cows don’t eat it, but there were no shrubs for the cows to feed on,” he said.

Expect real rainy season next week – Varsity don

When Daily Trust Saturday contacted Professor Muhammad Waziri of the Department of Geography, University of Maiduguri, he said it was not uncommon to experience a short period of dry spell in Borno and other parts of the North East.

“Actually, it is not an uncommon phenomenon to experience dry spells during the rainy season, it will only become bothersome if it is longer than necessary.

“Now that farmers have already planted their crops and some of the plants have already sprouted. If there is no sufficient rain, they will definitely wither, so it is not a new phenomenon. But when it is longer than what it is supposed to be, it will bother the farmers,” he said.

On what the farmers can do to avoid the food crisis, he said it depended on the condition of the weather and other inputs that may bring about a bumper harvest.

He said the NiMet had already warned farmers on when to do their planting, but he wasn’t sure if they complied.

“They had already planted and the crops started doing well, except that the rainfall is not as expected. But I assured you that by the middle of next week, we hope to be in the real rainy season.

“So, farmers can still not lose hope of what is going to be produces; it is subject to nature, but all the same, food crisis is not something that can be solved in one season or one way. It has to be a real government policy issue. I believed the new government would give us some way out to solve the food crisis in the North East,” he said.

We sow early, relying on local weather signs — 70-year-old farmer

A 70-year-old local farmer, Mallam Baba, who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday on phone, said they have enough experience and deep knowledge of weather signs to predict rainfall.

“It is only God that is perfect, so even NiMET can make wrong predictions.

“We use traditional knowledge to determine when to cultivate our crops. Any farmer that has 5 to 7 decades of experience has a good understanding of the weather and climate dynamics of his area.

“And this experience, being passed from generation to generation, mostly relies on the study of our area based on wind direction, atmospheric temperature as felt by the body and phenological changes of some animals, insects, birds and plant species.

“I believe that even the so-called technology used for the weather forecast  relies on some of these signs in predicting the weather situation,” he said.

Mosquitoes, butterflies signal bumper harvest – Climate expert

Also, an expert on climate change, Dr Ngare Dogo, observed that both traditional and scientific methods of predicting weather were effective.

Speaking from a traditional point of view, Dogo said that in Borno State, rain falls within a period of four months—April to September—and not more than 40 different rainfalls are recorded in a season.

He observed that the rainy season fluctuated but there’s still hope for bumper harvest.

“Considering the traditional signs of weather prediction, I am still hopeful of bumper harvest, so I advise farmers to be calm and return to farm whenever the rainfall resumes.

“My advice is that some farmers may encounter problems when they cultivate maize, groundnuts or any other crop which resistant level is not much. They should cultivate guinea corn, millet and beans,” he said.

Asked of the traditional signs he relied on, Dogo said, “Any rainy season that comes with lots of mosquitoes, hot temperature and butterflies show a good sign of bumper harvest,” he said.

He also recommended that government should integrate the traditional proven methods of rainfall prediction with scientific methods to evolve reliable forecasts that would reduce risks in their rain-fed farming systems,” he said.

Farmers resort to special prayers 

As lack of rainfall continues, thousands of farmers in Yobe, Borno and the border towns in Niger Republic have resorted to prayers, seeking divine intervention.

In Maiduguri, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai, led thousands of Muslims faithful to pray for rain after weeks without rainfall.

During the special prayers (Salatul Istisqa) on Monday, they sought intervention from Allah.

In his short remark, the Shehu said participants should first repent of their sins, ask God for forgiveness, distribute arms to the needy and pray for abundant rainfall.

One of the participants, Aliyu Babagana, said the prolonged dry spell had affected early planting across the state.

“Many of us that have planted early are going through tough time now; that is why everyone answered the call when the Shehu called for the prayer.

“Our crops have withered because of prolonged dry spell, so there is the need for the prayer as we wait for the mercy of God,” he said.

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