Extreme cold as experienced last week across some northern states has altered the schedules of most irrigation farmers in Katsina State.
Normally, the farmers water their tomato at an interval of every three days and five to seven days for Irish potato.
Some of the farmers interviewed at Funtua said they could not risk their health for irrigation farming in that extreme weather.
“Imagine a temperature of 9 to 13 degrees Celsius in an area that is normally 30 degrees Celsius. Despite the fact that our farms are our investments that we so cherish, we cannot afford to risk our health by working in the farms in that extreme condition,” Jafaru Musa, one of the farmers, said.
He added that irrigation activities require the farmers to be frequent in their farms and that most of the water supply activities are conducted in the night particularly at the river side.
He further explained how tomato and Irish potato farmers were forced to abandon water supply in their farms last week because of extreme weather condition.
“All through the week we abandoned our farms; we cannot go there in the night and engage in watering for fear of pneumonia and other cold attacks, but when the weather normalizes, we will go and attend to the farms,” Musasaid.
Another farmer at Danja LGA, Mu’azu Sule, who managed to attend to hisfarm despite the inclement weather, said it was a horrible experience to spend the night an irrigation site.
“It was not easy; we really suffered because all our schedules were for night time when the cold was unfortunately at its peak. This is because it is only in the night that pressure is less on the rivers and tube wells we are using for irrigation; and many farmers cannot withstand the inconvenience of night work,” Sule said.
He added that only the old-timers who were well groomed in irrigation activities and are used to extreme weather changes manage to attend to their farms both day and night times.
Another challenge faced by tomato farmers is that the extreme cold weather quickly ripened the fruits thereby forcing them to engage in early harvest.
Isah Abdullahi, who worked along Jare River of Bakori LGA, said a tomato farmer preferred his crop to ripen in piecemeal so that he takes some time harvesting it and benefits from the fluctuating market price of the produce.
“When there is excess cold temperature and hazy weather, there is massive and rapid ripening of tomato. In that situation we have no choice than to pack everything to the market otherwise it gets rotten in the farm; if that happens it will occasion a market glut of the produce.”
Abdullahi added that because of the glut, people have started sun-drying at Kokami tomato market.