The rainy season has come and gone with its attendant flooding. It left behind its devastating effect, that left many people bewildered, bemused and befuddled. Many lives were lost; properties worth billions destroyed and hearts broken and baffled. The resultant humanitarian crises that befall Nigeria in terms of increased number of internally displaced persons, diseases outbreak and the looming food scarcity is alarming.
The crises and incessant insecurity that bedeviled the most farming communities in the Northern states, forced many farmers to abandon their villages and farms to safer environments. This has drastically affected and reduced the agricultural activities in the region which is adjudged to be the food basket of the nation. And those that were not affected by the insurgency and banditry, invested a great deal of their time, energy and resources in their farms, hoping and anticipating for a bumper harvest. The farms are destroyed, shattering their dreams and rendering them hopeless and miserable.
The prices of food items and other commodities are already high, and the inflation indices are catastrophically unfavorable. These can raise the poverty indices to a record unprecedented height. Therefore, the government needs to respond urgently and swiftly to the situation. Practical measures should be taken to guard against the impending calamity at hand. This should be redesigning and reengineering the agricultural sector as well as reinvigorating and revitalizing the farming activities in the nation.
The already demoralized farmers need to be remobilized, reorganized and remotivated back to their farms. The flood water is now receding leaving behind enough moisture in the farms depending on the type of soil and its water retention capacity. This moisture should be utilized for the cultivation of food before it is affected by the dry season. The available dams and streams should be put into proper use to cushion the deficit in food supply in the land. Though some of the dams have long been neglected and need dredging and other maintenance operations; timely intervention can put them to a considerably proper condition for use.
The government should work closely and assiduously with relevant research institutes and institutions of higher learning on the massive production of high yielding and early maturing cereals seeds for distribution to farmers. Such cereals such as rice, maize, wheat and sorghum have become food staples which massive production must be encouraged. Relevant ministries, departments, agencies and parastatals should be involved in the distribution of the seeds to make sure that it reached the real farmers and in time.
Agricultural extension workers should be handy to work with the farmers to guide them on how to properly plant and handle the crops. The farmers should be guided on new farming techniques, methods and practices that can improve the efficiency of their farm inputs. They should be enlightened and educated on how to perform various farm operations that can give them good results and ensure high yield of their crops. However, various farm inputs such fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides should be made available, accessible and affordable to the farmers and possibly at a highly subsidized price. The government should engage various private and indigenous agro-allied industries for the massive production of these inputs with the desired quality and specifications. This can enable the farmers to recover the investments they lost due to floods.
Farm implements such as various sizes and capacities of tractors, power tillers, planters, harvesters, low and high-volume sprayers etc. should be provided for hiring or loaning to farmers. State and local government authorities should also come in to complement the central government in assisting the farmers in their jurisdiction to acquire these implements. They can also intervene in operation and the maintenance of the implements to ensure their proper utilization. In addition, financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies should also come handy to provide the farmers with loans and credit facilities, as well as insurance cover for their farms in case of any unforeseen happening.
This measure will not only ensure food availability, sufficiency and security, it will go a long way to liberate many farmers from the grip of poverty, provide employment opportunities and provide raw-materials for local industries. It can also promote exports and provide foreign exchange to the government.
Usman Aliyu Elnafaty writes from Bauchi