Daily Trust‘s earlier interview with the father of Yakubu Haruna, a primary school teacher who lives in Yantumaki town, to know the challenges of irrigation farmers in Katsina State, has led to discoveries and solutions to the problems faced by farmers in his locality.
Haruna had been told to guide our correspondent to Zobe Dam, but after spending a day going round many irrigation farms abandoned by farmers, he unravelled novel opportunities farmers could use to create wealth for themselves.
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His conviction was firm, having met energetic young farmers in both Dutsinma and Safana local governments, and he vowed to become an irrigation farmer himself.
He hopes that with 10,000-hectare irrigable lands, he and other farmers in the state, which has about 56.42 per cent of its citizens living below the country’s poverty line of N137,430 per annum, the dam would bring a fortune.
“With all these resources, why should the North-West take second in Nigeria’s poverty rate, with 64.84 per cent,” he wondered.
His observation that the dam had no permanent irrigation structure was not the only challenge he foresaw on his new adventure but also the communication gap among farmers, government, Agricultural Insurance Bank, commercial banks and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
He found out that 90 per cent of the rural dwellers that relied on Zobe Dam for irrigation were not beneficiaries of any government-farmers support programme, not even the COVID-19 survival fund nor Central Bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme launched in 2015 until 2020.
From the phone interview between our correspondent and the Sokoto Rima River Basin, Zobe Irrigation project manager, Haruna overheard that the locals would receive close to 200 pumping machines and five tractors for the takeoff of the programme in 2021.
He decided to create a farmer’s association to unite farmers in the various local governments. But to carry this mission successfully, he must be one of them.
On arrival in Garhi village on the Easter Friday morning, a farmer, Malam Galadima, received him in his farm. It was their second meeting. During their first meeting in April, Haruna told Galadima that he wanted to venture into irrigation farming and he needed to rent a hectare of land for a year. Galadima agreed to find one for him at N40,000.
In the farm, he watched Galadima struggle to start his old modern pumping machine; and later on, he followed him back into his farm, which is adjacent to Zobe Dam. Together they went around the varieties of green vegetables that include cassava, carrot, cabbage, salad, tomatoes and peppers.
“This dam can lift over 50,000 people out of poverty, just by creating an enabling environment for us to venture into modern irrigation farming. Imagine each hectare having a number of only three people working in it. The tally may pass that number if you include members in their families.
“It took me very long to realise that our leaders lack vision. That was why they were busy borrowing money from China and Brazil to build roads, estates and rails. Instead of borrowing Egypt’s idea on its agriculture, which depends entirely on irrigation from the River Nile, which supplies water for three million hectares of land, about one-third of that land was reclaimed from the desert,” Galadima said.
He said despite the little he made from the farm, he was able to feed his two wives and many children and had the wherewithal to send them to school as they help to cultivate the farm.
He professed his love for farming and initially taught he would become wealthy when this dam was constructed in 1983 but was disappointed when the reality set in.
“Here, our dreams have been shattered; it is only hoped that keeps us alive. I am only doing this for survival. I thank God for this little opportunity because it kept my children away from crime,” Galadima added.
Galadima, who is also the village head of Garhi, took Haruna around other neighbouring farms, where he introduced him to many farmers. On each farm, Haruna took his time to explain to the farmers the importance of coming together as one.
Another farmer, Sama’ila Adamu, complained about the difficulties involved in fetching water from the dam.
“Everything we do here is manual. We don’t even have a permanent irrigation structure. I have to buy a 600-metre hose at N50,000 per 100 metres.
“I spent over N300,000 to purchase the hose, which I connected to the main dam, just to enable water to flow into my farm with the aid of a generator. I have never received any financial support from the government, be it fertiliser, seeds or any farm implement,” he lamented.
Surprised at his predicament, Haruna asked how he survived dredging water for half a kilometre with such cost.
“The cost does not matter,’’ Adamu said, adding that he is a desperate farmer with two wives and nine children and had waited for the government to provide the facilities for many years.
“We just have to make these little sacrifices because we can no longer wait for another government delegation to give us another round of interviews and piles of empty promises,” he said.
However, Haruna recalled that the commissioner for water resources in Katsina State had earlier confirmed to Daily Trust on Sunday that the permanent structure for the irrigation was not there and the C1 and C2 canals built by the Yar’adua administration were no longer in good shape.
Having sampled the plight of farmers in the state, Haruna reaffirmed his commitment to uniting irrigation farmers at Zobe dam to work as a team for the development of irrigation farming in the area.
“They have been suffering for more than 25 years, so there is the need for farmers to come together. We can change the narrative by enhancing our productivity, attracting investors and asking the government to do the right thing,” he said.
This is exactly what the farmers are doing now, and the result is the attention they are gradually getting.
It is important for other farmers, craftsmen and business owners to emulate Haruna’s ideologies and by coming together as associations and clubs so that they can fight for their rights, help themselves and proffer solutions to their challenges.