Hundreds of residents of Rivers State are now embracing subsistence farming to beat the rising cost of foodstuffs and fend for their various families.
This is as a result of the prevailing economic difficulties and high inflation rate, which skyrocketed the prices of foodstuff and other essential commodities across the country
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Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet their needs on smallholdings. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and for mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus.
In various cities and villages in the oil-rich state, our correspondent observed, many families and households are using every available space in their compounds and neighbourhood to cultivate one food crop or another.
Some of the food crops cultivated are cassava, corn, yam, cocoyam, vegetables, groundnut, beans, pepper, tomatoes, bitter yam and potatoes.
The escalating increase in the prices of foodstuffs and other edible items have become a cause for concern among so many families, just as many of them are finding it very difficult to provide food for their households.
Prices of foodstuff such as garri, beans, rice, yam, tomatoes, pepper, vegetables and onions have gone up beyond the reach of ordinary residents of the state, a situation that is driving many families and households into subsistence farming.
A market survey carried out by our correspondent in the state shows that the prices of foodstuffs are going up on a daily basis. For instance, a basin of garri, which was sold at N4,000 few weeks ago, has now gone up to N7,500, while a custard bucket of the commodity is sold at N2,000, against the former price of N1,000. A tuber of yam, which was sold between N250 and N500 some days past, now costs between N800 to N1,500. Prices of tomatoes, pepper, onions, potatoes and cocoyam have all gone up with about 200 per cent increase.
From Port Harcourt, Oyigbo, Eleme, Ahoada, Khana, Omoku, Omuma, Etche and Onne, residents have embraced subsistence farming to beat the biting hunger and high cost of food items in their domains.
Some of the residents in Eleme and Oyigbo who spoke with our correspondent said they had to embark on subsistence farming to beat hunger and overcome the constant increase in the prices of food items.
Mrs Joseph Ogwa, a resident of Eleme, said she converted her backyard into a farm, where she planted cassava, yam and corn.
“We are in a very hard time; things are getting out of hand on a daily basis. A particular food item you buy today at a particular price, the next day you go to market the price will be multiplied. How long will one continue to suffer hunger and economic deprivation? As a mother, I cannot watch my children die of hunger. We don’t have enough money to buy food items at such exorbitant prices. We used to buy a basin of garri at N3,500, but now, one basin goes for N7,500 . We are a family of 10 and we consume one basin in 10 days, so how can I afford N7,500 every 10 days? That is the reason I have to embark on little farming. I have converted the little portion of land I have at my backyard to cultivate yam, cassava and corn so that we can see something to harvest and eat,’’ she said.
Another resident, Micheal Uwachukwu, said he had to lease one plot of land near his house to cultivate some crops.
“I am a civil servant and depend on the meagre salary I receive at the end of the month to fend for my family. I have a family of 9 and we are finding it very difficult to cope with the skyrocketing increase in prices of foodstuff across the country. Before now, one could afford to buy garri, yam and other food items at very low prices, but this is no longer so as prices of food items have gone beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.
“I had no option than to lease a plot of land very close to my house so as to help my family survive the high cost of foodstuffs. It costs me a lot to feed my family,’’ he said.
A female resident of Oyigbo also said, “I had to convert an uncompleted building belonging to a family friend to a small farm. We have been taking care of the building, so I took permission from him and he obliged me. I have planted cassava, corn and small yam. At least this will help us a bit to beat the biting hunger and high cost of food items in the market.’’
The increasing insecurity across the country has also discouraged so many residents of the state from embarking on forest farming. Many of the residents who would have embarked on forest farming have been discouraged because of fear of being kidnapped by bandits and criminal elements who have been using the forests to hold their victims captive.