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Why Taraba yam-producing communities are losing millions

The Mumuye people of Taraba State depend on yam production as the main farm produce for their income.  The two local government areas, Yorro and…

The Mumuye people of Taraba State depend on yam production as the main farm produce for their income. 

The two local government areas, Yorro and Zing, where the people of Mumuye are predominant, remain the largest producers of yam in the state, but they lack access roads, a situation that makes it difficult to take the produce to markets. They pay a lot to transport the produce from farms to the roads, where middlemen wait to buy.  

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 In the entire two local government areas, there is no tarred road linking the villages to their headquarters and other parts of the country. 

The only road which is supposed to link Pantisawa, the headquarters of Yorro Local Government with the Jalingo-Yola road, awarded by the Taraba State Government, is yet to be completed.  

Similarly, the Zing-Monkin road, a federal constituency project initiated by the late Senator Jummai Aisha Alhassan about15 years ago, has been abandoned. 

A female yam farmer at the Nyadadi Gorko village in Yorro Local Government Area, Zulai Muhammed, told Daily Trust on Sunday that apart from lack of access roads in the entire Mumuye land, yam farmers were not given any incentive as it is done to farmers of other crops, such as rice and maize.  

She said yam farming was tasking and capital-intensive because it required 12 months of activities, from land clearing, preparation, planting to harvesting. 

She explained that land clearing and other preparations would usually begin in September while planting of yam seedlings would start from December. Harvest also starts in September, which shows that the circle of yam production is 12 months.  

Zulai explained that yam farmers also required two types of fertiliser, the one to make the tuber to grow  big, which is  a delight to every farmer, and the NPK to allow yam leaf to spread and provide the require nutrients  that make the tubers firm in the ground.

She said yam seedlings were also costly, which makes it difficult for first-timers to make profit until the next farming year.

Another yam farmer, Haruna Kassan, told Daily Trust on Sunday that lack of proper management of the produce, apart from the numerous problems facing yam farmers, makes it difficult for most of them to make profit. 

“Mumuye is one of the most productive ethnic groups in Taraba State, yet there is abject poverty in their land,” he lamented.

He said most farmers were smallholders, as husbands, wives and children, both female and male, engage in yam production, which they pass to generations.  

Haruna said their method of farming was still traditional and primitive, and there is no modern storage system as is done in other yam-producing areas in Nigeria.

Another farmer in the Zing area, Mr Bulus Shamaki, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the practice where Mumuye farmers sell small parts of the produce on a daily basis makes it difficult for them to make good money.

“We need to change from harvesting small tubers to sell and start selling the produce in bulk as it is done in Benue, Nasarawa and Niger states,’’ he suggested.

He said there was the need for the farmers to organise themselves into cooperative groups to enable them seek incentives and loan to expand their production and earn more money.

Yarima IsaTafida is one of the few that have large farms and produce large quantities of yams in Mumuye land.

During a visit to Tafida’s Farm, his manager, Haruna, said they were learning from his method, adding that apart from yam, Tafida also cultivates cassava and maize, which also give good yields.

Also, Yarima Isa told Daily Trust on Sunday that he was into yam farming because of its good market and profit margin. He said

Mumuye yam, known as Jalingo yam, is the favourite of many homes in the North and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). 

He said Jalingo yam usually cost more than others because of its good taste, adding that there is the need for the Taraba State Government to open up rural farming communities to enable easy transportation of produce to urban areas.

Another yam farmer, Abbas Haruna, said there was the need for the government to expose the farmers to modern techniques, as well as provide storage facilities and encourage them to form cooperative groups to enable them benefit from government incentives, including loans.

Haruna said it was sad that yam farmers in other states were making fortunes but those in Mumuye land wallowed in abject poverty.

Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that some traditions in Mumuye land forbid eating of new yam before rites and sacrifices are made.

A farmer, who did not want his name mentioned, told our correspondent that any person who violates the tradition would be made to pay 24 goats, which would be sacrificed to the gods. 

There is also a popular annual yam festival held at Pantisawa, the headquarters of the Mumuye chiefdom. 

Findings revealed that middlemen from different parts of the country patronise the yam markets located in the local government areas, with many of them making twice or three times the money farmers made from their produce.

The available yam markets are located in Nyaja, Pupole, Zing, Monkin and Pantisawa. 

Further checks showed that 100 tubers of big seized yams in the area are sold at the rate of N150,000, while small seizes cost between N45,000 and N100,000.