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Zamfara farmers’ long wait for bandits’ exit

Many farmers in Zamfara State have been killed while working on their farms, yet the killings have continued, leaving farmers idle.   For many farmers…

Many farmers in Zamfara State have been killed while working on their farms, yet the killings have continued, leaving farmers idle.


For many farmers in Zamfara State, the return of the rainy season spells all kinds of dangers, chief among them that of deadly bandits, who regularly embark on kidnappings, and killing sprees while robbing locals.

“Unless your farm is not more than two kilometres from your village, you can’t risk going to work on it,” a farmer called Yushau Aminu, told Daily Trust Saturday. “Last week, five farmers were abducted from their farms just three kilometres from Danjibga village in Tsafe Local Government Area. They had gone to clear their lands in preparation for this year’s planting season. As I talk to you, they remain in captivity. Their captors demanded N5 million ransom. A lot of cases like this have happened in recent times.”

Another farmer in Anka LGA, Saminu Usman, said dozens of oxen which they used for making ridges had been taken away by the armed bandits. “In our community alone, more than 33 of such oxen have been taken away by rustlers. People have resorted to using camels, but even the camels are not spared by rustlers. Sometimes bulls are taken at gunpoint. In July last year, two bulls belonging to my wife were seized by the rustlers. I started working on the farm with two of my sons, I left them on the farm around noon one day, and went home to get some food.

“Before I came back, seven gunmen suddenly surrounded my sons and ordered immediate stoppage of work and demanded the oxen be handed over to them. At the beginning the boys resisted, but the armed men threatened to kidnap them too. And that’s how the cows were lost,” Usman said.

A good number of farmers told Daily Trust Saturday that they had stopped using bulls on farms, but couldn’t afford tractors or machines designed for small holder farmers. The story is similar in many local government areas in the state, where farmers sold their lands to meet demands for ransom in order to secure release of their loved ones.

“My father was kidnapped while returning from a wedding ceremony in a village near Mashema. The kidnappers demanded N3 million and I had to sell my land to secure his release. After they released him, I relocated to Kaura Namoda town to start a new life,” Babangida Shu’aibu said.

The Secretary, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in the state, Alhaji Saidu Garkuwa, said crops on about 5,000 hectres of farmlands in the state could not be harvested last year, as farmers feared being killed or kidnapped. They abandoned the crops unharvested, and there were many such reported cases in many farming communities in the state, he said.

Alhaji Garkuwa said apart from the cases of unharvested crops, more than 5,000 hectres of land may also be uncultivated in the state this year following incessant deadly assaults and kidnapping of farmers. “If something urgent is not done, there is bound to be a serious food shortage in the years ahead, as farmers are being forced to abandon farms in the state.

“I know of a farmer who went for land clearance shortly before the start of the rainy season last year. The bandits attacked the farm while he was working, and though they did not kill him, he was forced to put out the flames of burning corn stalks with his feet, and ended up getting badly burnt.

“Dozens of farmers have been killed, and many others have been abducted while working on their farms, how can there be no food shortage in this type of situation?” he wondered out loud.

In March this year, 10 onion farmers were killed while working on their farms in Kursasa village in Kware district of Shinkafi LGA. In Kawaye district of Anka, about 12 villages have been deserted due to widespread abductions by armed bandits.

A farmer, Aliyu Muhammad Kawaye, said some residents who fled were taking shelter in his village before they were displaced again after an attack on his own community in February. “I can tell you that in Kawaye district only Dawan Jiya community is not deserted. In August last year, villages like Tamuzge, Sabuwar Tunga, Tungar Daji, Tashar Birai and Tintija were deserted.

“The residents abandoned their crops on farms and fled after the bandits and cattle rustlers slammed heavy levies on them as precondition for peace,” he added.

Governor Abdul’aziz Yari recently began the disbursement of 410 trucks of fertilizer for the 2019 rainy season farming, and while flagging-off the sales and distribution of the fertilizer in Tsafe LGA, he said it was to complement federal government’s policy of encouraging local food and raw materials production for farmers. According to him, the 410 trucks of fertilizer – 250,000 bags – will be sold to farmers at the cost of N6,000 per bag.

But the majority of the farmers we spoke to say whatever measures to help agriculture are in place, if farers are not safe, would all be a waste of time. One of them, Shehu Shamaki, told Daily Trust Saturday on the phone that farmers are tired of waiting for the attacks to abate. “We’ve patiently waited, in fear, but the bandits are not showing any signs of slowing down. Honestly, it’s disheartening.”

Shamaki also echoed fears of a food shortage, while wondering how such an issue could take so long to be resolved. “I know security forces are overstretched, but a bigger danger we could face is hunger,” he sighed, adding: “And honestly, it looks like we’re in for a long wait.”

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