Herdsmen Attacks On Farmers Have Affected Food Production In Benue – Commissioner | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Herdsmen Attacks On Farmers Have Affected Food Production In Benue – Commissioner

Posted: May 6, 2016 at 12:55 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

James Anbua is the Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and also a close ally of the state governor, Samuel Ortom. In this interview with Tor Vande-Acka, he speaks on N20 billion Federal Government agricultural loan to be accessed by farmers, the dry season farming project of government to tackle food shortage and preparations to provide farm inputs to farmers for this cropping season, among others issues. Excerpts:

Sir, the rainy season has set in, planting have also commenced, farmers are expecting that fertilizer should have been on ground by now. What is the Ministry of Agriculture doing to ensure that fertilizer and other farm inputs get to the farmers on time?

The psychology of farmers is that once they have these products (farm inputs) before the cropping season, the tendency of selling them is there. Once a farmer has inputs and he has no money in the house, the farmer may probably sell the products thinking that when the cropping season comes he will be able to raise money to replace them.
The inputs would be available by the end of this month. The behaviour of our people is that if they are given fertilisers in March, they might decide to exchange it for money.
However, arrangements are already in top gear and all contract papers are completed and within the next two weeks fertilizer will flood the state. The fertilizing period begins from May and runs through July and even August. So, we are not late at all.

Sir, has the state received the Federal Government Agricultural loan? If yes, how much is the State accessing?

Not yet, we are in the process of accessing the Agricultural loans. We are already clustering our farmers and registering them. As we speak, we are signing up more cooperatives and have directed them to register and open accounts with the Bank of Agriculture (BoA).
After all these processes, I believe within the next few weeks, the qualified farmers and cooperatives will start accessing their money from the Agric banks and micro finance houses. The state is accessing up to N20 billion in five years. In fact, it is as much as the state can access. In the case of Benue, it is not just for rice farmers alone, other farmers are involved.

Benue farmers are being killed on daily basis and their farms destroyed by Fulani herdsmen and their cattle. What stringent measures has the state put in place to ensure safety of the farmers and their farms?

The Federal and State Governments have already taken action on that issue. Areas like Agatu, Makurdi, Logo and Guma and other borderline areas have been secured. They have continued to deploy security personnel to these areas so that our farmers can go back to their farms. It is a directive from the federal government and our governor is not sleeping on it. The attacks by Fulani herdsmen on peasant farmers in the state have affected food production in Benue.

Do you have other plans to tackle the issue of food shortage occasioned by the herdsmen attacks?

Yes, we have done the demonstration around the Gbajimba axis and another around the Agasha area; all in Guma local government area of the state. However, they are being affected by the challenges of Fulani herdsmen. Since it is a pilot farm, we wanted to do it close by, so that I can monitor it closely.
The one in Gbajimba is up to 20 hectares and owned by five different cooperatives, while the other one in Agasha is the biggest, close to 30 hectares. It has been destroyed by cattle; more than seven hectares of it have been consumed by cattle. It was a rice farm and the cattle ate the rice that was planted there; as we speak now, the other part would be ready for harvest in the next two or three weeks. The part that was not tampered with has done very well.

Is this farm the first of its kind in the state?

This is the first dry season farm done by the state and that is why I call it a demonstration and pilot farm. The method and agronomic practice are quite different and alien to our farmers. It is an innovative one, done according to specification.
I am happy that the youths that participated in the demonstration were trained to carry on with the farming. It was done with some level of specialty because it is a special scheme. We are hoping that by next year we will have more of those youths training others in the practice of dry season rice farming. That was actually our target so that they will know the technology and methods.

Since it is a dry season farming project; government may have introduced the practice of irrigation; what kind of technology is being put to use on the farms?

Yes, irrigation was used and that was pump irrigation. If you want to succeed in dry season farming, pump irrigation is not the best practice according to international standards; canals and dams should be built and used for optimum yield so that you get natural water flowing in all the farm plots rather than pumps.
In Agasha for instance, the water source we were using initially dried up midway into the project and we had to source for an alternative water source which was some meters away from the farm field. This posed a serious challenge, but I am happy because it was a learning process which we practically experienced. Now we know how to do it better the next time we are confronted with a similar situation. I am also hopeful that given any available resources, we will try and develop dams and shallow wells that will help farmers access water for their irrigation system rather than depending on streams that might get dried up.

How much has government spent on this pilot scheme?

It is quite expensive but I can give an average cost per hectare; ploughing and harrowing costs N40,000 per hectare, while transplanting is a special agronomy practice and costs an average of N5,000 per hectare. But, the cost that was quite alarming was fuel used for the pumping machine. This aspect cannot be adequately quantified especially with the unstable price of fuel now. Some people spend an average of N2500 or N3000 worth of fuel a day watering their farm. So if you multiply that by the number of days, you know how much you will spend. So, approximately a hectare is costing between N50, 000 to N60, 000 since the fuel price is not static.

Are there abandoned Agricultural projects that exist within Benue, what are the state of such projects and the plan of government to revive them?

Yes, such projects exist. The government of Aper Aku initiated a lot of farm projects that were abandoned up till today. These projects include Ber Agbum farm project in Ushongo; the demonstration farm at Ukegbe in Guma LGA; Raav Livestock Investigation farm and breeding Center, Gwer LGA; Gbor Ii farm in Logo LGA, Owohiev farm project in Mbatirev, Ikyogen Cattle Ranch, Agricultural Development Company (ADC) which had the potential of feeding the whole of north central with chicken and so on. The ministry plans to revive all these farm projects especially using Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, particularly investors who want to partner with us in agricultural production, crop production, and livestock production.

Comments (1)

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