Alhaji Bukar Mari, a father of 18 in Damaturu, Yobe State, could not hold his tears as he watched the television showing pictures of children and mothers devastated by famine in Somalia and, at the relief centre in Kenya.
Wiping the tears away Bukar murmured, “I am imaging what the future has for our children and grandchildren in the face of our declining agriculture, natural disasters like drought and desertification and the threat by food insecurity.”
The combined effects of drought, desertification, insecurity and inadequate inputs have made agriculture, a trade practiced by over 80 percent of 2.3 million populations less productive and unattractive in Yobe.
An investigation by this reporter revealed that the unabated human activities of search for wood fuel has remained the major reason for drought, water scarcity and desert encroachment in the state.
Many agriculturally potential settlements neighbouring Niger Republic have migrated as a result of moving sand dunes that overrun their homes and farmlands, in addition to the insecurity bedeviling the axis.
“Since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency in the state, many farmers have abandoned their farmlands to comply with the security regulations restricting movement of people,” a farmer said.
Alhaji Jabbi Gashua, Sarkin Noman Gashua told Daily Trust that with the ban on motorcycles in Yobe, farmers in remote areas could no longer access their farmlands, thereby abandoning farming for other occupations that do not attract much restrictions.
“Before, a family of five will ride on a single motorcycle to their farm but now, they either trek the distance or forget it. So, both large and small scale farmers here are affected by the harsh policy which had forced many to stay off the trade,” he said.
He recalled that some large scale farmers in Gashua and Nguru who had their crops destroyed by the last flood may not be able to cultivate in full capacity this season, adding, “Bukar Dole is one of them; he is a large scale farmer who harvests thousands of bags of assorted grains annually but he lost everything to the flood.”
Confirming his predicament, Alhaji Bukar Dole told this reporter, in tears, that his farms were washed away by last year’s flood thereby losing everything he invested in farming, adding, “it is sad that I received no compensation either from the state or federal government despite the employment I was giving to many youth and the food contribution I offered to the nation.”
Bukar said he is not sure he will ever resume mass production of his vast farmland, adding, “ask anyone in this town, I apply full trailer load of fertilizer in my farmlands every season not to talk of seeds. Now that government is giving two bags of fertilizer, how do you expect me to maintain the large farms I was managing? The state government knows my capacity before the flood. If they want to help me they can do it if they want,” he said.
Baba-Bukar Mai-Alewa Nguru, another large scale farmer who was also hit by last year’s flood revealed to our correspondent that he lost over N1 million investment. “In my fruits orchard alone, I lost over one thousand assorted trees ranging from mangoes, guava, cashew and orange, and in the cultivated farmland also. I use to harvest almost a thousand bags of assorted cereals. We leave everything to God,” he said.
Gashua and Nguru wetlands used to be the hope of dry season agricultural production of the state, with a substantial rain-fed farming. Last year’s flood disaster coupled with insecurity have besieged the axis adversely affecting farming activities.
Several farmers in the state are wondering if government is actually concerned about the potential dangers that the decline in agricultural production could pose to farming and food insecurity in Yobe and beyond?
The sudden change in the rainfall pattern in the state as a result of global warming, is not helping matters as one of the farmers in the state, Ahmadu Sani said after he suffered from the flood and resowed his farmland, everything was again destroyed due to delayed rainfall. He said many farmlands in his community dried off due to delayed rainfall.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Alhaji Wakil Sarki said desert encroachment has been moving at a speed of 400 meters per annum in 10 out of the 17 local government areas in the state, adding, “desertification is threatening agriculture, forcing farmers to migrate to other parts of the state.”
Also, unfriendly activities of man toward the immediate environment has aggravated the situation because, despite water problems that force people to cut down trees, poverty and the quest for cooking fuel is another major cause of deforestation in the state where trees are felled at will.
Malam Adamu Madugu, pushing a fire wood cart along Gashua road, in Damaturu, told this reporter that his livelihood depends on cutting down trees to sale, adding, “I wake up at 6am daily and cover a distance of 20 kilometers before getting this firewood. I am not alone in this business. No fewer than 50 people survive on this activity and cater for their families,” he said.
He said that many of them have their farmlands but could not bear with the hard policies imposed by the government, “and I don’t even have the patience of cultivating my farmland and waiting for months to get the proceeds,” he added.
“Our major fear in Yobe are our relatives that migrated from Maiduguri as farmers in certain parts of Borno State are only allowed to plant leguminous crops like groundnut while cereals like corn, millets that grow tall and which people may hide in them have been banned this farming season. We are afraid that the same law may apply to us and that means unending hunger in this part of the country as one cannot live on groundnuts and beans all year round,” he said.
Although Yobe State government has been trying to cushion the effects of food insecurity through distributing relevant inputs to farmers, buying and storing assorted grains to arrest food shortage in the state, the government has also flagged off fertilizer sales to farmers at subsidized rate in addition to tractors and other farm implements for mechanized agriculture in the state.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said at the flag off of the sale of fertilizer in Damaturu, the state capital, that the state government has bought 6000 metric tons of Urea fertilizer worth N877,500,000 to be distributed to each of the 178 electoral wards in the state, large scale farmers and civil servants that have farms in the state.
He said that the state owned fertilizer blending plant at Gujba is expected to produce 3,000 metric tons of NPK to supplement what was procured directly by the state government.
But, for how long could the government sustain this gesture with full effect on people in the state considering the number of people being forced out of farming and their farmlands taken over by natural disasters and insecurity?