Several rural farmers in the FCT have raised their safety practices after some incidences of snake bites and scorpion stings.
After Esther Panya (not real name) was bitten by a scorpion on her farm at the beginning of the farming season in Jikwoyi Phase I, a suburb of Abuja, she was forced to adjust her safety practices. She had been bitten by a poisonous snake some years ago.
Although many of the farmers said scorpion and snake bites were not a regular occurrence in the area, but that they had designed means of tackling the challenge to protect their source of livelihood.
“We now spray chemicals on the farms shortly before we begin planting and before harvest,” a guinea corn farmer, Talata Adamu, said.
Even though the farmers have continued with local farming techniques, they said there was growing awareness on the use of herbicides and other chemicals to clear dangerous reptiles and pests.
A farmer, Azmi Bawa, said, “Because of the threat by cattle and herdsmen, women are no longer involved in cultivation and weeding in the farms. We only go for harvest.”
She also said, “You can see the pain we go through sieving and washing the guinea corn because of the chemicals we apply on the farms.”
The farmers complained of inadequate intervention by way of extension services and other technical support because their production had remained at subsistence level.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 174 snake bites per 100,000 yearly in Nigeria, mainly by saw-scaled or carpet vipers.
There have been a lot of reported tragedies in the Benue Valley, with 497 per 100,000 persons per year and a mortality rate of 12.2 per cent.
Also, about 250 persons were reported to have died from snake bites in Gombe and Plateau states in the last six months; many of them farmers.
Spokesperson for the Agricultural and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS), an agency of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Zakari Aliyu, said the agency had been assisting smallholder farmers with chemicals, as well as extension services.
“If the right safety measures and farming inputs are put in place, it will help protect farmers in the FCT and enhance food security,” he said.