Irrigation farming suffers a setback this farming season in Jigawa State following shortage of fuel as farmers who engaged in dry season farming using pumping machines for irrigation cut down the sizes of their farms.
Yield in most of the crops is expected to drop as high cost of fuel has forced most farmers to reduce the sizes of their farms to levels that their financial capabilities can afford them to take care of.
Dry season farmers, who are mostly rural dwellers, hardly go to the cities where perhaps they can buy fuel at controlled prices.
The farmers rely for their supply from the black market, where a litre of petrol goes for between N250 and N300 depending on location. Those in hard-to-reach areas buy at exorbitant prices because transportation to such areas adds increases the cost of the product.
Checks at some farms in Miga and Birnin Kudu local government areas of the state indicate that the hike in the petroleum product did not only make some farmers to reduce the size of their farms, but that also, some farmers were forced out of dry season farming completely.
Many of them have gone into commercial motorcycling to fend for their families. But for the fact that they are not into full time commercial motorcycle business, they generate little income for solving their immediate needs and save the greater part to inject back into their farms.
Because of the high cost of maintaining an irrigation farm, even prior to the petroleum shortage, an individual farmer does not go for a big farm because the bigger the farm the much needed for maintaining it.
For the fact that they cultivate variety of crops in different plots of land, the farmers go for only two or a maximum of four hectares per crop for effective management.
For two hectares, one needs two to three litres of fuel, and in some instances even more depending on how effective a pumping machine is. An old pumping machine can consume four litres per hectare.
The frequency of irrigation depends on a farm’s ability to retain moisture because water application is twice to thrice in week, depending on the retention capability of the soil.
Malam Sani, who hitherto irrigated four hectares of maize, cannot now maintain one hectare for this year’s dry season farming owing to what he described as high operational cost.
While speaking to Daily Trust on phone, Sani said in the past he spent not more than N12,000 on fuel from planting to harvesting; which was a period of three months.
He said he had to abandon irrigation farming after calculating what he would spend on fuel alone.
He added that he had two farms of the same size; one for rice and the other for maize, and that he had to abandon that of maize so that he would concentrate on that of rice.
He further explained that even the rice farm, if care was not taken, some issues would come up which could stop him from cultivating.
He explained that if it happened that the way he abandoned his maize farm some of his neighbours in the rice farm also decided to abandon theirs, then he would not be able to cultivate the rice farm.
On why he cannot farm it, he said when you irrigated in the midst of many, your land consumed little water and stores moisture for a longer period because the day that you did not irrigate your neighbour would and the moisture would go all round.
Abdulhadi Isa of Maiganjara village in Miga Local Government Area told this reporter that in the past, he used to farm two hectares of maize during irrigation farming season, but that now he was forced to reduce to one and half because of high cost of fuel.
He said though he did not calculate how much he spent before harvest, he knew that this time around it was not going to be business as usual, hence the decision to cut the size of his farm.
Isa further said he irrigated his farm twice a week and that he bought two to three litters of fuel depending on the need for water, adding that the cost of fuelling his pumping machine had deflated his little savings.
He noted he would not go into dry season farming next irrigation season even if the price of fuel stabilised unless there was good price for their commodity this year as that was the only way that they would be able to recoup their investment.
Isa said he harvested about 15 bags last year, but that by reducing his farm size he now expects six to seven bags.
He, therefore, appealed to the authorities concerned to come to their aid and provide them with fuel.
“Last year about 300 people from our village, Maiganjara, were into maize irrigation farming, but this year, because of high cost of fuel, about 70 per cent cannot cultivate,” he said.