AGRICULTURE How Borno plans to revive agriculture
The agricultural sector has perhaps suffered the biggest casualty in Borno State as a result of the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency. First, because it was the employer of over 80 percent of the people of the state but now can no longer provide a platform for farming to even 15 percent of the population, following the crisis.
Baga which used to be the hub of fishing activity for Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun has not been able to produce even a basket of fish for almost a year now due to the activities of insurgents who have taken over control of the water side.
Over 80 percent of the cows and other livestock being consumed in Nigeria are imported through Maiduguri and later distributed to other parts of the country in addition to the ones that are locally produced by farmers in the state, all that no longer exist as all exit routes to the neighbouring countries have been taken over by the insurgents while local farmers have been dispossessed of their livestock through cattle rustling.
Most farmers in the state have been attacked and killed and their farmlands either taken over by Boko Haram or have become battle grounds and can no longer be accessed by them. The few farmers that can still cultivate their farmlands; have difficulty applying fertilizer as security operatives always confiscate the commodity on the excuse that fertilizer is used in making bombs.
Speaking on the plight of farmers in the state, a farmer, Alhaji Modu Tungushe, told this reporter in Guza Malam market that farming has suffered major setback that “only God knows if we can ever go back to our farms in our life time. I used to cultivate a minimum of 80 bags of assorted grains every season in Baga. Overnight the insurgents raided my house and carted away everything I had. They also killed my elder son and two of my workers.
“I am now staying in an IDP camp with my family coming to such village markets to serve as agents to people buying grains and livestock to make a living. My fear is, even if the insurgency ends today, from where are we going to start? I do not have money to even buy seed,” he said.
Alhaji Aji Yakarimi is a wheat and sorghum farmer. He said he obtained a loan of N750, 000 from a bank and invested in his wheat farm when suddenly Boko Haram attacked and took over his farmland along with others, saying, “A major farmer who supplies flour mills with wheat gave me high variety seeds on the arrangement that after harvest, I will sell to him and he will add to his own and supply the mill.
“That was in the early days of insurgency in the state. I supplied him twice then went for the loan before the attack. I am not sure there is a single farm that can produce one ton of grains that is still functional in the state except around Biu. I do not see agriculture being revived in the next 20 years even if insurgency ends today,” he said.
But Governor Kashim Shettima said farmers in the state do not have any reason to entertain fear over the revival of agricultural activities in the state, saying, “People should just pray to God to restore peace in the state. Knowing the value of agriculture to my people and taking into consideration the extent of damage done to the sector, I decided to be very proactive.
“The state government has taken to the completion of an ultra-modern farm centre for the production of improved seedlings that is aimed at providing multiple yields to farmers. The state has also taken delivery of 845 additional tractors, bringing to a total of 2,000 brand new tractors now in stock. We also took delivery of 1,416 planters to add to the ones we have in stock.
“All the farming equipment were imported as part of the government’s post insurgency plan for commercial agriculture in rural areas as soon as Boko Haram insurgents are defeated. We have just recently bought 25 combined harvesters that have since been delivered. In the whole of Nigeria, there are only a total of 56 combined harvesters out of which Borno State alone has 25.
“We have bought and installed dozens of green houses and machines at the seedlings production centre which is expected to be the supplier of improved seedlings required by farmers to have high yields such as what obtains in developed countries. We have also bought equipment for drip irrigation as well as large cooling systems needed in nursing seedlings, both of which have been installed at the seedlings production centre,” he said.
The governor, who was speaking while inspecting the equipment in Maiduguri, said the government has acquired so much agricultural equipment and has sponsored youth from the state to India and other countries for training on usage, maintenance and re-installation of the equipment.
Cross section of the 2000 tractors bought by the state