Har­vest: Flood height­ens ten­sion in Rivers

Sunday Trust - - SERMON - From Vic­tor Edozie, Port Har­court

This is in­deed not the best of times for hun­dreds of ru­ral farm­ers in Rivers State. The joy and hap­pi­ness that usu­ally fol­lows sea­sonal har­vest are fast wan­ing as the peren­nial flood has washed off farm­lands and crop yields es­ti­mated at over N200 mil­lion.

The most af­fected are ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties of Ahoada, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Etche, Abua and Omuma with over 10,000 hectares of land said to be af­fected. The af­fected farm­ers la­mented that they lost over N200m worth of farm crops to the flood­ing in the state. Thou­sands of hectares of plan­tain, cas­sava, yam, coco yam, vegeta­bles, fruits and other crops worth mil­lions of naira were lost to the nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Only few of the vic­tims who were able to har­vest some of their crops pre­ma­turely.

The Chair­man of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of the state, Vic­tor Odili, told re­porters in Omoku that about 10 com­mu­ni­ties were dis­placed by the flood.

Odili listed the af­fected ar­eas to in­clude Akin­ima, Og­bo­gene, Ag­wee, Isikwa, Asi­monite, Out Eche and Ashi-Asagha.

He said the lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cil has pro­vided some cen­ters in the area as In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDP) camps for the af­fected per­sons.

Mean­while, the Rivers State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments are at dag­gers drawn over the dis­burse­ment of N3 bil­lion for flood vic­tims across states af­fected by the flood. But the state gov­ern­ment said it is yet to get its share of the fund.

Some of the vic­tims of the flood are lament­ing the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on them and their en­tire fam­i­lies. A res­i­dent of Og­bo­gene, Martins Ebere, said he lost more than one hectare of plan­tain farm to the ram­pag­ing flood. He said he was not able to sal­vage a sin­gle bunch of plan­tain from his farm, adding that the flood washed off all that he laboured for through­out the plant­ing sea­son.

He said “this year’s flood­ing caused a dev­as­tat­ing dam­age to me. I can­not in any­way quan­tify the colos­sal loss I in­curred this year. Ev­ery­thing I have laboured for has been washed off. I cul­ti­vated one hectare of plan­tain last year, and as we speak now ev­ery­thing has been de­stroyed. My fam­ily and I are in se­ri­ous trou­ble be­cause I don’t know where to start from. As it stands now, I find it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to have one square meal a day.’’

He called on both state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments to come to his aid by pro­vid­ing an al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion and farm seedling to en­able them em­bark on next year’s farm­ing.

An­other vic­tim from Ag­wee, Obi Nna, said he was able to har­vest only 20 basins of cas­sava from his one-hectare cas­sava farm. He said the flood washed off their res­i­dence and farm­land.

“When it started I thought that it was go­ing to be a mi­nor thing un­til the flood re­ally got out of hand. We lost prop­er­ties, house and the en­tire farm­land. My cas­sava farm, about a hectare, was washed away. I was able to har­vest only 20 basins. All my in­vest­ment this year has gone.

“We are farm­ers and farm­ing is our busi­ness. It’s from farm­ing that we earn our liv­ing and take care of our fam­i­lies. With this colos­sal dam­age done to our farm one won­ders how to sur­vive this sea­son,’’ he said.

He called on the state gov­ern­ment and NEMA to as a mat­ter of ur­gency pro­vide re­lief ma­te­ri­als to the vic­tims of the flood in the state.

An­other vic­tim of the flood in Akin­ima, John­son Agunwa, said the en­tire state may face se­ri­ous food short­age next year. He said the im­pact of the flood­ing will af­fect food sup­ply across the state.

“Ahoada, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni are the food bas­ket of Nige­ria. All the food that comes to Port Har­court such as garri, cas­sava, plan­tain and yam come from this area. We are in this ru­ral com­mu­nity and con­sti­tute the part of value chain in the move­ment of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts to Port Har­court and other parts of the state. But with this dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of flood­ing, I am afraid that there will be food short­age in the state.

The flood has done so much dam­age to our farm pro­duce. Some of the crops were har­vested pre­ma­turely while the re­main­ing ones were washed away,” he stated.

He called on both state and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments to come to their aid by pro­vid­ing pal­lia­tive mea­sures to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of those af­fected by the peren­nial flood­ing in the state.

An­other vic­tim from Abua, Peter Orike, said farm­ers in the area are liv­ing from hand to mouth as a re­sult of the de­struc­tion wreaked by flood­ing in the area. Orike, who owns a pineap­ple farm, said he was a vic­tim of the peren­nial flood­ing in the state.

He said his pineap­ple farm was wash off by the flood.

He said “the dam­age done to my farm by flood this year is some­thing I can­not for­get in a haste. I am a pineap­ple farmer and do com­mer­cial pineap­ple farm­ing. Dur­ing har­vest we move our pro­duce to Port Har­court and other cities where there are al­ready buy­ers. But the flood has washed away all that we planted this year and there is noth­ing to rely on. It is re­ally bad and my fam­ily is at the re­ceiv­ing end.’’

He called for as­sis­tance from gov­ern­ment and pub­lic spir­ited Nige­ri­ans.

Mean­while, the South South zonal of­fice of the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (NEMA), said it has worked out modal­i­ties to tackle the chal­lenges posed to res­i­dents of the state by flood.

The agency also said re­lief ma­te­ri­als would also be given to the vic­tims of the peren­nial flood­ing in the state.

The Rivers State gov­ern­ment on its part said it has set up var­i­ous IDP camps to ac­com­mo­date those dis­placed by the flood.

But some of the vic­tims quar­tered in some of the IDP camps said gov­ern­ment is not tak­ing good care of them.

Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo re­cently vis­ited some of the com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by flood in Rivers and Bayelsa states. At Okogbe and Mbiama, Os­in­bajo promised the vic­tims that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment will not aban­don them.

The vice pres­i­dent, who took an aerial as­sess­ment of the af­fected ar­eas, promised that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of the vic­tims.

The flood­ing ap­pears to have taken a toll on the prices of food­stuff in the mar­ket. A sur­vey car­ried out by our re­porter showed that a basin of garri which cost N4,500 has gone up to N6,000; a tu­ber of yam which went for N500 has gone up to N800.

A food­stuff dealer at the pop­u­lar Mile One mar­ket, Michael Ogbu, said the cost of food items was go­ing up on a daily ba­sis.

He blamed the high cost of food­stuff on short­age of sup­ply from the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

A flooded com­mu­nity of Rivers State.

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