Harvest: Flood heightens tension in Rivers
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.