10 In­sur­gents wipe out rice plan­ta­tions, and farm­ers’ smiles

Weekly Trust - - News - Olatunji Omirin, Maiduguri Yahaya Abubakar one of the farm­ers Chair­man of Zabar­mari Rice Pro­ces­sor Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Al­haji Has­san Mo­hammed

Ac­tiv­i­ties of Boko Haram in the north­east have wors­ened food in­se­cu­rity in the re­gion for the nearly a decade go­ing.

They are also in­creas­ingly crip­pling eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties that sup­port agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the re­gion.

In one re­cent sce­nario, Boko Haram in­sur­gents at­tacked farm­ers on their farm­land, ab­duct­ing dozens of men and women and loot­ing pro­duce.

At­tacks against pro­duc­tion threaten food suf­fi­ciency and pose big­ger prob­lems for the re­gion in com­ing years.

Zabra­mari vil­lage in Jere lo­cal gov­ern­ment area, some of 7 kilo­me­ters away from Maiduguri, is known for its his­tory in rice plan­ta­tions for many decades.

This year, pro­duc­tion stalled as in­sur­gents stormed on 2nd De­cem­ber and burnt down more than 250 hectares of rice plan­ta­tion and al­ready har­vested rice paddy.

One week be­fore, in­sur­gents had at­tacked, shoot­ing at farm­ers as they worked on their farms. They killed four peo­ple, burnt the bod­ies and set ablaze sev­eral hectares of rice.

Many farm­ers plan­ning for har­vest are presently scared to re­turn to farms. Many are in shock, con­sid­er­ing the turn their liveli­hoods have taken.

Some farm­ers had taken out nearly mil­lions in loans to fund pro­duc­tion. Now their hopes of re­pay­ment look bleak. Busi­ness part­ners are com­ing knock­ing.

Some farm­ers have been taken ill over the in­ci­dents. Anec­dotes abound about farm­ers plan­ning sui­cide for not be­ing able to re­pay their debt or up­hold their house­holds as dif­fi­cul­ties loom.

Mo­hammed Has­san, the Chair­man Rice Pro­cess­ing As­so­ci­a­tion in Zabra­mari, lamented the lost vol­umes.

More than 5,000 mem­bers par­tic­i­pated in the last rainy sea­son due to hunger and lack of cir­cu­la­tion of in the so­ci­ety.

He ex­plained that his mem­bers went as far as vil­lages un­der Mafa lo­cal gov­ern­ment area to plant rice in lo­ca­tions such as Azaya, Kwashobe, Guda, Kasakasa, Bu­la­burin, Karut and Dunje but all was burnt down by in­sur­gents at the time of thresh­ing.

Many farm­ers in Kelori, Masu and Guda­gan had started reap­ing bumper har­vests be­fore in­sur­gents com­pletely wiped out their rice plan­ta­tions.

For ex­am­ple, some farm­ers had ex­pected about 200 bags of rice which could be sold at N13,000 each. In the end, they had noth­ing.

Oth­ers aimed for 500 bags of rainy sea­son rice har­vest after heavy in­vest­ment.

“Now in­sur­gents have set it all on fire. How can we pacify these peo­ple, some even said it is bet­ter for them die than be alive and start beg­ging. We are des­per­ately urg­ing peo­ple as­sist us,” he said.

Mo­hammed stressed that there is need for ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion for the af­fected farm­ers and for gov­ern­ment to iden­tify with their plight. It cuts across the whole Zabra­mari vil­lage both di­rectly and indi­rect, such as labour­ers and farmhands who do not have any means of liveli­hoods apart from rice plan­ta­tions.

“Es­pe­cially those that are in se­ri­ous debts should be as­sisted in both food items and mone­tary as­pects, be­cause they can­not even sleep as a re­sults what they are go­ing through,” he said.

He ap­pealed to the Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari to ex­pressly ad­dress cur­rent se­cu­rity chal­lenges fac­ing farm­ers in the state.

Mean­while, some of the aid agen­cies have cut down their hu­man­i­tar­ian ser­vices to both in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons and host com­mu­ni­ties which has forced many peo­ple to go back to farms even in an un­safe en­vi­ron­ment.

Farm­ers in Jere, Kon­duga and Mafa lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas ex­pe­ri­enced in­ces­sant at­tacks on at­tempt to har­vests their pro­duce.

One of the af­fected farm­ers, Yahaya Abubakar nar­rated how his more than 20 hectares of rice plan­ta­tion were de­stroyed.

He pointed out that what they wit­nessed in Zabra­mari will surely af­fect the larger pop­u­la­tion of Borno and its en­vi­rons be­cause al­ready there was poverty in the land.

Thou­sands of civil­ians whose main oc­cu­pa­tion is farm­ing in the north of Borno have fled their homes in the last one week in Kukawa, Guza­mala and Damask as a re­sult of Boko haram ram­page in the Lake Chad Basin.

They have started re­turn­ing back to camps shel­ter­ing dis­placed peo­ple in Maiduguri amidst grow­ing fears in their an­ces­tral homes.

They had re­turned five months ago to cul­ti­vate the land after be­ing told it was safe to go back.

Now they are back Maiduguri, per­plexed with­out their har­vest.

The Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil (NRC) ear­lier warned of re­peated at­tacks against farm­ers risk ag­gra­vat­ing the food cri­sis in North­east Nige­ria.

Farm­ers must be pro­tected so they can cul­ti­vate their lands and re­turn to their fam­i­lies alive, urged the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil.

The level of vi­o­lence reg­is­tered lately in North­east Nige­ria is alarm­ing, it said.

“Farm­ers have been easy tar­gets. These at­tacks risk mak­ing peo­ple too afraid to cul­ti­vate their land and may worsen the ex­ist­ing food cri­sis. Farm­ers should be able to cul­ti­vate their land and re­turn to their fam­i­lies alive.

The lat­est at­tacks against farm­ers un­der­score the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, even as the au­thor­i­ties are en­cour­ag­ing dis­placed peo­ple to re­turn home to re­build their lives.

The at­tacks on farm­ers risk wors­en­ing the ex­ist­ing food cri­sis in north­east Nige­ria. It is es­ti­mated that 2.9 mil­lion peo­ple are fac­ing acute food in­se­cu­rity in the north­east state of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states. Crops have been de­stroyed and food stores looted, while farm­ers have ei­ther been killed or forced to flee their fields.

The Chair­man Net­work of Civil So­ci­ety Or­ga­ni­za­tions Lake Chad re­gions, Amb. Ahmed Shehu has said con­tin­u­ous killing of farm­ers poses dan­gers to food se­cu­rity in re­gion.

“Re­cent at­tacks is re­ally un­for­tu­nate for CSO [civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions]. We have in­vested en­ergy to make sure we have stable so­ci­ety in the north­east re­gion, but of re­cent the at­tacks are be­com­ing un­con­trolled, we are grad­u­ally los­ing con­fi­dence in re­sponse and sit­u­a­tions on ground.

“Vil­lages burn down, I think there is no 48hours that you would hear or see at­tacks in three months now. Es­pe­cially now that we al­ways echo­ing Boko haram has been de­graded so how do you de­fined de­graded?

“As a CSO we are call­ing on the se­cu­rity chiefs to change the modus operandi and work closely with the com­mu­nity to make sure that civil­ians are safe.

As you see, peo­ple can no longer go to farm and 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of these com­mu­ni­ties get the means of liveli­hoods through farm­ing.

“As long as they go out to the field they will be killed and they would starve so it is be­tween the devil and the deep blue sea. Now they don’t have op­tions.

The peo­ple that are giv­ing have stopped giv­ing; now they have to go the farms. If they go to farms they get killed.

“It is alarm­ing and we are grieved about the killing of farm­ers. It is dis­turb­ing that Boko Haram didn’t al­low peo­ple go and har­vest their farm pro­duce so it will def­i­nitely trans­late to food in­se­cu­rity be­cause these are the peo­ple that will har­vest to see it in the mar­kets. The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion now, as it is, grad­u­ally, Maiduguri can be un­der at­tack be­cause they as close as 5 kilo­me­ters to the state cap­i­tal.

“I thinks, it is im­por­tant we go back to the draw­ing board and change their strat­egy against in­sur­gents.”

The lat­est at­tacks against farm­ers un­der­score the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, even as the au­thor­i­ties are en­cour­ag­ing dis­placed peo­ple to re­turn home to re­build their lives As you see, peo­ple can no longer go to farm and 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of these com­mu­ni­ties get the means of liveli­hoods through farm­ing

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