10 Insurgents wipe out rice plantations, and farmers’ smiles
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