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Herdsmen/farmers’ clash as threat to food production

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It was the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom who first warned that the sustained attacks on Benue communities by suspected herdsmen could lead to food insecurity in the country.

Ortom stated this at the Government House in Makurdi, during a courtesy call by the Presidential Committee on Rehabilitation of communities affected by farmers and herdsmen crisis.Since then, many Nigerians, including security and agricultural experts have issued similar warnings. Despite this, the herdsmen attacks on farmers and farmlands, especially in the Northcentral states of Benue, Taraba, Kogi and Plateau is still on increase.

Benue, popularly referred to as the country’s ‘Food Basket’, has not known peace till date because of herdsmen attacks. Farmers in the agrarian communities of the state have abandoned their farmlands and fled to safer climes because of herdsmen’s attacks. They are today living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at various IDP camps in the state. The situation is not different in neighbouring Kogi, Taraba and Plateau.

Currently, farmers in most of the affected states who have been displaced from their farms and homes by the herdsmen are recounting their ordeal. Their lamentations are not only pathetic, but also tragic and inhumane.

So worrisome is the fact that despite government’s assurances of tackling the ugly situation, herdsmen are still having a field day. Their temerity and brazen mode of unperturbed operation calls has led to many questioning the country’s security apparatus. It is also very unfortunate that the killings are taking place at the peak of harvest for farmers in the affected areas. A situation many believe may cause food scarcity in the country, if not properly and quickly addressed.

Killings Threaten Food Security In Benue 
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi 

THE persistent herdsmen attack on farmers in Benue State from 2011 to date, has, in no small measure, deprived the state of not just lives and valuable properties, but pose greater threats to the food security in the state and the country at large.Irked by the herdsmen attacks in 14 out of 23 local councils of Benue State, known for large quantity production of food, the state chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Comrade Aondona Kuhe, told The Guardian that the most painful aspect of the killings is that cattle now feed on farmers seedlings stored in bans.

He maintained that with the raining season setting in, there is no sign that the displaced farmers would return to their ancestral homes to continue with their farm works, noting that even if they finally return, they will not get seedlings to plant.

According to Kuhe, “even at the moment, there is food insecurity due to the attacks. Prices of food items have astronomically jumped up. Our seedlings are being eaten up by cattle and there is no peaceful environment to farm despite the deployment of a military personnel to the state.”

The farmers chairman called on the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, send enough food and other relief materials to over 170,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) languishing in various camps across the state and to give support for full implementation of the state anti-open grazing law.

One of the victims of herdsmen’s attacks, Mrs. Ngodoo Goundo, said she was lucky to escape with her five children. Goundo, however, said she learnt that the herders’ flocks have eaten all her foodstuff and seedlings.

A 36-year-old man, Nguaan Iorshe, who hails from Ukpam in Guma Local Council, said he lost 20 bags of rice, 40 bags of soya beans, yams and many other food items to the herdsmen attack.

According to Iorshe, “I managed to escape with my wife and three children when they ambushed us in our house and started shooting. As it is now, we don’t have anything to hold unto. Our village is still not safe as there are still silent killings. We learnt all our bans were set ablaze by the invaders. This means that there is impending hunger in the land.”

Another farmer, Mkaaga Peven, from Mbagwen kindred, said even after he had harvested his bean seed, he could not move it home before herdsmen who invaded his farm destroyed it.“Three of my bans stocked with melon seeds, rice and corn were also burnt down,” Peven said. Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, maintained that if the state and farmers continued to experience persistent herdsmen attacks, it means that farmlands would be ravaged and abandoned. 

Akase said: “If those who produce food for the country no longer access their farms, I think it should be the concern of everybody that the ‘Food Basket’ is under attack and tangible measures must be put in place to solve the problem.” He insisted that this was why the state government decided to put in place a law to safeguard the food security of the nation, which we believe is the best alternative.

In his remark, Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, James Anbua, said the herdsmen attacks in the state has a negative effect and threaten the food security of Nigeria.“With the latest attacks where bans of foodstuffs are being set ablaze by the herdsmen and some turn into cattle feeds, the food production ratio of the state has dropped by 45 per cent.”He said that based on the recent prediction by NIMET stating that the country will witness heavy downpour that would consequently result to bomber harvest of farm produce.

“There is the need for Federal Government to assist farmers in the state, particularly the affected communities with reliefs to enable them continue with farming. As a measure to remove more fears about losing out of agriculture production, my ministry has already lodged a complaint at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to provide farm seedlings to our farmers to embark on massive production of food produce this cropping season.”

Potatoes, Yams, Vegetables, Onions Are Scarce And Expensive In Plateau
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

FOR those observing events in Plateau State, the situation seems to play out the same scenario. The attacks by herdsmen have constituted to pose a serious setback for farmers.

Speaking to The Guardian, Mr. Ishaku Joshua, a farmer in Irigwe community of Bassa Local Council, said: “This is where we have the best and large produce of Miango yams. The yams are best for pounded yam meal. We also have the best Miango pepper in commercial quantity.

“Again, Bokkos, where the clashes are severe, is where we used to have the largest commercial quantity of Irish potatoes and maize with the help of water coming from the mining ponds available for irrigation. In Barkin Ladi and Riyom, we used to have the largest quantity of tomatoes, cabbage and varieties of vegetables using the abandoned mining ponds during dry season farming.”

Joshua continued: “But today, that has changed. Potatoes, yams, vegetables and onions are very scarce in the state due to these clashes. This is the outcome of recent squabbles in the four local councils. Acha (Local weeds used to cure diabetic patients, which is commonly found in Bokkos, Bassa, Barkin Ladi and Riyom, are gradually disappearing. These things can no longer be found because farmers have deserted the fertile areas as a result of herdsmen killings.”

He revealed: “The cost of meat (beef) has risen from N700 to N1400 per kilo, because of scarcity of cows because the farmers want to protect their farmlands and the Fulani too want to protect their cows. That is where you have a clash of interests. The lives of the Fulani and their cows are not safe and the lives of the farmers too are not safe, because each time they cultivate a large acre of land, the herdsmen graze their cattle on this land and destroy the farmlands.

“The cow milk, which used to be a good supplement for protein, is highly expensive now, because of the clashes. The death toll of both herders and farmers is also on the increase. Energetic youths who are supposed to be engaged in food production are being killed on daily basis as a result of the unhealthy clashes.

“Besides, many families have lost their beloved ones, and there is proliferation of illegal arms on both sides to defend themselves from surprise attacks which create a sense of insecurity in the land. Farmers cannot go to their farms and herders cannot graze to produce more cows. There is also and influx of illegal immigrants.

“While the herdsmen look for green vegetables areas to graze their cattle, the farmers set fire indiscriminately on farms and the bush, thereby destroying the fertility of the soil. The farmers are no longer getting sufficient produce.”

Joshua added that the clashes have affected economic and commercial activities in the state, as there is no revenue generation within the crisis zone, because buying and selling have been greatly affected.Joseph Dung, who deals in second hand clothing, said, ‘I do not believe in the consumption of processed foods like foreign rice, foreign tomatoes, but in eating foods produced locally such as, fresh onions, fresh tomatoes, maize, cassava, yams and so on. This is because our forefathers believed in those things and their life span was longer and these things are very cheap in the past when there were nothing like farmers/herdsmen’s clashes.

‘Nigeria May Face Food Crisis’
By Charles Akpeji, Jalingo

It is no longer news that Taraba is one of the states that are currently being affected by the farmers/herders crisis. The situation has not only led to wanton destruction of lives and properties, but also brought about massive abandonment of farming activities due to the prevailing security challenges.

Several parts of the state including, Lau, Takum, Wukar, Sardauna, Gassol local councils have been rendered inaccessible by the herdsmen attacks; a development that may lead to famine.The attacks, The Guardian gathered have led to the death of thousands of people and displacement of over two million others. Majority of them are farmers who are now entirely dependent on aids to survive as against their large farm produce.

Some of the affected persons, especially farmers, who now take refuge in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered in the nooks and crannies of the state, agree that Federal Government’s dream of diversifying the nation’s economy would continue to be a mirage pending when the rampaging herders are tamed 

Speaking, the leadership of the Tiv community, who claim that their people are the worst affected by the crisis, said the country is bound to experience food scarcity, “because all our people are affected by various attacks.”The Tiv who spoke through their traditional ruler in Bali Council, Zaki David Gbaa, and that of Gunduma in Gassol, Zaki Targema Ukange, said that people currently taking refuge in camps are farmers.

The leadership urged all to embrace the Anti-open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law, which led to the crisis ravaging the state.The law, as agreed by them, would not only halt herdsmen/farmers clashes, but also increase agricultural activities.The leaders who also claimed to be farmers appealed to all stakeholders to support this laudable law, which they believed would help consolidate on the gains this administration has made in the area of peaceful co-existence.

Dissatisfied by the ongoing development, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. David Kassa, told The Guardian that the continuous attacks on farmers by herdsmen across the state and the country would hamper federal government’s plan to diversify the economy through agriculture.

The herdsmen killings going on in the country if not checked, he said would throw the country into serious food crisis, adding that the Federal Government’s directive that people should go back to farm in order to divert attention from oil revenue had become counter-productive, because of the herdsmen killings going on across the country.The commissioner, who was of the view that the unrest can be checkmated, beckoned on the Federal Government to “treat this issue as a national emergency.”

According to him, “people have to go to the bushes to practice agriculture, but now, millions of farmers can’t go to farm because of herdsmen attacks, and food crisis is eminent in this country.”Citing Taraba and Benue states that are known for food production, he felt sad that “today millions of farmers in these states and beyond can’t go to farm” stressing that it is a thing of concern and the “Federal Government must act fast to avert food crisis in the coming year.”

On what can be done to avert the impending hunger in state and the country, the commissioner advocated for the establishment of ranches as against the cattle colony proposal of the federal government.The open grazing prohibition law enacted by the Taraba State government, as made known by him, was part of deliberate efforts to end the incessant clashes between herders and farmers to pave way for peaceful coexistence and massive agricultural production.

Farmers Keep Vigil To Ensure Crops Are Not Eaten By Cattle In Kogi 
From John Akubo, Lokoja

THE herders/farmers clashes have been taking its toll on the efforts of farmers in Kogi State to increase their productivity.The fear of the herders attack has become the beginning of wisdom for the farmers in some parts of Kogi State.Many farmers are weary of the attack especially as it happens without notice; hence, it is having a very negative effect on the commitment of the farmers to expanding their farmlands for higher yield.

The impact of the World Bank/FADAMA intervention in the state is having on productivity has been dampened by the herders/farmers clash.In 2014, the World Bank in collaboration with the federal and Kogi State governments began the implementation of the FADAMA III Additional Financing (FADAMA III-AF) project aimed at increasing production of certain crops.

The programme particularly focused on improving the productivity of farmers who are into rice, cassava and sorghum production, amongst others. 
In Kogi, the project from inception has been supporting the production of cassava, but recently extended its intervention to rice production in the stateKashim, who hitherto harvested between 12 and 13 bags of paddy rice from his farm, said he now harvests almost double what he used to get in the past. 

However, he expressed worry over the activities of herdsmen who usually allowed their cattle to feed on their crops, adding that many farmers had to keep vigil on their farms to ensure their crops are not eaten up by cattle. He appealed to the government to address the situation so as to avoid clashes between farmers and pastoralists.

The Fulani herders/farmers clash has continued in the State as the herders overran On his part, Mayisa Dangra while commending the impact of the project on the people, appealed that something should be done to contain the activities of the herdsmen that have become a clog the wheel of their progress.

The Kogi State Project Coordinator of Fadama III Additional Financing, Mr. Paul Ogunmola, has said a total of 5,750 farmers have benefited from the project since its inception in the state. He said that a total of 5,750 hectares of cassava and rice farms have been cultivated across the state using mechanisation with improved seeds and cuttings. 

According to him, about 50 per cent direct beneficiaries had their income increased by at least 40 per cent while an average yield of 22.5 tonnes has been recorded under the Fadama III AF intervention in the state. In a recent onslaught by herdsmen, not less than 25 persons have been feared killed in Kogi East senatorial district.

The herdsmen, who were in military camouflage, visited mayhem on the community, rampaging through two communities in the Oganenigu ward shooting, killing, and razing down many homes.Many households fled for their lives with many still missing and casualty figure yet to be ascertained by the police.

The herdsmen came in boats with firearms, shot sporadically killing the natives, burnt their houses and took control of the villages.In what looks like a response to the call by Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State for herdsmen to come to the state and do business, coupled with Benue becoming too hot for them, the herdsmen have virtually relocated to the Kogi.

It would be recalled the governor recently announced that he was going to champion the cattle colony proposed by the Federal Government as he donated 15,000 hectares for the project.Land in the central senatorial district, though the three senatorial district have rejected the cattle colony in separate press statements Bello had remained adamant.The governor even threatened to dethrone any traditional ruler or sack any local government administrator whose domain herders/farmers attack occur.

Farmers Recxount Losses In Ondo
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure

LIKE every other state in the South and Central parts of the country, classified as the North Central around the Confluence, there has always been a common enemy, and Ondo State too has had his egregious share, leaving food security a threat and a blow towards achieving Goal 2 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Recurrent in the North Senatorial District, which is the gateway to Northern Nigeria and the Central Senatorial District, the seat of the state capital, both agrarian in nature, the herdsmen over the years have destroyed a lot of farmlands without hindrances. The South District naturally poses stiff resistance due to its riverine forts.

In Akure South Local Council, which has Akure metropolis as its headquarters and state capital, the cattle and herdsmen have free access to all routes within and outside the metropolis, invading and paralysing activities at the local government secretariat few weeks ago because a staff stopped them from grazing on the council’s vegetable garden.

Farcical enough, shortly after the council was shut due to herdsmen invasion, a drove of cows invaded the Akure Airport at Oba-Ile, taking over the runaway for more than 20 minutes, causing a national embarrassment by preventing aeroplane from landing.

At the moment, the farmers in Arodoye community are yet to recover from the damage from the herdsmen and their droves last December, when they left their farms to the metropolis to celebrate last Christmas with their relatives in towns; only to return in January crestfallen as over 200 hectares of farmland had been devastated by cattle who fed freely on it.

Aside from killing one of the farmers identified as Patience Salami, farm produce such as, yam, cassava, cocoa, palm oil plantation, yams, vegetables, maize, cocoyam were utterly destroyed; while a huge expanse of cocoa and palm oil farms were razed to ashes.One of the victims, Michael Owoyemi, of the Customary Court of Appeal, lamented that the community had been suffering from herdsmen’s menace since December 2016.
 
According to him, “the herdsmen also returned last December destroying over 5,000 heaps of cassava in my farm. They took the advantage of the break and brought their cattle and uprooted all the cassava in my farm to feed their cows.“We have reported them to security agency in the past and also to the traditional ruler of Akure, Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo who promised to wade into the matter.

“These people are determined to send farmers out of business in the south west and unless steps are taken by the concerned the authorities, it will degenerate to ethnic clashes in the South West. What they have destroyed in a twinkle of an eye is worth millions of Naira.”Confirming the presuppositions made in the past that the herdsmen’s styles of destroying the farmlands in the South was borne out of expansionist tendencies, Justice Owoyemi, warned that people will be sent out of the farms and this will drastically affect food production in the South West.

“Some people depend on farming while some people are destroying farmers’ investments. This will not encourage farming. Most of these people here depend on the farm produce to cater for their family and send their children to school.”Another farmer, Mr. Gabriel Ikoja, added, “the December 2016 destruction was a child’s play compared to the havoc they wrecked on our farm last December. After destroying my farm they set the farm on fire.

“This is the source of our livelihood. I am using the proceeds from this farm to train my children. I have two young undergraduates in the university and three others in Secondary schools, we all depend on this farm,” the 68 years old Ikoja, who said he had been farming in the community since 1985, counted his losses. One Mrs Sade Fajobi, who owns two hectares of cassava and cocoyam at Eleyowo, Akure North LGA, lamented that her farmland worth over N2 million were destroyed by the herdsmen. 

“All my efforts and sweat were rubbished overnight by these wicked people. I got loans from the bank and employed technology for a bountiful yield, but all has gone just like that. It was nothing but labour loss.“Since the incident happened, we have abandoned our farms, still unable to recover fully from the shocks, pains and indebtedness the attacks had meted on us and our livelihood.”

While Mrs. Florence Adedipe, who lost all her cassava and cocoa farms, revealed, “they have turned them to perpetual debtors, because some of the inputs for the farms are from bank loans. The herdsmen will just get there and destroy our farmlands. The state government should rise up to help us before they turn us to debtors.”

Consequently, the incident, which is one tenth of the agricultural calamities that have befallen farmers in the 12 councils across the north and central districts, has sent many farmers off the sector and discouraged people from actively engage in farming. The community head and Olu of Arodoye, Chief Idowu Ajetumobi Fasuyi, affirmed the negative effects, saying aside the destruction of their farms, most people had fled the community, while those that remained have been living in fear of another possible attacks by the herdsmen.

Repeated visits to the Isinkan Neighbourhood Market to sample buying and selling of farm produce have reduced drastically. At the section where foodstuffs are being sold, there were sessions of haggling, ranting and banters among traders and customers, who kept going from one stall to the other to see if the prices will reduce, while the sellers at different points reeled out the same litany, “that is how we bought it.”
 
A woman selling food condiments like onions, pepper, tomatoes and palm oil, who pleaded anonymity, explained that “the little ones we get from nearby farms are not sufficient for us to sell; an these few days, we hardly get supply from the farmers around us. We depend solely on the Hausas from the north.”While another trader selling cassava flour (pupuru) and flakes (garri), who just wanted to be identified as Iya Ige, lamented too that there is acute shortage of supply to the market.

“I cannot sell it lesser than that, it is getting costlier everyday. Our customers in the farm are not getting enough supply for us. They use to tell us that herdsmen don’t allow them to rest on their farms.“Imagine, I too planted some few cassava in my farm. I woke up one morning and discovered that everything is gone. Cattle ate up a whole farm of about four plots of cassava plantation. So, tell me, how do you think the price will not go up? Cassava is very scarce these days.”


In this article:
HerdsmenSamuel Ortom
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