Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rice Production Threatened as Farmers Remain in IDP Camps
By Hope Abah, Makurdi
Nigeria Daily Trust
Jun 28 2018 3:50AM

There are fears of impending rice insufficiency by the end of this year’s cropping season as over 12,000 rice farmers, still in various Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps across Benue State, are unable to return to their farms to engage in their age-long occupation.

Benue is one of the states noted for massive rice production in the country.

The concern is coming even as the Federal Government begins clampdown on smugglers of foreign rice into the country and the closure of the nation’s land border to stem the import.

Reports also indicate that farming activities are under similar threat in Kaduna, Zamfara, parts of Niger State and many areas in the North-east.

Our correspondent in Benue reports that all of the about 180,000 rural population taking shelter at eight IDPs camps are mostly farmers displaced from rice producing communities of Guma, Logo and Gwer local government areas of the state.

Terhile Phillips, 42, is a rice farmer who had been displaced from his rural abode since February, this year after an attack launched in his community in Guma LGA by suspected militia.

Phillips and his family of five, ever since the incident, live at the Abagana IDPs camp at the outskirts of Makurdi. He wants to go back to his home and to his farm for the wet season rice production it, however, has not been possible to do so as his community is still allegedly under siege by the militia.

“We are many at the camp, who have been affected by this cruel fate. The worst of it is that the areas affected are the highest rice producing communities of the state which makes me fear that hunger looms this year as rice production is affected in general,” Phillips said.

 Similarly, Tarnongo Vitalis, a large-scale rice farmer, who though lives in Makurdi, is worried that not only would his fortune dwindle this season but the state and country at large may suffer rice insufficiency because of the crisis which has prevented farmers from farming.

 Vitalis, who cultivates over 350 hectares of rice yearly in both Guma and Logo communities affected by the crisis, said he could no longer go to his farm, talk less of clearing or planting for the wet season.

 He said, “I don’t have a rice farm again because the killer gangs in Benue have taken over the communities where my farms are situated. I own 350 hectares of rice farmland where I do both dry and wet season cultivation but as we speak, I have no hope of returning there.

 “By this time last year, the land was already cleared and prepared for the two seasons of rice production but now there is no way in sight. Even the paddy harvested last year was burnt by the invaders. It is unfortunate that this crisis has taken over rice producing areas such as Guma, Naka, Gwer West and Logo among others.”

 According to the state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Comrade Aondona Kuhe, at least 12,000 rice farmers inhabit the various camps after their displacement from their homes since the beginning of their year.

 Kuhe said most rice producing communities were affected by the crisis and as such the farmers are yet to fully return to their farming activities despite the government’s effort which was beginning to facilitate movement.

 “Government is facilitating movement bit by bit but the effort doesn’t seem to be yielding result as expected because those who went back home were attacked. As of now, few farmers would go to their farms in the day but can’t return to their homes because they could be killed.

 “This development can affect not only rice production in the state but food sufficiency in the country. We are in talks with government to help train the farms while they are in camp so that as the tension is gradually reducing, there could be a way out for them to return to their occupation,” the AFAN chairman posited.

 Some farmers, such as Wende Nancy who spoke to our correspondent, said the situation posed serious threat to rice production in the state as some farmers were recently killed at Ikpayongo, near Makurdi.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, James Anbua, lamented the unpleasant situation and appealed to the relevant authorities to end the killings in the state to enable farmers go back to their homes and farms.

 Anbua, however, noted that farmers are currently engaged in rice cultivation in safe areas of the state, adding that government was not relenting in ensuring that farmers took advantage of the upland areas to engage in serious rice production.

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