“When I planted rice on April 28 this year, rainfall stopped. I had to dig a well on my farm, and I spent N2,000 on fuel to pump water to the farm daily.”
Those were the words of a farmer, Umaru Saidu in interior Dofu Village in Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State, lamenting the current situation confronting farmers in Nigeria.
Saidu told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that “because of the delay in the rain, we can’t plant any crop, especially melon. Even the rice we planted if we don’t water the farm on time, the seeds will get rotten. Also, rodents will destroy many.
“If we have rain now, we can be able to plant maize, millet and guinea corn, but we can’t plant. And when the rain gets late again, the time to plant these crops will also pass,” he said.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has predicted that this year’s earliest rain onset date is likely to occur on March 1, 2021, along the coaster line of the country while the latest date is anticipated to be around June 29, 2021, in the northern most parts of the country.
The NiMet said, however, that later-than-normal onset dates are expected over a few places such as parts of Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi and Niger States.
In Kaduna State, farmers said by this time of every year, rainfall is supposed to be regular and heavy, and crops matured and even start harvesting.
A farmer and community leader Imam Hussaini Udawa in Chikun Local Government Area said “at this period we are supposed to be harvesting groundnut, guinea corn, beans, and even maize, but that is not the case this year.”
He lamented the late arrival of rain, saying most of the farmers in the village are now adjusting and praying for a successful rainy season to enable them to plant more crops.
Insecurity, he said, is another challenge. “The truth is that majority of the farmers in this village have abandoned their farms, particularly those on the outskirts or inside the forest, for fear of being kidnapped.
“So, the implication of this will be shortage of foodstuffs, because already the prices of maize which cost N16,000 per bag a few months back, now sells at N20,000 here,” he said.
A Birnin Gwari-based farmer Malam Hudu Kwasakwasa told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that rice and maize should have been harvested by now, but for the late arrival of rainfall in the area.
He said farmers in villages around Kuyello with good soil have already started planting crops for this year despite the insecurity. “We are hoping to farm this year because we have relative peace in the area as the bandits operating here are not attacking us on the farm anymore but we are still afraid,” he said.
Late rain delays planting, harvest Fifty-five-year-old Kassim Yusuf who has been farming for more than 35 years in Odagbo-Ojoku, Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that due to late rain this year, farmers in the area are just planting grains, “if not, we ought to be harvesting especially maize by now.”
He said farmers in the area are not thinking of purchasing fertilizer, “because it is not even available, and even if it is, it is expensive. Last year we bought a bag between N3,500 and N4,000. If we even get it, it would be expensive,” just as he said they are not receiving any kind of aid from the government.
While late rain is not an issue to bother farmers in Kano state, their worry is how to access fertilizer. The state Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Abdulrashid Magaji Rimingado, told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that “we have lost hope in accessing government fertilizer, especially that of the federal government.”
He said “even when farmers formed groups to access the fertilizer, their monies are taken without the fertilizer being supplied to them, which is why we lost complete confidence in government fertilizer.”
A commercial farmer at Bunkure Local Government Area of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Suleiman Abdullahi, told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that farmers have information that planting in 2021 farming season may delay due to severe dry spell that is expected in many parts of the country, adding that “based on that, most farmers in Kano state are not that worried. As far as Kano farmers are concerned the rain isn’t late.”
A farmer in Karu, Nasarawa State, Godwin Ahua, expressed fears about the late onset of rains, saying it would affect the yield.
He said by this time last year, he had already finished planting seed yams on his four-hectare yam farm and maize too but after the first two rains in April, he planted some seed yams to observe but they soon got rotten because the soil was still too hot.
“As it is now, I do not know when we can commence planting because we have already lost a lot of our seed yams and will not want to experiment again so that we do not lose more.
Fears of hunger spreads
Farmers in Katsina state are worried over lack of support from the state government due to insecurity just as they are also apprehension over late rainfall.
Though there had been some rainfalls in some parts of Funtua zone especially in Funtua, Bakori, Dandume, Danja and Sabuwa local government areas, but farmers spoken to said they are cautious to plant crops.
A farmer Malam Mai Zabura Ajiwa told 21ST CENTURY CHRONICLE that “last year by this time, we had started planting because the rain level was appreciative. It is not so this year, because the rain has not started.”
He said “whenever there was a delay we always end up with a limited food output especially in some parts of Katsina where there are no much dam water to augment the plant.”
On his part, Sadik Almu Jibia, a large scale farmer said the delay in rainfall is not being seen as a much threat compared to the security situation in the area.
“Of course, we’re disturbed that the rainfall has not started which we’re sure will affect our output,” Jibia said, “but our main concern is the security situation in the area. I’ve two big farms in Shimfida village but I have completely forsaken them because of the attacks in the village.”
How it will affect food security – Farmers union
The National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabiru Ibrahim, said the late rain issue is just northern affair as farmers down south are currently tendering to their crops that have grown half way, and NiMet has predicted when rain would start this year.
Ibrahim, however, lamented that fertilizer is not only scarce but expensive, adding that “last year by this time, the Presidential Initiative on Fertilizer (PIF) gave fertilizer at N5,500. Now we are buying fertilizer from the market from N7,500 to even N13,000 without subsidy.”
Coupled with the insecurity in the north, Ibrahim told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that with these challenges such as COVID 19, he would not discourage farmers from going to the fields, saying “we are businessmen, farmers should not sell their products at a loss. We are in business too. They must be able to make profit. It is for the country to work for food security for Nigerians.”
He ruled out the possibility of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) intervening on a short term basis in the current challenges, “the Bank of Agriculture Hs not been recapitalized by the Central Bank of Nigeria. They don’t have money so they cannot do anything.”
Additional reporting by: Abdulsamad Liman (Sokoto), Ibrahim Alhaji Mohammed (Kaduna), Mohammed Babangida (Katsina), and Iro Dan Musa (Kano).