The agrarian farm community produces a large chunk of the foodstuffs sold in markets in the northern part of the state and neighbouring Benue.
Judex Okoro, Calabar
Alifokpa-Yache in Yala Local Government Area is unarguably one of the oldest communities in Cross River State. The community, mostly agrarian, produces large chunk of the foodstuffs sold in markets within the northern part of the state and neighbouring state of Benue. Popularly known as food basket of Cross River, it produces cash crops and fruits including sesame seed, melon, oranges, mangoes, yams, rice and cassava.
But a recent visit showed a community in total state of neglect; a forgotten people as there are no government presence in terms of provision of social amenities including access roads, electricity, healthcare centres, water and other essentials of life. Primary schools there are dilapidated.
The forest, which acts as natural boundary between the community Alifokpa and Benue State has been depleted. Even the farmers hardly get farm inputs to assist them and possibly increase their yields. They still wholly rely on old system of farming.
For over three decades, successive governments have come and gone. As usual, they had promised heaven on earth during electioneering only to abandon the people to their fate once election is over.
It has become an annual ritual for the communities to cry for help to all tiers of governments but nobody listens to them.
The community’s tale of woes is worsened by lack of access road linking them with either neighbouring Benue State or their brothers and sisters within Yala communities. The over 30-year-old 20-kilometre Alifokpa-Yache road has been abandoned by successive governments, thereby making it difficult for farmers and traders to evacuate their produce or access the markets.
Besides, it makes transportation Herculean as adjoining communities hardly access the popular Alifokpa market especially during rainy season. To access the market, women and young men have to trek between three and four hours.
Motorcycles and customised rickety vehicles are the available means of transportation. It was learnt that those who own motorcycles smile to the bank as they have reconstructed their them to be able to convey goods and passengers to and from the markets.
At one of the markets, makeshift tents are constructed with sticks and palm fronds to serve as shades and shelter for sellers and buyers. The market day comes every five days and it is called “Obarike Ogidi” by the locals.
Some of the residents complain that due to lack of access roads, they have been totally impoverished. Mr. Joseph Okara, said he loses between 60 to 80 percent of his farm produce due to his inability to access a market.
Okara said: “I have been farming for about 18 years. It is because of the lack of equipment and bad road that I am still like this (poor). The road is bad and before you can get someone to come and buy, they will offer ten naira and when I look at the labour I put into it, I feel bad. I decided to go into orange farming and sometimes it yields sometimes it doesn’t. I do manual labour and I don’t have any helping hand.
“Our major challenge is the road. If the government will hear us, it is just to help us and repair the road. That is the first thing they are supposed to do. Sometimes, the Benue people come to buy but they can’t drive in because of the bad road. They have to park their trucks afar and sometimes come by motorcycles.”
Another orange farmer, Mr. Aprah Solomon said manual farming was not a bad idea if there is support and a means to evacuate produce
“But when you keep doing it without any help in the form of inputs as is the case in this village you be discouraged. For instance, if you want to do a better farm that you can commercialise, it won’t be successful. You can’t meet up with so many things. When you don’t have the facilities, the money and fertilizer, that is when you breakdown and the yield will not be as expected.”
For Beatrice Egomme, a farmer, said: “We have been crying but we have not seen a government to help us. When it rains, we suffer because we can’t go and carry food. We are crying, let the government hear and help us.”
A dealer in fertilizers and chemical in the Alifokpa market, Chief Emmanuel Odenekpa, blamed government at all levels for failing to provide the needed infrastructure for the market to thrive and subsequently create wealth for the people.
He said: “We are suffering because there’s nobody to help us. We live like we are in ancient days; no road and the markets are bad. There are no lock-up stores; nothing at all to indicate we are still part of the state.
“Formerly, we were selling rice in bags, groundnut, and yams in large quantities but due to the bad conditions of road, people stopped coming to the market. If the road was good, people will come. We need the road to be fixed now. We have goats, everything to sell but because there is no road, there is no way the vehicles can pass.
“There are people from Benue here but they bring in only petty things. Benue is about four miles and there are so many of them here.”
Another seller, Janet Agabi, said lack of processing machines, equipment, electricity and access road have forced many to leave the community. She called on government to fix the road and provide basic amenities.
A transporter with dual native of Alifokpa and Konshisha, Daniel Iyokaka, said the road has been in a bad state for over 20 years.
“Right from 1970s, government has not done anything on this road. We have a lot of farm produce but we find it difficult to take them to the market because we don’t have access road,” said Iyokaka, who shuttles between Yala and Konshisha local government areas in Cross River and Benue states.
When Daily Sun visited the office of the member representing Yala I state constituency in the House of Assembly, Mrs Regina Ayogu, she was not in the office just as attempt to get her through her mobile phone was unsuccessful.
But one of her aides, who didn’t want his name in print, said they have got series of letters from the Alifokpa-Yache communities asking government’s intervention.
He, however, said the lawmaker cannot do much since they were handicapped in terms of cash, adding, “I advice they people send save-our-soul to the governor.”