Rose EjembI, Makurdi
Benue State Government has raised the alarm over the threats which activities of killer herdsmen posed to food security in the state where several communities have been deserted and farmers reduced to tenants in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps at the time they are supposed to have commenced land clearing for the next cropping season.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, James Anbua who raised the alarm in a chat with newsmen at the weekend feared that there might not be much farming activities in the state this year as a result of the Fulani herdsmen attacks.
“Already there is a threat to food security in Benue State. Agriculture starts from land preparation and by now, farmers in these areas especially, Guma and Logo are supposed to have started clearing lands for the next cropping season but most of these people are in IDP camps and they have not gone back to start the process,” he said.
“Since they are not in their ancestral homes, they can’t talk of clearing lands for now. Therefore, food security is threatened because these people cannot go back to their farms and there would be no much farming activities in those areas leading to shortage of food towards the end of 2018.
“Even the 2017 cropping season, we were expecting bumper harvest because Benue State as the food basket of the nation, is one of the highest mass producers of rice that year. But because most of those rice farms were not harvested, all of these is lost and even the little ones that were ripe for harvest were destroyed.”
While disclosing that in spite of the Fulani herdsmen invasion, Guma and Logo local government areas of the state produced 25 metric tones of rice constituting only about 40 percent of the total rice production in the area, Anbua said about 60 percent of the rice in the area was destroyed in the crisis.
“As l speak with you, the two local government areas of Guma and Logo that are worst hit by the crisis produced 25 metric tones of rice and that is the one that were harvested. The one that is not harvested is approximately more than what was harvested.
“An average of N3-4 billion is the value of rice that was harvested in each of the local governments that are affected by this crisis and remember also that this was coming at the time of cropping season and most of these people have not harvested their crops. When l was going through these local government areas, l discovered that the rice that was harvested was not up to 40 percent of the total rice farm in the area.
He lamented that most of the farmers who took the CBN Anchor-Borrower loans were badly affected by the crisis and cannot pay back as a result adding that his Ministry is already compiling the names of those who were affected for onward submission to the federal government at the appropriate time.
“Most of these people that took this CBN Anchor-Borrower loans are the ones badly affected by the crisis. You cannot ask somebody to pay what he did not have. Actually we went round and discovered that the rice these people farmed, they could not harvest them. So, if somebody took a loan and for the fact that he took a loan to farm, even as he farm, he could not harvest it, can you ask him to pay or kill the person?”
Speaking on the proposed pilot ranches to be established by the state government, Anbua stated further that the pilot ranches are to keep confiscated live stocks pending when their owners comes to claim them or when they would be auctioned out.
The Agric Commissioner who disclosed that one of the pilot ranches located around Gaadi area of Makurdi is ready for use explained that the state government is not building ranches for herders because the state’s Anti Open Grazing Law did not stipulate that saying whoever is saying the state should provide ranches before implementing the law is not being fair.
“We are not building ranches for herders because our law did not stipulate that. We are following the law. Farming is a private business, so, if herders approach us that they need land, they will sign our papers and we will give them the land for ranches.
“Whoever is saying so is not being fair to us. Nobody provides land to crop farmers, how then can government provide land for animal farmers? The pilot ranches are not for herders but to keep confiscated live stocks pending when their owners come for them or they are auctioned out. Anyone who intends to ranch animal should approach us.”