Abuja farmers counting their blessings
As the rains peaks and harvest draws near, farmers in Abuja like their counterparts in other parts of the country are already bringing in their farm produce and taking stalk of the year’s farming season.
Despite the flooding experienced in parts of the FCT, some farmers are optimistic that this year’s harvest would be bountiful considering that the heavy rains only started when after the harvest.
Already, farm produce like maize, yams, millet, are already being moved from the farm. However many are worried that the continued heavy down pour may affect beans production this year.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, farmers have shared in the good and sad times of the harvest season, but generally speaking harvest has been fruitful for most farmers and investors in the sector.
Speaking on this year's harvest Victor Egbeju, a small scale yam farmer said though government is doing enough to support their efforts to get better yields and feed more people, he said more is still expected from government.
He acknowledges that it getting better especially with cheaper access to fertilizers, and pesticides, the harvest has been better, lesser waste.
In his words, “We are not asking for too much, but just that government should identify and engage communities that do large scale farming, with little or no modern too to make the work easier with maximum benefits to the farmers and consumers.”
According to him such communities can be found along Kuje, Orozo, Lugbe, amongst others. He said if those ones are doing well the small scale farmers would be hopeful that someday it would get to them.
Adaji Franca, a small scale cassava and melon farmer said that we have been hearing that government is giving money to farmers to increase their yield and expanding access to the market, but most small scale farmers in Abuja are yet to get such support from government.
“I have been in this business for the past 15 years and I can tell you that Ihave not gotten any assistance from government in terms of funding or provision of free fertilizers or insecticides to make the process better.
“Most of the things we hear that they give to farmers are for the big politicians who are into farming, because I took my time to find out why most of us are not benefiting from the south called funding from government. I discovered it was not targeted at the rural farmers who form the majority of the farming population that is why the impact is not being felt as it ought to be.
“Imagine telling a rural farmer to go and register a company and open an account to benefit from the policy, these farmers truly are not doing farming because they ever wanted support from government, no, these were some of the practices bequeathed to them by their fore fathers and because of the obvious high unemployment rate most of them are contented with farming, even if it is just to feed their immediate family or community as the case may be, that is enough for them.
“But government on the other hand should make sure they encourage these tireless farmers, even if it means giving them incentives to do better. This year the rains have helped us and the harvest has been rich, but we know it can get better.”
In Nigeria especially in the FCT, the rural population, for a long time have been associated with the production of more about 75% of the food eaten in Nigeria, amidst all the challenges inherent and almost little or no government support, yet their harvest survives the economy
While the farmers are counting their blessings with the rains, the issue of access to finance remains a critical challenge. Some commercial farmers in Federal Capital Territory have called on the Federal Government to assist farmers with credit facilities to enable farmers to boost food production in the country.
The farmers, who spoke in separate interviews, said adequate credit facilities would assist government to achieve its policy on food sufficiency.
Mr Zakari Sabo, a rice farmer in Gwagwalada, said the inability of farmers to access credit facilities was a setback to food production, adding that adequate funding would grow the country’s agricultural production.
“We farmers are facing preservation problems because we lose between 30 and 35 per cent of some of our farm produce arising from inadequate funds.
“When we go to banks for loans, they demand collateral that are not realistic from any ordinary farmer.
“There is need for the government to provide farmers with some incentives like soft loans that will enable us boost food production,” he said.
Sabo said that there were too many conditions for accessing credit facilities which were far from the reach of peasant farmers.
Mr Simon Luka, a cassava farmer in Kwali, said additional financing through FADAMA programmes would assist farmer clusters in FCT with comparative advantage to increase food production and productivity.
He, however, added that access to credit facilities by farmers would also provide “market infrastructure” to reduce post-harvest loses and facilitate storage and preservation techniques.
“The budget for agriculture is always low every year and is not enough to drive the country’s economy.
“Adequate credit facilities will also encourage people to venture into farming and be a lucrative business,” he said.
Alhaji Yunusa Alkali, an irrigation farmer in Kuje Area Council, called on the government to provide grants to agro-processors and crop producers to facilitate agricultural value-chain in the country.
The reality is that these farmers are most times poor and uneducated, making them take occupational decisions that may not necessarily be of benefit to them.
Farmers in Abuja are still slow in dropping their long time farming practices which are most times counterproductive and dangerous to the environment. Practices like bush burning and rain-fed agriculture are very much practised by Nigerian farmers at the expense of modernise system like irrigation and afforestation.
It is also a known factor that most of them lack the basic education, information and training necessary to adapt to climate change.
Government and the big players in the private sector, which should drive the Agricultural sector by ensuring consistent policies, robust funding and infrastructure development, have not been able to achieve much hence the need for a conscious and strategic engagement to drive this very important sector.
Climate change is another factor that has posed as a huge challenge in the agricultural sector, with deforestation, desertification and their obvious consequences to the growth of plants, especially in some states in the north.
Government can organise farmers and provision for irrigation, drainage, weather forecasting and other agricultural technology infrastructure, an incentive for training in agriculture, participatory and on-going capacity building for farmers.
Enhance availability of drought resistant and short duration high yielding crops, harmonise indigenous and modern knowledge on climate change adaptation, strengthening of the extension services.
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