Some farmers in the North-East region have called for early distribution of farm inputs for commencement of dry season activities to mitigate effects of the dry spell recorded during 2021 cropping season in parts of the region.
Thousands of hectares of farmlands became wilted due to the prolonged dry spell in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe and Jigawa states.
Some of the produce worst hit include rice, beans, cowpea, maize, sorghum and groundnut.
However, farmers in Borno were hopeful of a bumper harvest sequel to the restoration of peace and resettlement of farming communities who cultivated their farmlands for the first time in the past decade.
A cross section of farmers said that early distribution of fertiliser and inputs at subsidised prices would encourage productivity and enhance food security.
Malam Umar Usman, a smallholder farmer in Gombi, Adamawa LGA, said that shortage of rainfall had affected many farmers especially those that planted late.
Usman said that rice and cowpea growers were worst hit by the early stoppage of rainfall, stressing that it was high time farmers embraced improved seeds to guard against such unpleasant experience.
Alhaji Usman Michika, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in the state, advised farmers to prepare their lands for irrigation activities to enable them recover their losses.
Michika said that those who started clearing their farms on time for the dry season farming might get higher yields at harvest period.
He urged the state government to provide the inputs on time for farmers.
In his contribution, Alhaji Usman Ngari, AFAN’s Chairman in Yobe, said the dry spell resulted in poor harvest in most parts of the state.
Ngari listed the affected areas to include Damaturu, Tarmuwa, Geidam, Yunusari, Yusufari, Nguru, and Gashua.
“Usually, rainy season begins in May/June and ends around October. Unfortunately, this year, it ends about three months ago when some farmers had just planted their crops.
“The situation is leading to poor harvest, with farmers who used to produce between 40 and 100 bags of grains now harvesting between five and 30 bags,” he said.
According to Ngari, the trend exposes maize, sorghum and rice to hardship.
The Chairman called on the state and Federal Government to assist farmers with credit facilities and farm inputs to cushion the effects of hardship.
Similarly, Alhaji Maiunguwa Jaga, AFAN’s chairman in Jigawa, said the dry spell affected bumper harvest in about 20 to 30 per cent of total cultivated lands in the state.
“The shortage of rainfall affected harvest this year, particularly sorghum, millet and rice,” Jaga said.
He, however, said the association had met with Gov. Muhammed Badaru of the state to discuss ways out and measures to be taken in order to minimise losses in future.
“We told the governor about an early yielding seed called ‘super sosa’ that grows and matures between 60 and 70 days. He even directed for the piloting or testing of this improved seed,” the chairman said.
According to him, the association will use the medium of radio to educate farmers on how to plant early to minimise losses at harvest.
“We are planning to use radio to reach farmers and inform them that, henceforth, they should not wait until the rain fully sets in before planting.
“From this year, farmers should plant their crops on arrival of first rain.
“This is because those farmers that planted early this year were not affected by the dry spell, as they had almost 100 per cent return on what they planted,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Iliyasu Gital, a Bauchi based agronomist, has called on government at all levels to invest more in irrigation agriculture as a means of boosting crop production in the country.
Gital observed that small scale farmers in the state faced challenges such as food and water, insecurity, dependence on unpredictable rain pattern, and natural disasters.
He said that investment in irrigation agriculture would eliminate most of the challenges being faced by farmers.
“Government can think of boosting technological innovations, increasing the use of pumps and water application as well as the establishment of dams,” Gital said.
According to him, such measures will fast track access to irrigation services for the farmers to adapt to climate change friendly farming methods.
“Therefore, the government needs to improve irrigation facilities such as big and small earth dams, pumps, boreholes, sprinklers and controllers to enable them to irrigate their farmlands.”
Dr Abdu Malala, an expert, who corroborated the earlier option, urged farmers to adopt climate smart agriculture through basing their production in line with weather information and use of early maturing varieties of crops.
“Once rainfall is predicted for a particular area, farmers should plan their production calendar based on the prediction.
“For instance, farmers can start early with irrigation in areas with water bodies before the onset of rainfall for the critical stages of plant growth and development to coincide with periods of peak rainfall.
“If drought occurs, they can irrigate to enable the plants to absorb the shock,” Malala said.
Mr Jafaru Ilelah, Programme Manager, Bauchi State Agricultural Development Programme, also expressed the need for farmers to embrace irrigation farming.
Ilelah cautioned farmers against hasty sales of produce at harvest, saying they should preserve it to feed their families.
According to him, the agency is sensitising farmers on the need to engage in dry season activities.
However, farmers in Borno have expressed joy over peaceful farming activities across the state, describing this year’s cropping season as far better than previous years.
Abdu Musa, a farmer, said though there was a little problem with rainfall in the southern part of the state, the development was not serious.
“It affected the yields in few farms but the majority got bumper harvest,” Musa said
Also, commenting on good harvest, Gov. Babagana Zulum, said the return of peace in many areas led to the expansion of farming activities in many parts of the state.
“This year, areas under cultivation in Borno have increased by over 600 per cent,” Zulum said.
Another farmer, Bukar Mustafa, said that grain prices crashed in the markets in view of the improvement in supply occasioned by higher yields recorded by farmers.
“A measure of beans sold for N550 as against its old price of N1,000.
“The trend also affected prices of rice, maize and millet that are produced in large quantities in the state,” Mustafa said.
However, grain prices have gone up in Yola, Adamawa by about 30 per cent since the commencement of harvest.
Malam Muhammad Nazir, a grains dealer at Jimeta Market in Yola, said that prices indicated galloping increase in spite of fresh supplies from the farms.
Nazir attributed the hike to increase in the demand for food in the area.
A bag of paddy rice was sold at N17,000 as against its old price of N14,000.
A medium size bag of maize was sold between N15,000 and N16,000 depending on its quality, while a measure was N350 as against N270 before the harvest.
A measure of beans cost N1,200 as against the old price of N800.
By Razak Owolabi