As farmers across the country prepare for the 2023 planting season, farmers in Ebonyi and Enugu states have expressed mixed concerns about the prediction of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) of early rain in March.
A cross-section of the farmers who spoke on the prediction in separate interviews expressed mixed feelings on the likely effect on crop yield.
Some of the farmers believe that early rain would be favourable to crop production, arguing that there was still enough water in the soil which could affect crop yield negatively.
They noted that crops usually performed better when there was enough dry season to free the soil from the water conserved from the previous rainy season before planting crops.
However, the respondents observed that with weather and climatic changes and with the advancement in technology, that crops would not be affected by the early rain in March.
Mr Benjamin Ofoke, a rice farmer in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi, said that with various technological innovations in the field of agriculture, farmers would get through any possible adverse effect an early rain might pose to production.
According to him, every NiMet prediction is usually backed up by advisory services to farmers on possible measures to forestall any negative effects on crop yield.
“The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should ensure that farmers are properly educated and sensitised on the forecast so that whatever they do will be in line with the advice of the agency.
“The essence of the agency’s prediction, I think is to equip the government and the farmers with the requisite knowledge to ensure effective preparation ahead of the planting season.
“Yes, I heard about the prediction and I want to say that there should not be any cause for alarm; we are preparing and some of us that are yam farmers have started making the yam mounds.
”As soon as the first rain drops, we are going to plant our yams,” Ofoke said.
Another farmer, Mr Issac Nwebonyi, commended the agency for the annual rainfall prediction, which he said, had been useful to farmers in the preparation for the seasonal planting season.
Nwebonyi, a yam farmer, also from Izzi LGA, noted that yam farmers in the area especially those that cultivate on inland farms had begun in earnest to prepare for the 2023 planting season.
“We began making the mounds, especially those that are planted near the river banks in November and once the rain starts, we will plant the yams.
“There has been a shift in the weather system due to climate change brought about by development everywhere, buildings and all sorts are affecting the wind pattern, temperature and many other things.
“But, I’m hopeful that the early rain will not negatively affect crop yields; all that is important is for farmers to follow the advice of the agency and to leverage technology which is the in thing now,” Nwebonyi said.
Mr Ephraim Chukwu, an official of the Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria (CGAN), Ivo LGA branch, said that early rain would affect cassava yield adding that early rain would cause decay of the tubers.
He argued that farmers who planted cassava stems around May or June 2023 might encounter loss if the rain began in March.
“There will be low yield and many especially cassava farmers who are not using improved cassava stems will insure huge loss,” Chukwu said.
Meanwhile, efforts to speak with Mr Bassey Chima, Chairman of Ebonyi branch of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), were not successful but an official of the association who spoke off camera, said that early rain would not affect rice production in Ebonyi.
“There is now dry and wet season rice farming courtesy of technology and I can assure you that rice farmers in Ebonyi have adopted the new improved seedlings that enhance yield.
“What farmers need is regular sensitisation on the weather forecast to align and do their farming activities.
“Very soon, preparations for the year’s wet season rice planting activities will begin and I’m confident that the early rain which had been forecasted to begin in March will not affect crop yield,” the source said.
In Enugu, Mr Romanus Eze, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Enugu Chapter, said farmers in Enugu have started preparing their land for the farming season.
Eze said that farmers were doing such on their own without any government assistance adding that farmers in the state always had the culture to start land preparation from December till February, waiting for the early rain.
“That is why we advise farmers to ignore the light showers of rain that happened some days ago as this is the period for clearing of land with machines and other means.
“Clearing of land with machine for those who can afford it, now takes good effect because they will not encounter water logged area during this dry season.
“Preparing of land at this time gives room to easy planting of seeds as the early rain in March will soften the land as NiMet predicted,” he said.
Eze said that farmers in Enugu did not have improved variety of seeds and it affected their farm produce.
“We, farmers in Enugu, lack quality seeds and this is the time for any government that want to encourage farming will make arrangement for improved seeds.
“Any government that want to assist farmers makes arrangement with the seed council and get it at affordable price as this is the best time and period for such.
“The same thing is applied to fertiliser and other farm inputs so that with government assistance to the farmers, problem of food scarcity will be a thing of the past.
“Once, improved inputs are available, there is every tendency of farmers having bumper harvest for the state and country,” Eze said.
He decried lack of government assistance to farmers and urged the state and Federal Government to assist farmers, especially in Enugu so that they would have a good harvest.
Enugu witnessed its first rains on Jan. 28.