The flood that ravaged many states last year has receded but its impact on affected farmers lingers. JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI tells the stories of victims
People living in lowland areas are not new to flooding, because it is a perennial occurrence. However, last year’s flood which ravaged many parts of the country was unprecedented. Many roads were washed off and rendered impassable while the flood lasted. Many became homeless as their houses were taken over by the flood. Farmlands were submerged in water, leaving farmers who have invested their life savings to count their losses.
Although the flood has receded, those affected, especially farmers, have yet to recover from the havoc it wreaked. The challenges of the flood victims were further compounded because they did not hedge against their losses. Most of those affected had no insurance coverage for their farms. Their fate was hanging in the balance as they looked forward to help from the government and other well-spirited Nigerians.
Mohammed Sule was full of optimism as the harvest period of his 60,000 fish drew near in the middle of October.
“My clients who include hotels in Lokoja and Abuja, eateries, and roasted fish sellers had all been contacted and the October 15 date had been fixed for the first batch harvest,” the Kogi State Chairman of Fish Farmers Association, Mohammed Sule, told our correspondent in an interview.
According to him, “I have a very large farm that can take up to 100,000 fish. This time around, I stocked it with 64,000 fish. Before the flood, they were four to five months old. I was looking forward to the October 15 harvest date. I had already contacted interested buyers. None of the fish was less than 900 grams. Unfortunately, the flood came. At first, I tried to cover the pod with a net, but within 24 hours, the farm was overtaken by flood. That was how I lost everything I had invested.”
Sule estimated his loss to the flood to be between N3m and N4m. He said, “The flood also affected all the fish farmers in my locality because most fish farms are located in the riverine areas. There are people who lost more than I. So, from the report I got from my members, we collectively lost over N500m across the state.
“We are not expecting any help from any quarter. We just have to start all over. We just have to start looking for money to go back into the business. The fishes we are producing are not even enough for consumption in Lokoja alone, let alone the whole state. That is why you see that fish are brought from Ibadan, Lagos, and other states. Before now, we have been battling with the high cost of fish and with the flood; you can imagine what the farmers would be going through. Some people even invested their feeding money, which has gone down the drain.”
He claimed that the impact of the flood has been devastating on fish farmers in Kogi State. “Those of us who have invested so much were thinking that at the end of October, we would be smiling to the bank. It has become a mere wishful thinking. Up till now, I have not been able to return, though the flood has receded.”
The Kogi State Chairman of Fish farmers Association also disclosed that he lost over N50m to the flood in Koton-karfe in Kogi Local Government Area of the state.
Sule disclosed that he and members of his association have not received any help from the government, individuals or corporate organisations. Sule said aside from a bag of 10 kg rice sent by an organisation, which he did not collect, no help whatsoever has come from anywhere in spite of several attempts to seek for assistance.
He said, “In my farm, I have a lot of people I was training. They included N-power, National Directorate of Employment and the Hydro Power Producing Areas Development Commission trainees. Each of them sent in 50 or more people to me for training. So, the government is fully aware of our activities, but no one has approached us with an offer of assistance.”
Similarly, Hassan Jimgba Mohammed said he invested over N6m in his rice, corn, and cassava farms in Obangede village, Koton-Karfe.
According to him, most of the fund was invested in a100-acre farm, which has gone down the drain.
“As I speak, none of my children is in school as I cannot afford to pay their school fees. The banks are on my neck and there has not been any hope of getting any assistance either from the government, individual or corporate organisations. My family and I are in a terrible situation. We are calling on the government to come to our aid; otherwise, I may not be able to go back to farming because there is no hope anywhere.”
He also disclosed that he invested N1.5m in rice and cassava farms. According to him, it was close to the harvest season that the flood wreaked havoc. “I lost everything as my farm was covered with water,” he stated.
“Unless some miracles happen or if the government comes to my aid, I may not be able to return to farming.”
TheKogi State Commissioner of Information, Kingsley Fanwo, explained relief materials have been dispatched to critically affected areas such as Ibaji, Lokoja and Koton-Karfe.
“We have structured our intervention programme into three: pre-flood, during the flood, and post-flood intervention. Part of the post-flood intervention is to work for three international organisations. We have well-structured intervention plans with them to support victims and it had been working well. Quite a number of victims have been rehabilitated. May be those you spoke to have not been lucky enough to get theirs. I am assuring them that they are in the picture of our plans and would be captured.
“Also, we also have plans with the Ministry of Agriculture charged with the responsibility of getting food to flood-prone areas such as Ibaji, Koto, and parts of Lokoja, where the impact of the flood was most pronounced,” he said.
The commissioner disclosed that the Ministry of Finance has also been mandated to assist the farmers, liaising with banks with a view to renegotiating their loans.
“You know that before you can do this, the farmers have to be profiled to know genuine victims. In the coming weeks, the profiling would have been completed. So, let us be patient. They would be attended to.
“Apart from providing palliatives, we are also embarking on an aggressive enlightenment campaign to enable farmers to be adequately informed about the dangers of flood and how to prepare before it arrives.”
In 2016, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom introduced a work-free day for workers in the state to enable them to engage in farming activities. The work-free day was always declared at the beginning of planting season from June to August and during the harvest period, which in most cases lasts between November and January. The policy has helped many workers to face the current economic downturn that has made the regular payment of salaries a major challenge in the state.
Our correspondent learnt that based on this policy, many people including artisans and workers in private sectors within the state have embraced farming to cushion the effects of the current economic lull. In addition, it was gathered that many people also used the opportunity to obtain loans from financial institutions to invest in middle and large-scale farming.
For the past few years, both professional and subsistence farmers have had good testimonies for their investment until this year when many hectares of farmlands were submerged by flood. Farmers were left to count their losses.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency had in September 2022 warned of a high amount of rainfall, which may trigger flooding in some states based on the rainfall distribution recorded in the country in July and August 2022.
Benue State was among the states at a high risk of flooding in North Central. However, no one envisaged the magnitude of the havoc it eventually wrecked as many houses and peoples’ livelihoods within Makurdi and other 11 local government areas of the state were buried in the water. Statistics from the State Emergency and Management Agency showed that 14,040 hectares of farmland were reportedly washed away.
Further checks revealed that rice farmers were the worst hit by this year’s flooding since the crops are mostly planted around swampy areas.
Benue Farmers Lament
Our correspondent spoke to some farmers in the state on the lamentation of the affected farmers and the havoc the flood wreaked on their farms as well as its devastating effects on their families, the state, and the country as a whole.
One of the commercial farmers, Vitalis Tarnongo who planted rice behind the University of Agriculture, Makurdi in Guma local government area of the state is not a happy man having lost over N60 million worth of rice plantation to flooding.
According to him, the rice crops had grown fast and were already yielding good seeds when the flood came and washed away about 170 hectares of rice farm leaving him to lick his wounds.
“This year’s flooding was terrible and devastating because the whole 175 hectares of land where I planted rice was completely submerged.
“The economics of production stand at N364,000 per hectare translating to the sum of N63,700,000, so you can see a great loss I have incurred and this is really affecting me,” Tarnongo said.
Also lamenting the pain caused by the flood is the organizing secretary of the State Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Sam Yuwa who said that everything now was at standstill.
Yuwa said that he lost 19.4 hectares of rice farm to the flooding having invested close to N7m and was on the verge of insuring it when the flood came and washed away the farm.
At the moment, Yuwa is in a fix, he is running helter-skelter on how to pay the loan incurred and meet family needs.
He said, “I had about 23 hectares of farm rice but 19.4 hectares were in deep swamps which were flooded, I was preparing to insure the crop because I had filled the form remaining to submit it and was preparing to pay the money when the flood came.
When asked to quantify his loss in monetary terms, Yuwa said, “the economics of production was N355,000 per hectare, so if you multiply it is in millions that went down the drain.
“At the moment, I don’t know what to do next because, if not for the flooding by now, I should start harvesting. But right now, I don’t know how to get money to pay back the loan I invested into the farm.
“I cannot deceive you; it is quite tough for me now because paying fees for my children in the university, and meeting other pressing needs like maintenance of my vehicle and others have been so difficult. Everything is just at a standstill”, Yuwa lamented.
On the part of Jila Barnabas, an artisan made use of the state government work free day policy to turn a farmer at Tse Tyohemba, Modern Market Ward, Makurdi Local Government Area, Benue State.
Unlike the mechanised farmers who have access to loans and invested a huge amount of money in big-time farming, Barnabas only cultivates a few hectares of farms to support his family’s needs and to make little money.
According to him, what he cultivated this year was about six hectares of farmland where he planted rice but lamented that everything was washed away.
He said, “I ventured into farming due to the state government policy of work free day for workers, though am not a civil servant but with the harsh economy, and when I saw some of my colleagues going into farming and giving good testimonies of what they make after harvest I decided to go into farming three years ago to support myself.
“Last year I planted about two hectares of rice and cassava and it yielded good seeds and made a lot of money after harvest, so this year I have to increase my farm size from two hectares to six and was excited when the crop grew very well and was expecting a good harvest.
“Unfortunately, the flood came and washed away everything, making me lose not only my time but also my investment.
Barnabas appealed to state and federal governments to come to their aid by granting them grants to cushion the effects of the flood.
He noted that there may be severe hunger in the coming year following this year’s flooding that ravaged some states of the federation except that the government pays attention to dry season farming.
The State chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigerian, Aondoana Saku, lamented the impact of this year’s flooding in the state and expressed concern about the possible hunger that may hit the nation next year except the government do the needful by assisting farmers during irrigation farming.
“The reason some of us take to farming is to be able to pay our bills, we were contending with the herders’ problem and now flooding.
“We have lost so much to this flood that we can not quantify for now but I will appeal to the government both at the state and federal level to help farmers if the government can make the grant available to us especially as we are going into the dry season and if the government can encourage irrigation farming,” the State AFAN chairman said.
Farmers in Bayelsa State are bemoaning their losses to the recent 2022 floods, which devastated their means of livelihood. While some of them expected the disaster, others did not.
Many of them lost several farms to the catastrophe. They are afraid that the overwhelming destruction of farms by the flooding incident will cause more hunger and poverty in the months ahead as feeding will be difficult.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, one of the farmers, Brighten Oku, said the floods gravely affected his cassava farms and plantain plantation. According to him, the damage caused by the massive floodwaters will worsen food insecurity and increase hardship in the society.
He said, “I planted cassava and plantain. The floods came unexpectedly. It took me unawares and my farms were affected. We could not salvage all our crops. It was difficult for us to harvest many of them. So I lost more than half of my crops to the floods.
“And I know that with the Nigerian situation, with the bad economy, almost all farmers depend on their farms for survival; and the cost of living is high; things are costly in the market and we will find a lot of difficulty in terms of foodstuffs, and getting money to buy things in the market is a serious problem. Worst still, you can’t even get your crops to eat. So, it’s a very difficult situation.”
Quantifying his loss in monetary terms, Oku disclosed that he lost over N500,000 to the devastation, adding that he would not be able to recover the huge loss.
“Though I am not a commercial farmer, I have lost over N500,000 worth of crops and it is difficult to recover from the loss. And I am not certain of getting any loan because it is not easy for a farmer like me to access loans in this country. In the Nigerian system, you know; loans are not given to farmers. As it is now, I have to seek financial assistance from relatives and also borrow on an interest basis to be able to buy cassava stems and plantain suckers, and other things I need to begin planting again.
“It is, therefore, very necessary for the government to look into the suffering of farmers, not just myself. If you look around, everywhere was covered by the floods and everybody is suffering as of today.
“So, we expect that the government should do something in terms of soft loans to farmers; they should help us form co-operatives to enable us access loans so that we can fall back on the government to sustain our farming occupation,” he added.
Another farmer, Rita Etemu, said, “The flood affected me very badly. I lost everything on my farms. I am an applicant and I have four cassava farms. I could not harvest much after the floods submerged my farms. I harvested just a little.
“Even the cassava that I was able to harvest with my family, we harvested them inside water and because we could not get a canoe or boat to take them away early, some of them got rotten inside the water and we could not carry them again. That’s how we lost a good quantity of our cassava.”
She said she had started farming early in order for her to also carry out early harvest before the water level will rise in the next rainy season, lamenting that the signs of hunger were already noticeable.
Etemu added, “There will be hunger. In fact, hunger has started. We are already feeling it. In some of my four cassava farms, I could not harvest anything. The four farms are more than two hectares of land, and that means I lost over N1m. Because if I am able to harvest one acre and the cassava tubers are big, I might sell an acre for more than N100,000.”
Like Oku, she also appealed to the government to come to the aid of farmers so that the shortage of food caused by the floods can be solved.
“If the government can assist farmers like us, it will be nice; I mean they should help farmers financially with loans to get farming materials and cassava stems. Government should come to our rescue.
“Devoted farmers are ready to cope with farming despite the flood disaster that destroyed farms and crops, and we believe that as far as there is life, there is hope. We can’t give up on life. Only lazy people give up on life. I know that once there is life, if you plant, you will reap because I believe the floods cannot happen every year.”
Also, Galilee Ade, said she was yet to come to terms with the loss she incurred as a result of the flood catastrophe that impacted her three farms.
She said, “I don’t know how to describe the flood and how it affected my plantain plantation and cassava farms. Like this farm where we are, I could not harvest all the crops when the floodwaters covered it. I have another farm inside that got totally submerged and I could not pick anything away by way of harvesting.
“I was discouraged (by the disaster) but people encouraged me to resume farming and have hoped that things will be better. I don’t have the power to do farm work. I have children and school fees to pay so I can’t sit down and fold my hands and watch them unable to go to school, keeping them at home.
“I was hoping that this year, when I harvest my crops, I will be able to sell and get some money to give to them to go to school as (ASUU) strike has been suspended and the floods have receded for them to resume school. Now my plantain and cassava crops that I hoped I would have harvested and sold to sponsor the children have been destroyed by the floods. I am just encouraged to farm again, hoping on God.”
When asked how she and her children are managing to survive in the midst of the losses, Ade said, “It is by the grace of God. This year, people that did not farm will cry over the lack of cassava flakes. Myself that also laboured will also cry for hunger.
“But anyhow, as long as we are alive, we are hopeful. That’s why I am encouraging myself to work on my farms again after the floods dried up just to make sure we don’t suffer too much.”
Speaking on the issue, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, Tope Adaramole, said insurance is one of the ways by which risks are mitigated, and when looking at the extent of damage occasioned by flooding in several states of the federation, it calls for farmers to be more circumspect.
He said, “Farmers should be more circumspect in ensuring their farm produce, as well as everything used for farming purpose because whatsoever would make you lose your sleep, it is best you insure it. However, for farmers to be able to maximise their insurance, there is a need for them to engage the services of registered insurance brokers.
“A lot of people have horrible stories to tell because they do not patronize insurance brokers who are the professional intermediaries in the insurance value chain, they are the ones that unlock the technicalities of insurance to farmers, educating them about what they are supposed to insure, how they are supposed to insure, with whom you are supposed to insure, and when a loss occurs, how such farmer would make a claim.
“Insurance brokers are like lawyers; this is my advice to farmers as a precaution against subsequent damages that may come as a result of weather, overflow of water, fire, drugs, and even outbreak of diseases. This is because, when talking about agriculture, you are talking about every department of it including agronomy and animal husbandry. Agric-insurance is a special type of insurance composed of specialised insurance experts, you necessarily do not need to know everything about insurance, but when you know a broker and are ready to go along with the broker, you will not just know insurance, you will be able to maximise insurance.”
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