'Herdsmen Have Killed Me', Rice Farmer Cries
Bola, 43, is a rice farmer in Osun state, western Nigerian. She is counting her losses after investing over 800,000 Naira to cultivate 25 acres of land.
The sum was obtained as a loan and 90% of it has been lost to ravaging herds of cattle in Songbe, a community in Ola-Oluwa Local Government Area.
She had nurtured the rice farm for months till the time of harvest. Labourers were hired and harvest had started.
After harvesting few rice grains, on January 28 herdsmen came with their cattle to graze on the farm land while the labourers were still there.
The news of the havoc got to her and she ran down to her farm.
Bola could not hold back her tears, as she watched helplessly while cattle ravaged her labour and dream.
Counting her loss in tears, she said her expected return on investment was 3.665 million Naira.
An acre could produce one tonne of rice while each tonne would be sold for 145,000 Naira, amounting to 3.665 million from 25 acres, she said, giving a breakdown of her expected returns.
"I was called by my labourers that cattle have invaded my rice farm and I got there watching helplessly as they ruin my life. I was also threatened to be killed.
“All my 25 acres of rice farm were grazed by the cows. I spent about 800,000 Naira. I borrowed money here and there to cultivate the rice and I have to refund it.
“Most of them have been calling me to refund their money. This is my hope. I don’t know what to do," she said sobbing.
Bola is not the only farmer, whose land of agricultural treasure turned into a land of waste that only brings agony and pains.
Dele Banjo, another rice farmer in Songbe village, had to abandon his rice farm after he was attacked and chased out of his farm while harvesting his rice.
“The herdsmen were ready to attack me and there was nothing I could do than to leave the farm for them,” he said.
After the farm was ravaged, officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), arrested two suspects and subsequently held a meeting with herders’ association.
Operation feed the masses
These losses are coming at a time that the Nigerian government is making efforts to promote local production of rice in different states and had banned land importation of rice.
It had also established a loan scheme with the Central Bank of Nigeria targeted at rice farmers, with the focus on making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2019.
While these farmers count their losses, the average Nigerian looking to see the price of rice drop from 20,000 Naira per bag may have to wait for a longer time.
The expected produce from the farms could have reduced dependency on imported rice, which will eventually lead to drop in price of the grain which is the number one staple food to Nigerians.
The cost of eating a plate of rice in Nigeria is forcing many families to consider adopting a schedule for the days they eat rice - Sundays only - a practice that resonates with the older generation.
The Ekiti Policy
Circumstances like this have triggered demand for a national grazing policy that will check herdsmen and farmers clashes in different states.
While the national grazing policy is being awaited, the governor of neighbouring Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose in October 2016 began the enforcement of a policy aimed at stopping gazing on farm lands.
The Prohibition of Cattle and other Ruminants Grazing law restricts animal grazing to designated ranches within the state and between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm.
It stipulates arrest of any herdsmen that contravenes the law and his cattle.
Since the policy was enacted, there has not been any report of gazing on farm lands in the state or clash between herdsmen and farmers.