We expected bountiful harvest but Fulani herders fed our crop to cows – Ekiti maize farmers

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In these interviews with ABIODUN NEJO, members of the Maize Growers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria in Ekiti State recount their woes, after Fulani herders allegedly invaded their multi-million naira maize farm on several hectares of land at Ago Aduloju forest. The farmers, who obtained loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria, say the invasion has shattered their hope of making profit and plunged them into debts

What is your name?

My name is Tope Emmanuel. I am the Secretary of the Maize Growers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria in Ekiti State.

When did the alleged invasion of the association’s maize farm by cattle happen?

This programme started last year. Early in the year, we came to the farm in company with CBN and Ecobank officials. It was when we got there on January 18 that we discovered that the farm had been destroyed by cattle. Majority of us felt dejected, disappointed and sad, particularly because the farms were cultivated with a loan facility. We knew we had been plunged into debts. We rushed to Amotekun and reported the incident.

How farmers are involved in this maize farming scheme?

A large number of people came out for maize farming under the (Federal Government’s) Anchor Borrowers’ programme but the Central Bank of Nigeria approved only 327 farmers. At the end of the day when the CBN gave out inputs, only 325 farmers benefitted.

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How much did the CBN put into the scheme?

When the programme started, the CBN gave us loans and appointed Ecobank as the middleman. Each farmer got N1.8m under the Economics of Production scheme. The N1.8m is a credit facility. All the needed farm inputs were supplied by the CBN and Ecobank.

What is the repayment plan for the loan?

When they gave us the facility, the instructions by the CBN was that we would not pay back in cash; they said we would pay back with our farm produce. Each of the 375 farmers was given a facility to cultivate one hectare of land. The plan is that each farmer would repay the facility with two tonnes (of maize) per hectare. In other words, a farmer who benefits from the scheme would deliver two tonnes of maize to the CBN as repayment for the loan.

What is the market value of the two tonnes of maize?

The current price of the commodity in the market is above N250,000 per tonne.

When was the first time cattle invaded the farm?

We had seen some were traces of cattle in the area, so we employed some guards. We were supposed to have harvested the maize, but for the prolonged drought. And unfortunately, it was when we wanted to harvest that the cattle came in and wreaked havoc.

Was the programme backed by any insurance scheme?

Yes, but the insurance only covers natural disaster; it does not cover destruction of farms by cattle.

With what has happened, what is the next step for you and your colleagues?

The destruction of this farm has put us in a difficult situation. In fact, there is no way we can describe how much this has affected us. Personally,this destruction has affected me so much; it devastated me. The farm was my life. I feed and pay bills from farming. Apart from affecting us, the farmers, it has also demoralised the young ones who are interested in farming. The young ones who have been coming to see us on the farm while we were working on the farm, passers-by who were impressed and a lot of people who were coming to register because of the success of the programme have all been disappointed.

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Apart from farming, what other business do you engage in?

For now, I do not do any other business. I am a full-time farmer. To be a successful farmer, one has to concentrate.

Can you put a value on your loss as an individual farmer?

Is there a way I can calculate what I put into the farm? Is it my effort that I can put a price on? Is it the money involved or the time or transport expenses? A lot of things were involved. A lot went into the farm.

Has government reached to you and your fellow farmers after this incident?

I want to appreciate the government. I am surprised by the steps taken so far by the government. When the government heard about this matter in the media, they rose to the occasion and sent officials to inspect the farm. When the delegations got there, they were surprised at what they saw – the size of the farm and the extent of destruction. In short, some of the delegation member almost shed tears.

What kind of intervention are you expecting from government?

I believe everything is in the hands of the government. We are at the mercy of the government. I believe the present administration will not leave us in this state of indebtedness. I believe that if the state government can compensate us for our loss. We need capital to start afresh. I beg the state government to look into this matter and help us. Again, I want to plead with government to put measures in place to prevent the continued destruction of farms by cattle.  This will go a long way to encourage people who are interested in venturing into farming and ultimately we can attain food security as a nation.

I broke down on seeing the ruins – Falana, MAGPAMAN member

What is your name?
My name is Adekunle Falana.

What is the size of your farm allegedly destroyed by cattle?

We have 120 hectares on one side. That was the side that we planted earlier and the crops had matured. The other side, which the drought slightly affected, is 60 hectares. But the cattle grazed on everything. To protect the farms, we had engaged the services of two guards – one retired soldier and another person. I joined them at times to ensure the security of the farm.

But how were the herders still able to invade your farm in spite of the security arrangement?

We engaged the services of five hunters to guard the farm pending when we would harvest, but the herders came at night with guns. The hunters could not face them and ran for their lives while the cattle feasted on our crops all night long. When the news filtered to our ears, we ran to Amotekun. But the cattle had completely destroyed our farm.

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When exactly was the farm invaded?

As of December 31, 2020, we were on the farm and nothing had happened to the farm. Everything started on January 18, 2021. When we noticed the presence of the herders and their destructive activities on the farm, we rushed to Amotekun, but bureaucracy slowed things down.

What was your reaction on seeing the destruction of the farm?

I collapsed. I was taken home. I could not walk again that day. People took me into the car and drove me home because I was shattered. Before that day, we had been sending videos and photographs of our crop, but I broke down on the farm that day on seeing the ruins. If I had seen a Fulani man that day, the worst would have happened.

You must have been expecting a lot of gains from the farm, to have felt that way.

They told us that the seeds given to us are high-yielding seeds. They said the seeds would give us eight tonnes of maize per hectare if we paid proper attention to the farm and followed necessary rules. I had dreamt of prosperity because CBN would take only two tonnes as repayment for the loan.  The profit margin was high, which was the remaining six tonnes – two tonnes per hectare. That was why we sat in the bush and toiled with our all might. I have no other job.

Now that the farm has been destroyed, how are you coping?

Right now, I have no means of feeding my family. And this happened at a time I have children in school. It has compounded my problem. This is not the first time that cattle would destroy my farm – two years ago when I went to the (government) anti-grazing unit to lodge a report, we were messed up. The cattle that destroyed our crops were from around the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti area. They were not from outside. I am really devastated by this destruction. If I had seen any of the herders when I went to the farm, it could have been another story. I have no other hope. I had seen this year as my year of breakthrough, especially with the bountiful harvest we had expected. But everything went down the drain just like that. The farm was my hope; I have nothing else and we are already indebted.

What is CBN’s reaction to the destruction of the farm?

When CBN officials came, they advised us to get security guards for the farm to protect the remaining, but the guards could not withstand the herders, and they destroyed the farm completely.

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What is your name?

My name is Mrs Racheal Oke.

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 When did you venture into farming?

I have been a farmer from time; I ventured into this maize farming scheme because of its profit prospect. We were given a special variant of maize and we put our all into this scheme.

Was the farm doing well before it was destroyed by cattle?

Yes, the farm did well. Despite the effect of the rains, the farm was a huge success but herdsmen fed their cows with our crops, the sweat of our labour. The farm was invaded at the stage of harvest, after we had put a lot of effort into the cultivation. Cattle invaded the farm and destroyed it. It is tragic.

You described the farm as a huge success, meaning you were expecting a good harvest.

Yes, from what we saw the last time we visited before the invasion, we were expecting a huge profit, which we had projected to make from the farm. We were already looking at repaying the CBN loan that we obtained; we were dreaming of getting what we will use for the next planting season and as well promoting farming in the state through the expected abundant harvest and resources. But here we are, all disappointed. This is a great loss. When we got to the farm and saw the ruins, we were very sad.

In what ways do you think government should help you and your fellow farmers?

All the money and effort we put into the farm have gone to waste; we need assistance. We are appealing to government to compensate us so that we can get money for another planting season. Such a gesture would encourage those whose interest in farming is already waning. My appeal to government is to help us, so that we will be able to farm next planting season.

Are you considering any alternative means, in case government fails to render any assistance to you and your colleagues?

It will be very disappointing if we don’t get any help from government. The government is always imploring people to go into farming because that is the only way the country can achieve food security. Food is the main thing. So, we look up to government for assistance.

But some people have expressed doubt about your claim that cattle invaded and destroyed your farm, saying your claim is merely a ploy to get money from government.

This is a physical thing. Anybody can go there and see. So many people have been there to see things for themselves. The CBN and Ecobank officials were there. So many people were there and have seen it for themselves.

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