Farmers in Bauchi State have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the State Government handled the issue of incentive distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
They stressed that most of the incentives like fertilizers, agro-chemicals and other agricultural inputs did not get to the right farmers, particularly those in the rural areas, during the period.
This was made known at a virtual meeting of farmers and stakeholders in Bauchi State on Tuesday, August 25, organised by the West African Network for Peace-building (WANEP) in collaboration with Oxfam.
The WANEP staff who moderated the meeting, Osariemen Amas Edobor, noted that it became imperatives for farmers and stakeholders in Bauchi State to meet and discuss issues affecting them because most often they lack the platform to share their difficulties.
Entitled “The emerging challenges in agriculture and appropriate action by the Bauchi State government,” the meeting was intended to provide an avenue for farmers to identify and discuss the impact of COVID-19 on farming activities; shed light on what government can do to alleviate challenges facing farmers, and how to get farmers involved in such plans; as well as to create a platform for information exchange between farmers, the state government and relevant agencies on their roles in sustaining food security and mitigating the impact of challenges faced by farmers in the state.
In his goodwill message, the representative of Oxfam said he was impressed by the level of commitment and zeal from the Bauchi State Government, farmers and stakeholders, even as he thanked WANEP for putting together such a wonderful idea.
He described the challenges posed by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic as the new normal, insisting that the conversation was timely.
Appraising the farmers’ challenges during the lockdown, a farmer and civil servant, Abubakar Jafar, lamented that the agro-inputs like agro-chemical which used to be affordable suddenly skyrocketed beyond the reach of the local farmers during the period.
He added that apart from the high cost of the agro-inputs, they were not in the market, and that made farmers buy inputs that were not genuine. ‘This affected the farmers’ productive output. So, there is a need for farmers to have adequate inputs at all times,’ he suggested.
For Dr Rose Danladi, a majority of the Bauchi citizens faced food and nutrition insecurity during the lockdown due to poor concept of what food really is, as well as the relationship between food and health.
She also decried the absence of extension agent to provide capacity for farmers during the period even as she suggested that loan and credit scheme should be regulated to be able to get to the target farmers. ‘A lot of money has been expended but they go in the wrong direction. Farm inputs should also be located close to farming communities,’ she added.
Aishatu Kaptan Musa lamented that the lockdown led to the late clearing of farmlands due to the restriction of movement; a development she said would affect output this year.
She also decried the high cost of labour, farming tools and also hiring of veterinary doctors.
Dr Istifanus Irmiya lamented the outrageous cost of feed, whereas Ahmed Wakili noted the effect of the pandemic on irrigation farmers, whose activities coincided with the lockdown.
However, on the support by the state government, participants from Tafawa Balewa and Ningi Local Government Areas said they never received any kind of incentive from the state government. Others said the only incentive from the state government was an increased awareness about the pandemic.
Yau Mohammad disagreed with participants from Tafawa Balewa and Ningi as he insisted that government distributed fertilizers, agro-chemicals and seeds to thousands of farmers in all the 20 local government areas of the state.
The Special Adviser to the Bauchi State Governor on Agriculture and Guest Speaker, Iliyasu Aliyu Gital, insisted that government did a lot for farmers during the pandemic but lamented that it was difficult to reach farmers individually as a lot of organisations were involved in the distribution.
He suggested that farmers should form associations so that they could be targeted as an association instead of individuals, noting that through that means distribution would go round without any rancour.
‘We must ensure that farmers go through the association to get what is due to them. They must come together as a unit trying to build themselves economically, not just to get an incentive from the government,’ he said.