Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Eriwe Fish Farm Village, Ijebu-Ode, is probably one of the largest fish farms in Nigeria. With over 500 fish farmers and 150 earthen fishponds, the farm being operated under umbrella of Ijebu Development Initiative on Poverty Reduction (IDIPR), over the years, has served as means of livelihood to scores of entrepreneurs in and around Ijebu land.
Apart from providing jobs for unemployed graduates, youth and businessmen and women, the village has been a major supplier of protein needs as well as helping the country in its foreign exchange earnings, via export of processed fish to Europe and other countries.
But the means of livelihood was shattered on July 29, when flood wrecked havoc on Ijebu Ode and its environs. The downpour, which had begun gradually, descended heavily for hours and caused flash flooding. By the time it eventually subsided, Eriwe Fish Farm Village had been hit hard and thousands of fishes swept away.
No pond was spared by the flood, leaving all the 500 farmers with huge losses. In a rough estimate, fishes, both ready-to-harvest and mature worth of N300million were lost to the flood. Our correspondent gathered that one of the farmers who had intended to harvest and sell his fishes on Monday, July 30, lost all the fishes to the flood on Sunday.
When Daily Sun visited the farm, victims were seen lamenting their losses and salvaging what remained of their nearly empty fishponds.
Three of the farmers, Fatai Abiodun, Sina Alebiosu and Seun Adebayo, could not hold their emotions as they broke into tears, expressing grief over the huge debts incurred as a result of the disaster. Alebiosu claimed his over N8million worth of fishes were lost to the flood. He said the money he invested was the proceeds from the sale of his uncompleted building and two vehicles belonging to him and his wife.
Alebiosu who said he was looking forward to a bountiful harvest and profit, declared that the flood had ruined his means of livelihood totally and brought burden of huge debt on him.
For Adebayo, over 12,000 fishes in his four ponds were all swept away. He lamented that he was left with nothing but huge debt to be paid to producer of the fish feeds, customers who had deposited part payment and his workers who were waiting for their salaries.
The affected farmers under the aegis of Catfish and Allied Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN), bemoaned the great loss and appealed to both the federal and state governments to come to their aid. They lamented that the downpour of July 29 was not a blessing but harbinger of losses to them.
Spokespersons of the group, Sunday Talabi and Oluniyi Olukoga, noted that though the farm village had always been susceptible to flooding, only few ponds located close to Eriwe River were usually only affected. They added that they never envisaged that ponds sited at the upland area of the village could be affected with such magnitude.
They explained that when such flooding occurred in the past, the management of the farm settlement would only come to take pictures of the damage done and sympathise with them, without rendering any assistance to mitigate their sufferings.
Talabi submitted: “This latest incident is the worst ever experienced in the history of the over 20 years farm village and the loss is heavy and colossal.”
Chairman, CAFAN, Ogun State chapter, Pastor Sunday Isoma said: “Places that were usually not being affected in the village were all swept away while investment of many farmers were taken away by the ravaging flood.”
He disclosed that a meeting was held with the management of the IDIPR to find lasting solution to the annual flood problem in the past and it was recommended that Eriwe River should be dredged at the cost of N8million, the amount Isoma said could not be afforded by the fish farmers: “We even thought the board would assist us since we pay rent and insurance to them on our businesses, but they are not forthcoming.”
Isoma on behalf of the affected fish farmers, however, appealed to Governor Dapo Abiodun and the good people of Nigeria, to urgently save them from untimely death and huge debt as many of the farmers may not be able to survive the losses incurred.