Is Farming Now A Risky And Dangerous Practice?

Security, Stories 30/11/2020 by Sidney Dooyum Ahura

The Ordeals of a Benue Rice Farmer

First update on 18th November 2020, Facebook

I got a parcel of land at the Lower Benue River Basin Layout, somewhere after Wadata here in Makurdi where l cultivated six hectares of rice.

While we were preparing the land until planting, Fulani herdsmen and their cow roamed the area freely. But the locals assured me that as soon as planting begins, the herdsmen will retreat to the riverside until after harvest.

If this can be happening here in the State capital then what can we say about the gains of the anti-open grazing law?

Truly, after I planted, I never set eyes on them again until news started filtering on Monday that the herdsmen have returned and are aggressively eating up rice farms yet to be cultivated.

On the same Monday, I learnt men of the Benue State Life Stock Guard came to the area and arrested hundreds of cows that were grazing the area. But it seems that only infuriated them.

I got to my farm yesterday to begin harvesting and noticed a small part of my farm had been eaten up. Well, I thanked God that it wasn’t much. Harvesting began immediately.

Today I got there in the morning to see that over a hectare of my farm was eaten up by cows yesterday evening. And just now, I got another call that the herdsmen have returned to graze in my farm.

If this can be happening here in the State capital then what can we say about the gains of the anti-open grazing law?

These herdsmen are boldly wreaking havoc here in the State capital. Is it that they don’t know we have a law against open grazing or could it be that they believe the law has little or no force?

People are being encouraged to go into farming by the government, but with such happenings as this, many who have delved into it will sooner or later retreat.

God save Benue State from these evil elements who consider the welfare of their cattle of greater importance than the welfare of men.

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Second Update on 21 November 2020, Facebook

The cows grazed on the entire length and breadth of the farm. There is no portion of the six hectares they didn’t graze on.

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Like I said earlier, I was at my rice farm last Wednesday morning to see that about two hectares of rice had been destroyed by cows. After I left the farm, I got another call by the afternoon that the herdsmen had returned with more cows to graze on my rice.

As a result, my harvesters had to leave the farm since their safety was not guaranteed. Now, I couldn’t go to the farm that Wednesday to see the extent of damage. I also traveled first thing on Thursday so I was only opportune to see the damage on friday morning.

The cows grazed on the entire length and breadth of the farm. There is no portion of the six hectares they didn’t graze on. While grazing on the farm, what they didn’t eat, they trampled down. Making it difficult for what was left to be harvested so the harvesters left.

My farm manager got 7 new people who agreed to glean the farm so as to mitigate my losses. Amongst them are 4 Hausa boys. We hoped that with the Hausa boys on ground, they’ll be able to talk the herdsmen out of running over the farm, if they decide to return.

Unfortunately, I got a call few moments ago from my farm manager that the Hausa boys on the farm called him to tell him the herdsmen have returned and that they have tried to appeal to them to leave but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

I have written a complaint addressed to the Agro Rangers and Life Stock Guard Commanders which I intend to submit on Monday. Please find below pictures and videos of the state of the farm before and after the herdsmen invasion.

In all this, I rest in the fact that God is able to restore my losses through one way or another. In God I trust.

Third Update on 21 November 2020, Facebook

I hope the government is able to make the herdsmen pay for this evil. Maybe the arrested cows should be auctioned to compensate farmers in that area whose farms were destroyed.

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Benue Farmer, Sidney Dooyum Ahura

I just got back from the farm this evening and I wish I could just raise my voice and cry but my lifetime budget for tears is quite slim so there isn’t enough to shed for this.

There are a few reasons why my pain is much. Let me mention some of them.

  1. This is the first time I am farming in my life. So experiencing this on my first attempt makes it heart aching.
  2. I can’t remember ever physically exerting myself in any endeavour like I did on this farm. I mean, I have trekked for hours (sometimes on bare feet), waded through waters, been hours under the sun, fallen from a bike, carried heavy loads, etc. To see it wasted at the end is heavy to bear.
  3. The financial investment is substantial. The investment on those six hectares is about N1,000,000.00. If I knew it would end this way, I would have invested it into something else. But alas, I didn’t know.
  4. I already saw the harvest and looked forward to laying hold on it before it was wasted. If the rice hadn’t started producing grains before it was wasted, my pain would’ve been less. But I saw it, and couldn’t take it. That’s sad.
  5. One of the Hausa speaking guys working on gleaning what’s left on the farm said he engaged the herdsmen to find out why they were destroying my farm, and they told him it’s because the Benue State Life Stock Guards arrested their cows in the area two weeks ago. So they are out for revenge. I’m suffering vicariously. The tin pain sha. I hope the government is able to make the herdsmen pay for this evil. Maybe the arrested cows should be auctioned to compensate farmers in that area whose farms were destroyed.
  6. I had taken an insurance policy with the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) but when they were reached on account of this issue, they said their policy doesn’t cover for such issues as herdsmen destruction of crops. It was a useless cover after all.

Las las, God dey and He is able to restore. As God gives me life and resources, I will still get land in a better location, preferably away from Makurdi to farm rice next year. I’m pained, but I am not giving up.

Fourth Update on 22 November 2020, Facebook

Of a truth, these guys believe this land belongs to them. They also believe the lives of their cattle is far more important than human life.

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I was at the farm again today to the workers gleaning my farm so that I can at least have something to take home.

While I was there, two herds of cattle came to graze on the farm right before our eyes. These guys are audacious. They act as though they are the landlords and are some tenants of sort.

I took one of the Hause speaking guys to work my farm to go and engage them. After they spoke plenty Hausa for some time, the Fulani guys agreed to lead the cows away.

Let no one deceive you, the herdsmen are alive and well in Makurdi. They are blatantly defying the anti-open grazing prohibition law.

Of a truth, these guys believe this land belongs to them. They also believe the lives of their cattle is far more important than human life.

I think the Government needs to consider selling off some of the arrested cows to compensate the farmers whose farms have bee destroyed in that area.

God bless Benue State.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Fifth Update on 23 November 2020, Facebook

Meanwhile, with the attitude of the Makurdi Commander of the Life Stock Guards, I am wondering what to expect from them.

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Today I submitted my complaint to the office of the State Commander, of the Benue State Life Stock Guards concerning the destruction of my rice farm by cattle.

I also submitted a copy of the letter to the commander of the Agro Rangers, which is a division under the Life Stock Guards. I then copied the Executive Governor of Benue State and the State Commissioner of Police.

At the office of the Life Stock Guards, I was given the phone number of the Makurdi Commander. I was told to call him when next cows come by my farm. Not so long after, I got news that cows were on my farm.

Then I called the Makurdi Commander, but he didn’t sound ready for action. He told me to give him a moment and he will consult with the State Commander and get back to me.

He didn’t get back to me for more than an hour. Then I called him again, by this time, I had arrived the farm and seen over 100 cows grazing on the farm (or should I say land, since they’ve eaten up the farm).

To my utter dismay, the Makurdi Commander told me that the State Commander isn’t in town so he won’t be able to act on the information. That he can’t make any move without a directive from the State Commander.

I was dumbfounded to say the least. Well, I had to go try to talk to the herdsmen to leave my farm space. Unfortunately, the guy who normally used to talk to them for me in Hausa was not on ground. I did my best to ask him to leave.

Then I removed my phone to make a video. Then he started talking aggressively at me in Hausa. I couldn’t hear what he said, but his gestures indicated he was angry I was covering the cows on camera.

Well, he refused to leave the farm. So I left it for him and went. That’s how far it went today. The battle to glean what is left of the rice is seeming more challenging by the day. I am wondering if it is worth it after all.

Meanwhile, with the attitude of the Makurdi Commander of the Life Stock Guards, I am wondering what to expect from them. Las las, dia is God.

Sixth Update on 24 November 2020, Facebook

But wait, is it the anti-open grazing prohibition law that is a scam or it is its implementation? Benue, which way?

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I was at the farm today at about 1 pm and saw herds of cattle that may number up to a thousand. They were being shepherded by about 7 Fulani guys.

They occupied the farmland while I watched by the corner like a bystander. Today, I didn’t utter a word, neither did I go close to make a video. I had to stay far away to zoom so I could capture them grazing.

Again, I called the head of the Benue State Life Stock Guards, in charge of Makurdi Local Government Area but he didn’t pick my call. I texted his number to relate the situation to him but he hasn’t responded up till now.

The cows were there for three solid hours. I closed with my workers and still left them there. They graze without fear. They act like the landowners.

But wait, is it the anti-open grazing prohibition law that is a scam or it is its implementation? Benue, which way?

Seventh Update on 26 November 2020, Facebook

I had to stay in the car to make the video today because the herdsmen normally get angry when they see you with your phone facing them.

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It’s taking a lot of effort to glean what is left after the herdsmen devastation of my rice farm.

I am hoping I will be able to recover a quantity that at least equals the seed I planted.

Thankfully, we should be out of the farm by Friday. The money I have had to spend gleaning the farm seems to be more than the worth of what we are getting, but it’s well.

I just want to be able to know that I took something home after all the months of intense laborious farming activities.

I had to stay in the car to make the video today because the herdsmen normally get angry when they see you with your phone facing them.

May the Lord deliver us from this siege even as He grants us restoration from our losses. Amen

Eighth Update on 27 November 2020, Facebook

We are under a siege as it appears. Drastic actions need to be taken by the government to contain these evil elements or there may be more tales of woes to come.

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For some days now, I have been feeling very strained due to working long hours in a dry, sunny and dusty terrain since last week, so yesterday I asked one of my guys to go monitor the workers for me so that I could rest and join them later.

When I got to the farm, I saw that he parked his bike too far away from where it could be monitored. So I asked him to go and bring his bike closer. On getting there, he saw that the filter on his bike was removed and fuel was left gushing out.

He immediately switched off the carburettor to save his fuel. And guess what? A Fulani boy watching over his cows was the only human around the vicinity. He asked the Fulani guy why he spoilt his bike but he denied that he wasn’t the one.

Later, one of my workers saw the same boy bring out the filter from his pocket and hid it back. Well, we had to send to town to buy what he had removed to be able to move the bike out of there yesterday.

These guys are actually out to cause trouble in any way they can. We are under a siege as it appears. Drastic actions need to be taken by the government to contain these evil elements or there may be more tales of woes to come.

Meanwhile, I got a call from a man who introduced himself to me as the Commander of the Agro Rangers. He told me they’re working on my complaint and they’ll get back to me. My fingers are crossed. I hope for the best. God restores!

Ninth Update on 29 November 2020, Facebook

In everything, we thank God that we could have that much to take home. Someone whose farm share boundary with mine didn’t take grain out of his four hectares of rice.

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After almost two weeks of gleaning, we were able to cart away with 10 bags of rice from what was supposed to be six hectares of rice all ready for harvest.

In everything, we thank God that we could have that much to take home. Someone whose farm share boundary with mine didn’t take grain out of his four hectares of rice.

Meanwhile, I was called to the office of the Benue State Life Stock Guards on Friday (27-11-2020) but I am still trying to process what transpired with regards to my complaint letter to them concerning the herdsmen destruction of my farm.

When I put the pieces together, I will make a post about it here. But like I said before, Benue is under a siege by these herdsmen and drastic measures need to be taken to contain them or more farmers will have more tales of woes to share in future.

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