Fulani herdsmen

The Abia State Government has expressed worry over the activities of Fulani herdsmen, expressing warning that there would be crisis of food shortage in the state.

Commissioner for Agriculture Prof. Ikechi Mgbeoji who raised the concern in Umuahia, the state capital, said the menace of herdsmen and massive bush burning by hunters were to be blamed for shortage of cassava stems for planting, especially in Abia north.

Mgbeoji described the activities of herdsmen and some youths in the area who allegedly indulge in bush burning during hunting expeditions as “unscrupulous and unfortunate”.

“It is true that there is scarcity of cassava stems, especially the improved variety in Abia north.

“The reason is the massive bush burning and destruction of large farm lands in the area by cattle.

“Therefore, we should expect food crisis because farmers are finding it very difficult to get cassava stems for cultivation this farming season.”

The commissioner therefore appealed to farmers and youths of the area to be cautious, while preparing their farmlands for cultivation or during hunting expedition.

Mgboji expressed regrets that the ministry had no intervention for farmers due to the paucity of funds.

But farmers in the area who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the development, said that the scarcity of cassava stems posed serious constraint for them this current farming season.

Rev. Ernest Onyeukwu, who is into large scale farming in Item, said: “The most worrisome and man-made challenge facing us are the activities of herdsmen.”

Onyeukwu, who claimed to be a victim of the menace, accused the herdsmen of unleashing their cattle to people’s farmlands to destroy their crops every year.

“For instance, a large portion of my farm was recently ravaged completely by cattle.

“I could not believe my eyes when I went to farm one day and discovered that all I laboured for have been destroyed by cattle.

“I broke down and wept,” Onyeukwu, who is the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, said.

Mr Kalu Nmasinobi from Ohafia said that the scarcity was giving him sleepless nights, adding that he had yet to get enough stems for his farm and that of his mother.

“My mother was preparing her farmland for cultivation before she suddenly died last month.

“I also have mine but the regret is that I cannot get enough cassava stems for the two farms,” he said.

Other subsistence farmers in the area, Mr Ikechi Agbai, Kalu Ogbu and Mrs Chinyere Onyebuchi, described the development as “frustrating”.

They said that the scarcity had dampened their zeal to farm this season, describing cassava cultivation in the area as more predominant than other crops.

“We are agrarian communities so we farm a lot but I am getting discouraged this year because of this unfortunate situation we found ourselves.

“In this area, most subsistence farmers cultivate cassava every farming season because you are not only sure of feeding your family but it puts some income in your pocket,” Onyebuchi said.

The farmers also expressed the fear that the situation would spell food scarcity and hunger in future in the whole state, especially with the economic impact of COVID-19.

They appealed to the state government and the various research institutes in the state, especially the National Root Crop Research Institute and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, both in Umudike, near Umuahia, to urgently come to their rescue.