Tension As Fulani Herdsmen Invades Cross River, Chased Farmers Away, Destroyed 250 Hectares of Cassava
Obanliku local government area of Cross River State has lost over 250 hectares of Cassava farmlands to Fulani Herdsmen in the last 6 months.
This was disclosed by Venerable Augustine Oqua (JP), Chairman, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, Cross River State Chapter, who said the disaster has contributed to the hike of garri price in the market. “We have cultivated over 250 hectares of cassava in Obanliku Local Government Area but we can not account for it because of Herdsmen”, he said.
Oqua stated this during the launch of the Commercialisation of Biofortified Crops, including cassava by Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and HarvestPlus in collaboration with other stakeholders on May 18 in Calabar.
He added that: “The known challenge that we have that is plaguing cassava farmers is the herdsmen… We are talking about the commercialised nature, either of the biofortified or even the white cassava. When you talk of commercialisation, we are talking about from 5 hectares and above. And now the challenge we are having is the challenge of the herdsmen. The herdsmen issue is a major problem. When somebody spends money to cultivate 5 hectares, then at the end of the day you have nothing to show for it. So we want to appeal to the government because on our own we cannot do it. For us to be able to meet that commercialised nature, the issue of herdsmen needs to be addressed. Then also, the issue of land. No individual will have the ability to have to himself 5 hectares or more for the commercialised nature.
“The issue of herdsmen has really affected our production. In Cross River State as I speak, we have a lot of challenges of herdsmen, especially in the northern Cross River area. That has really affected our production. That is why garri can go as far as N100 a cup. The government needs to be very proactive concerning this issue of herdsmen. Let them have ranches. Let them buy land. Even in Cross River State, I am not against us having ranches. They are Nigerians. We can accommodate them, but let their cows be in ranches, not scattered all over the place. So, it’s a big challenge to us”
Venerable Oqua said the commercialisation of biofortified cassava and other crops is a welcome development in Cross River. “Well, indeed it is a privilege for Cross River State to be among the states to picked as those to multiply this biofortified cassava because of the nutritious content of the cassava. Cross River State has been positioned as the number one producer of cassava in the world, but we have not really taken advantage of what we have because of (i) the variety that we cultivate… If we are talking about food security and nutrition, which is the essence of this programme, I think the biofortified cassava is a welcomed idea because what we have been eating in time past, the white cassava that we have been eating – not that it’s bad, but the processing method, makes it very difficult and unhealthy. The way we produce it here, we don’t allow it to ferment to remove the cyanide content. We just get from the farm, we pill, after peeling, we begin to fry and sell. It is not healthy. That is why you find out that our old women add oil just to give it that fortified nature of vitamin A because of the oil. Now, through research, we have been able to include that vitamin A into the cassava so that you don’t need to add oil again. We want to encourage both the state and local governments and the farmers themselves to go for the biofortified cassava because of the nutritious content. It helps to build our immune system. Even for the children, the pregnant women when they use it, it builds their immune system so I think it’s a welcomed development for us in Cross River State”, Oqua stated.
The Cassava Farmers’ Chairman said these biofortified crops cannot yield good end products of the Government does not address the known problems which he said includes land, land clearing, herdsmen, processing and others.
So, we need the government to help us in the area of land clearing. We might have this land, but being a rainforest area…we should not compare ourselves with northern Nigeria that has vast land. Here we have the challenge of land clearing, our soil and all the rest. These are the challenges that we want the government to look into for us the cassava farmers, for us to be able to meet the commercialised nature of this product. Then, the issue of stems. A lot of our stems right now are old stems. We have up to 4,5 generations stems, meaning that even if you cultivate them, they will not give you the desired yield. We now appeal to the government… If we cannot phase out the old ones, let them begin to introduce the new ones, maybe buy them in bulk from IITA and sell it to the farmers at a subsidised rate. Those are some of the challenges.
Our cassava cannot leave the shores of Cross River or the shores of Nigeria because of the processing method. We don’t have enough processing machines to process for export. What we want is – let the government help us establish processing machines in some of these senatorial districts. Like now we are to supply flour to America and any other interesting country, but where is the processing machines. We need processing machines in each of the senatorial districts. What we have on the road eating is being produced by old women. Some of these Garris are not even dried up to the level to take away the water content from it”, Oqua said.
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