For over 18 months now, herdsmen have wreaked havoc on farmlands, killing farmers and destroying crops worth hundreds of millions in naira terms.
In many cases, the relevant law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Security Service (DSS), the police and the army keep mute while the charade goes on.
In 2016, 55 hectares of cassava farmland belonging to Oamsal Nigeria Limited were destroyed by herdsmen. The firm lost N23 million. No arrests were made and no compensation was given to this company till today.
“We received no form of compensation and up till now we are unable to plant cassava. Farmers are still sceptical to farm because their farms can be destroyed overnight by herdsmen and there is no form of compensation either through insurance or the government,” Oluwafemi Salami, chief executive officer, Oamsal Nigeria Limited, told BusinessDay.
Farmers told BusinessDay that many of them were now afraid of planting cassava because they might lose their crops and even their lives to herdsmen.
Consequently, the price of garri, produced from cassava tubers, is rising by the day. BusinessDay survey at Mile 12 Market in Lagos last week shows that a 50 kg bag of red garri currently sells for N12, 500 as against N9, 800 sold a month ago. Similarly, a 50 kg bag of white garri now goes for N11, 000 as against N8, 500 sold a month ago.
A ton of cassava is now being sold for N60, 000 as against N30, 000 sold in December 2016.
Farmers in Kogi State recently told this newspaper that they were reluctant to invest in their farmlands because their crops could be eaten up by cows or their farms destroyed by herdsmen. According to them, it made no sense borrowing to plant crops when they were not sure of what would happen.
Again, the herdsmen onslaught in Agatu community in Benue State is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. After the attack, manufacturers told BusinessDay that they could no longer source agro raw materials such as fruits and cassava from the area and had to move to farer communities or, in some cases, imported the inputs to ensure they stayed afloat.
The Federal Government has spent much energy, persuading Nigerians to tap into the opportunities in agribusiness to make ends meet and contribute to its revenue diversification target. But the key question is, does it really make sense to invest one’s life savings in a farm or borrow to do so when the output is not guaranteed?
If the government spends as much energy as it spends trumpeting the gains from agriculture on prosecuting erring herdsmen or protecting famers, there will be genuine and over-all agricultural revolution.
Moreover, it was in the news in September 2016 that the Federal Government would build ranches and grazing reserves for herdsmen in the country in order to stave off further violent altercation between the pastoralists and sedentary farmers.
But the government must be careful in its interventions. It cannot be sinking public money into building ranches for herdsmen when it has no shares in the herdsmen’s businesses and without the herdsmen paying for the services. Of course, the government can help build ranches and import quality grasses for the herdsmen but this should be done on commercial basis or at worst, on a subsidised basis.
It is high time the government began to prosecute herdsmen who maim and kill farmers at any slightest provocation.
It is also time to provide insurance for farmers. It is unfortunate that farmers have no insurance at a point the government is trumpeting agro revolution. Except the government stop showing partisanship on the issue of herdsmen and farmers, its mouthed agric revolution will be pipe dream.