If we were to believe the news from the Nigerian…
By Adamu Tilde
Your excellencies Sirs,
I am sorry if I sound a little ‘inconsiderate’ to your coveted and respected seats to write you this letter on this platform. I have no other means of communicating my grievance, disappointment and disillusionment. Even with this, I am not sure this appeal would reach your ‘listening’ ears. That notwithstanding; for my conscience, for posterity, for the large number of the populace whose cries you would never hear of–I humbly present my appeal.
Your excellencies sirs, I know how deeply committed you are, many things to attend within a limited time frame. Perhaps that explained your lack of attention (or is it of awareness?) of the plight of the peasant farmers. Just to bring it to the fore, here’s a situational report of dry-season farming, and farmers.
Your excellencies, honestly speaking, our situation is not something to write home about. It’s an eyesore to anyone who has an iota of sense of empathy and is compassionate.
Farming is what we do, and it’s the largest employer of labour in this part of the country. In fact, where is the technical know how or the infrastructures to delve into say manufacturing, processing or services. Our lives literally hang on our farmland and animals. Unfortunately, we are the least segment of the population that received your attention, your concern. No subsidies. No fertilizer. No loans. No technical service. No nothing. Even the extension services aren’t forthcoming. In spite of your governments’ absence in our livelihood, we are still cruising- da dadi ko Ba dadi. Now, it has reached a point where we can’t carry it all by ourselves. We need your help. And this is what informed my decision to write you this letter.
Just for a recap, let me brief you about our survival technique. We farm our staple foods–Maize, Rice, Beans, Millet, Groundnut, etc– during rainy season. This is what we would be eating until next harvesting season. Whatever is in addition to what we will eat, we sell it off to enable us patch our houses, mend our fences and married out our daughters.
In order not be idle, and to complement on the other ingredients we need for food, we engage in dry-season farming. Here, we mostly cultivate vegetables–Tomatoes, Pepper, Onion, Carrot, Cabbage, etc. The surplus, we sell it for additional income.
Now, here lies the problem. Occasionally, our products enjoy disproportionate patronage so much that we realized millions in our harvest. Because, large number of the farmers are not that ‘educated’–which negate their abilities to make informed decision and lack of skills on planning–coupled with the absence of Extension Agents that would help them make informed situational analyses and educated predictions and guesses; they often end up losing everything.
Once there’s a record of large selling the previous year say in Cabbage or Carrot, the following year all of us would invest our money cultivating Cabbage and Carrot. A natural law of supply will come in. There would be too much supply of that product so much that one can’t even realized his initial capital, and we don’t even quantify our labour in monetary term. Sometimes, Wallahi, we have to invite Herdsmen with their cattle to graze on our farmland for there’s nobody who will buy our products. Your excellencies, the situation is really terrible and heart-wrenching. You would not wish to meet a person suffered such a wicked fate.
Your excellencies, forgive me if I sound rude and disrespectful to suggest for you how to address this ugly scenario. You are in the know better than I am, and in better position to access information from the experiences of other countries. Nevertheless, here are two suggestions, hopefully, which may help us assuage the situation in the short run;
One, revival of robust extension service. There’s dearth of information in this part of the world. There’s total disconnection between what’s happening in our ivory towers and on the farm. The voluminous reports, researches, assessments, conference proceedings churned out, year-in year-out, by National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services Zaria, are ONLY consumed by their authors. Your excellencies, you can explore this existing institution in information dissemination, creating awareness and campaigns on improved agricultural production methods. All we are asking is a helping hand that would guide us in planning our farms. Instead of investing all our money in one product, we can diversify by producing as much as ten products. If there’s high supply of one product (invariably low price), there maybe high demand in another product (naturally higher price- high income).
Two, introduction of Quota System or rationing of the products to be produce among farmers of different locations. This maybe difficult to implement for two reasons; one, lack of accurate database of the farmers and two, mistrust between the farmers and the government. However, if there will be sincerity from the government quarters, the farmers, I am sure, will oblige to this beautiful, tested and trusted model. All you need is a thorough review of European Agricultural Compendium.
Victim of your lack of foresight.