Fear Of Destruction By Herds Forces Farmers To Embark On Premature Harvest

For years immemorial, farmers and herders have been known to be living in peace and respecting one another’s socio-cultural norms and values.

As a matter of fact, in Nasarawa State, they lived as neighbours, or better still, like brothers and sisters.

Joshua Dauda JP, District head of Bassa

According to an oral traditional source, in the olden days, herdsmen used to help farmers during harvest and, in appreciation, farmers would give the herdsmen part of the harvest as well as allow them to graze in their farmland after harvest.

However, since crisis engulfed parts of Nasarawa State between 2013 and 2014, there have been strains in the relationship between farmers and herdsmen.

According to observers, even though the farmers-herdsmen clashes are a national issue, that of Nasarawa State has become more serious in the recent years.

When Eggonnews correspondent visited some communities in Nassarawa Eggon and Kokona Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State, it was observed that farmers had to rush their harvest of rice, guinea corn, benniseed, yam among others for fear of destruction by cattle.

At Angiri and Bassa communities where Eggonnews correspondent had to sail through canoes to the areas, the story is not different either.

At Angba Iggah and Iggah communities in Nassarawa Eggon Local Government Area, the story is same.

Enquiries from other part of the State tell the same story of what some have described as premature harvest, in the sense that, crops have not been allowed to fully mature before harvest.

Aren Eggon Bassa

Farmers apparently, Eggonnews learnt, with the benefit of hindsight whereby in recent years herds are deliberately allowed to graze on crops on the farm with virtual impunity, the farmers have had to rather harvest their crops to forestall losing the entire crops they farmed in the year.

During the visits to some areas, there were instances the Eggonnews correspondent witnessed scenarios where herders sat under the shade and allowed cattle to graze on the farmlands.

Mama Zainabu Yaro, A Widow Lamenting

At Angiri in Kokona LGA, for instance, Eggonnews met a widow on her farm crying for help as she watched helplessly as some cattle grazed on her guinea corn farm, which ordinarily should be ready for harvest in three weeks’ time.

Eggonnews also learnt that there were also cases where the herders confirmed that there were moments of misunderstanding between them and farmers which led to the macheting of one farmer in Bassa and also confirmed to Eggonnews that some herders also were macheted.

Eggonnews as informed that until recently, harvest period for farmers was mostly from December to January and February.

A Farmer Harvesting Guinea Corn Prematurely

However, since recent years, farmers are forced to harvest farm produce between November and December to avoid being destroyed by cattle.

This has remained a nightmare to some farmers who spoke Eggonnews at Angba Iggah, Angiri and other areas.

A widow whom Eggonnews met at Angiri expressed worry that they were forced to harvest even the unripe farm produce, saying that that the situation would not guarantee food security because such unripe produce cannot be stored for long period of time, as it is vulnerable to attack by weevils or other rodents.

Cattle Grazing On Guinea Corn

The woman was crying seriously in her farm before Eggonnews arrived there and witnessed destruction of part of her guinea corn farm, as she made effort to drive some cattle out of the farm.

She narrated her ordeal thus: “My name is Zainabu Yaro, I am a widow and these cattle have destroyed my guinea corn. I have no husband and all my brothers have died. The worst part is that I am not seeing clearly. I only managed to come to the farm and raise alarm so that the herdsmen would help, but it seems they do not even care.”

Herdsman In A Guinea Corn Farm

Pointing at the cattle grazing in the guinea corn farm, she continued: “You can see for yourself that they have destroyed my guinea corn and I have nobody to help me and if they destroy the guinea corn what would I eat, more so that the raining season ceased unexpectedly.”

She appealed: “The herders should allow our farm produce to fully mature for harvest. Why are they doing this to me? The guinea corn has not ripened and yet they entered the farm, yesterday and today again (12/11/2020).”

Cattle grazing in a guinea corn farm

A farmer at Angba Iggah, who is also the ward head of Kutsa of Angba Iggah, Mr Musa Ebugaku also called on the herders to take proper care of their cattle. According to him he was at his farm located at Oki cutting rice when all of sudden he discovered some cattle grazing on his rice farm.

He explained that he immediately called on the attention of the herders to pursue out their cows out of his farm, all to no avail.

He said when he made an effort to drive out the cows from the farm, a herdsman then appeared with his machete already removed from the sheath to machet him and that the herdsman only stopped due to intervention of people.

Cattle grazing in a guinea corn farm

Mr Balla Ebugaku then appealed to the herdsmen to show concern and love for farmers by protecting their farm produce.

On his part, one of the community leaders of Angiri who spoke to Eggonnews introduced himself thus:

“My name is Mr Michael Kuje JP. I am the Ward head of Angiri ‘B’ and a representative of Eggon in Bassa. I am Chairman of peace committee in Bassa district.

Michael Kuje

“People in Angiri and Bassa have fertile land and the people are predominantly farmers.

“They farmed a lot this year and the farm yielded bountifully, but the major issue is the destruction of farm produce by cattle. In fact, because of this issue, people hardly farm yam and cassava in this part of Kokona Local Government Area.”

He confirmed that, “being the chairman of peace committee of Bassa, anytime they call on me, I will make every effort to be there. The total number of people in the committee was 15, but some of them withdrew, remaining only a few of us.

“I have told farmers to always call on us anytime herdsmen destroy their farm produce and they are unable to resolve the matter.

Cattle grazing in a guinea corn farm

“We have number of cases and thank God anytime they call and we get there, both the farmers and the herders listen to us.

“Ours is to ensure that there is peace and we have been making efforts towards that direction. Most of the herders who have been reported to us were asked to pay compensation to farmers. However, the truth remains that farmers need to rush their harvest, whether they are ripe or not. Most especially, the guinea corn that farmers are harvesting now are not really ripe. They just have to do it to get something to eat. Even for some rice farm that there is shortage of rain, we thought that if it was left for some time, the dew would facilitate its ripeness, but farmers still have had to rush and harvest to void destruction by cattle.

“Even with this, we always appeal to the farmers and herdsmen to remain calm. I have often cautioned them not to take the laws into their hands”

Speaking on an incident where herdsmen reportedly macheted a farmer in Bassa, Mr Michael Kuje JP said: “Yes, it is true! We were relaxing one day when we received information that herdsmen macheted one Garba in his farm in Bassa, and they rushed him to the hospital. It was just that God did not destine that he would die, if not the way he was macheted, that could have caused him his life. In fact, whoever went to see the person that was macheted would surely sympathize with him because since after the crisis in Bassa, nobody has been macheted in that way. Thank God today the man is better and thank God the committee stood their ground and the tension was doused out.

“That day, both the farmers and herdsmen were in serious tension in Bassa. What remains now is government and security matter. The man is currently on treatment at Keffi and I was there a day before yesterday to see him. I saw him and he is fast recovering. He sat up himself and was resting at the time of my visit. The victim told us that the herdsmen that macheted him were two, he even gave us their names.”

Michael Kuje JP used this medium to follow the appropriate medium in resolving their grievances with the herdsmen. He urged that they should always report to the committee or the community leader as soon as they know the identity of the herders in question if they trespass into their farm instead of taking laws into their hands. The chairman peace committee Bassa assured that they are working closely with the Ardo in the area towards ensuring peaceful co-existence between farmers and herdsmen in the axis.

He said further: “The Ardo here is already cooperating with us. When he heard that a farmer was macheted in Bassa, he immediately rushed to see the victim at the hospital.

Rice Farm Destroyed By Cattle

“Thereafter, the Ardo ensured that the cattle of the herdsmen concerned were arrested.

“He looked for the parents of the perpetrators and came and collected the cows. The Ardo asked the parents to bring their children and the parents brought their children and he handed them over to the committee, but in the process the committee said herdsmen escaped along the way because it was night. But the point here is that the Ardo is really cooperating with us.

District Head Aren Eggon Bassa Advocate Military Station And Construction Of Road As Solution To Challenges In Bassa District

Considering the frequent tension between farmers and herdsmen in Bassa District of Kokona Local Government Area, the District Head of Bassa, Mr Joshua Dauda JP, and the Aren Eggon Bassa,

Rice Farm Destroyed By Cattle

Aliyu Musa Abimiku Giwa, both appealed to government to urgently come to their aide by stationing military men in the area as well as constructing the road from Garaku to Bassa as measures to tackle insecurity in the location.

The District Head of Bassa, Mr Joshua Dauda JP, particularly expressed worry that on a daily basis, there are reported cases of destruction of farm produce by cattle, which often causes misunderstanding between them.

He said: “Our major problem here now, particularly at the harvest period, is the fact that herdsmen are destroying people’s food crops in the farm.

“With what is happening at the period of harvest, I think that the difficulties people experienced this year in respect to food shortages, the challenges next year will be more, because Bassa is a blessed land

A farmer harvesting rice

where many people come to farm, but those who harvested ten bags of guinea corn last year, I think they would hardly harvest two bags this year because of destruction by cattle.

“It is one of our major challenges in this district. There are always reported cases of Fulani boys macheting farmers in the farm because they because they want their food crops to be protected. Some of the victims have been taken to Keffi Federal Medical Centre for treatment. We took some of them to Kano; some of the victims died.

Farmers threshing rice

“This is our pain here and we really want the government intervention.

“If you look around the farm now, you would hardly see any benniseed in the farm because cows have eaten them up. Even just three days ago, one of my sisters collapsed. Because she went to her farm and discovered there was nothing on the farm again; cattle destroyed everything in the farm”.

Farmers threshing rice

On the way out, the District Head of Bassa said: “I want the government to send security for us. We have kept asking for the security and when they come, the longest they can stay is three days, sometimes they would come and before we know they would tell us they are on their way back.

“We tried to find out what the problem is but up till now, we do not know what is happening.

“If the government would help us station security men here, it would help us a lot. The time soldiers were here, everything and everyone was imperturbable, no herdsmen were destroying any farm, there was no problem at all and no complaint from farmers and there was peace here.

“We were really enjoying life here but immediately they left, some of the herdsmen made jest of us, saying that we brought security and now they are gone.

“One day, one of my brothers went to the farm and Fulani told him that they contributed money and gave to the soldiers and that’s why they left. It really pained us, but that is just an allegation that has not been established. They may just be fabricating such allegations to cause sour relationship between the security and the people.”

He called on leaders in the State of House of Assembly and the Overseer of Agwada Development Area to assist towards finding lasting solutions to challenges facing the area.

He also said: “I always call meetings of the Ardos and the farmers, each time you discuss and agree, when they go out, you would hear different stories.”

Joshua Dauda JP then appealed to farmers to remain calm.

According to him, “If you say you would be macheting them the way they are doing to you, there would be no peace in the land. So, I am appealing to you to remain calm and be patient with the herdsmen. Whatever they do, do not take the laws into your own hands.

Balla Ebugaku, Ward head of Kutsa

“Whatever that has a beginning must surely have an end one day. I am optimistic that we would overcome these challenges. Let us keep on praying for God’s intervention, both Christians and Muslims.”

Aside this, Mr Joshua Dauda JP said: “Apart from these, one of our major problems is lack of accessible road.

“If you want to follow the current road we are using now, you would spend several hours on the road. The road from Garaku through Dari, Arusu, down to Bassa, is in terrible condition such that if someone is sick in the night, and you want to take the person to the hospital, it is always a problem. Sometimes such sick persons give up on the way because of the bad nature of the road.

“We appreciate Honourable Gaza for repairing the Amba for us, I pray that God would bless him. If not for him, nobody would have been able to cross the bridge.”

The District Head of Bassa then appealed to the Nasarawa State Government to consider their plight by repairing the road from Garaku to Bassa, which according to him, is now their major challenge.

Meantime, the Aren Eggon Bassa District has added his voice to that of the District Head, calling for quick government intervention to rescue the few remaining food producers in Bassa District, to achieve food sufficiency.

He spoke thus: “My name is Aliyu Abimiku Giwa. I am the Aren Eggon of Bassa District. I have been waiting for a long time speak out, because I have never had the opportunity to speak to the media until now. I really appreciate the coming of Eggonnews to hear our problems. That gives us sense of belonging.

“Most of the inhabitants of this area are farmers. A large number of the people are Eggon. We came here to farm and also do business.

“Our first problem here as farmers is that after toiling in the farm, and in the time of harvest, cattle would eat up everything. When you talk to the herders, they would remove their cutlass and machete you.

“Everything we farmed this year, ended in the belly of their cows. When we cry to the government, sometimes they would send some soldiers, and when they come in the morning, they would leave in the evening. Sometimes, they may stay up to two days, things would be normal, but as soon as they leave, the herdsmen would keep on destroying the farm produce.

“I have instructed my children to guard their farm since the herdsmen are not taking care of their cattle. I did not say they should fight or take the laws into their hands, but if they are there, they can drive away the cows.

“Another thing I instructed them to do is that while they are there on the farm, they can know the identity of the herdsmen who own the cattle that destroy their farm produce so that we report them to the security operatives. I must add that even this method does not work, because if you are trying to tell them they will machete you.

“The second challenge here is that we do not have roads. Even if you harvest something from the farm, it would still end up in Bassa because there is no road. No roads for buyers to come and buy the farm produce.

“We want the Nasarawa State Government to consider our plight. We are part of Nasarawa State but we are completely cut off from the State.

“We want the government to construct road from Garaku to Bassa. This would ease our plight.

“I want to also plead with the politicians in our axis to please intervene, because during electioneering, they would come to us here, but there after you would not see them again. They should please come to our aid in their little way.”

On the security issue still, the Aren Eggon Bassa district said: “This year is far spent, we want the government to station soldiers in Bassa for at least one year so that farmers can plant and harvest their crops, because the herdsmen accord high respect to the military.

“If this is done, it would help us we the famers in this axis because whatever happens, we must farm as long as we are alive, because that is the only way to live for us.

“I call on Engineer A. A Sule, the Governor of Nasarawa state to come to our aid.

I want to thank the House of Representatives Member, Honourable Gaza for helping us on the hills that ordinarily someone cannot climb, he helped facilitate the repairs of that place and one can easily pass through.”

Herdsmen Assure Of End To Violence, Destruction Of Farm Produce In Bassa, Call For Establishment Of Nomadic Schools For Herders

The Ardo of Bassa, Suleiman Mohammed has assured that measures have been taken to end the violence and destruction of food crops in the farm by herdsmen.

Ardo Bassa

The Ardo, who spoke through his secretary, Abdulkarim Aliyu, called on government to carry them along by establishing Nomadic schools for the herders in the axis, saying that they have been excluded in many developmental plans by government for the area.

When Eggonnews correspondent visited his office in Bassa, on the 13th November, 2020 on a Friday, the Fulani were seen in their large number holding meeting and debating issues for a long time.

Speaking to Eggonnews after the meeting, the Ardon Fulani in Bassa, Suleiman Mohammed who instructed his secretary, Abdulkarim Aliyu to attend to Eggonnews, said:

“In Bassa, we have a number of challenges that have to do with our daily living. In respect to the frequent clashes we often have with the people we are living with, there is impatience on the part of the farmers.

Secretary Ardo Bassa

“I know our cattle go out for grazing, and once they go out there is the possibility of them entering their farms. When this happens sometimes, we observe impatience on the part of the farmers; they are highly temperamental; they easily get annoyed.

“On our part as herders, some of us when our animals enter somebody’s farm and when the farmers come and tell you your cows destroyed his food crops, what the herdsman is expected to do is to first of all apologize and sympathize with the farmer. But with the kind of youth we have these days, they might not tender apology to the famer at that time, they may insult the farmer first and say it is his cattle that destroyed the farm but he would first of all insult the farmer.

“Secondly, even some farmers, when they want to draw the attention of the herdsmen that his animal has his farm, the farmers would first of all insult the herdsman.

“These are some of the things that lead to conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, and it sometimes results to fighting, injury or crisis.

“Thirdly, during farming, farmers do not leave the cattle route for us. They even farm the cattle route that leads to our stream where the cattle drink water. But if it is in Bassa town here, both the farmers and herders live in peace.”

He continued thus: “The farmers sometime complain that we allow under-aged children to go out with the cattle, but sometimes it is even better for the children because the youths who are grown up, they do not listen to their parents and they take a lot of substances that make them misbehave.

“The meeting you met us holding a while ago, we were stressing that parents should go home and caution their children not to misbehave when they go out with the cattle. We agreed the children should first of all apologize and sympathize with the farmer anytime their cattle destroy their farm produce.”

Commenting on the recent pandemonium experienced as a result of the attack on the farmer in the locality, the Ardo Fulani Bassa said: “Yes, it happened that some herders macheted a farmer here, and by the grace of God, that such a thing would never happen in Bassa.

“We had such cases in Bassa because we have some Fulani boys that were macheted and we took one to Garaku for treatment, and we took the other one to Kano for treatment but this one is the last one.

“With what happened and the measures we took, we hope that nothing of such would happen again. Because our officials from the top came here with some top former officials and we took a measure. Even in our meeting, we constituted a committee that would go and see anything that happens”.

The Ardo Fulani Bassa added: “Apart from this, we do not normally get support from the government. We are many in Bassa, but we do not ever feel the government impact. What we want is for the government to establish a Nomadic school for us so that our children can learn.”

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