Tractor working in the farm.

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – A farmer, Nanribet Samuel from Lighit-Lubang community, Bungha District of Mangu local government area, Plateau State lost over N300,000 and some farm implements. His problem started shortly after the armed attack of May 15th, 2023 at Kubat community which is not too far from his community.

Samuel said his Fulani neighbours destroyed his farms and carted away his implement for reasons he never knew and the situation has left him in debt and out of job.

Another farmer, Baba Ezekiel Dashial from Lighit-Lubang whose son has been hospitalized for about two months due to injuries sustained when he was attacked by people his father said are their Fulani neighbours also suffered losses as his crops were destroyed by cattle.

According to Samuel, “The problem started in Kubat village. We heard gunshots and later saw our Fulani neighbours who stay across the stream packing their loads in vehicles and leaving their settlements. We went there to ask them what was happening because our area had no problem. We suggested that everyone should stay and watch over their area but they ignored us.

“Before we knew what was happening, they shot our Youth Chairman of Lighit-Lubang, they intended to kill him. Right from that time, the Fulani that stayed back became very hostile to us. They unleashed their cows to destroy our farms. I had a dry-season farm I cultivated, and my maize was due for sale.

“Before the incident, buyers came and priced the maize on the farm at N380,000. I also had pepper, garden egg, and cassava, but the Fulani took over those crops. If you are approaching the farm, they would start shooting from afar before you come close. That was what stopped us from harvesting our produce. When the place was calm and some of us were able to go to the farm to check our crops. I realised that the maize was harvested.

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“They brought cows to graze on the farm’s leftover produce. Many people farmed around this place but they grazed on the crops. Our water pump machine and our knapsack sprayers were taken away by them. It is so annoying and disrespectful. We cannot continue to watch them disrespect us. God is with us. We do not look for anyone’s trouble.”

Baba Dashial added, “Before the problem started, I had finished my farm work, I planted all that I wanted to plant but now not a single plant is on the farm. I don’t know what brought about this but when the attack started at Kubat, our neighbours who are Fulanis started packing their things.

“My son went to ask them why they were leaving since there was no problem in the village between us, why would they leave? After the discussion with them, as he turned to leave, they shot him in the thigh, on the chest and they cut off his fingers as he was trying to block the machete they also used in attacking him. They wanted to kill him but God helped him.

“As we speak, he is still in the hospital. Look at the village, they don’t want anyone to come to the farm here, anyone who comes near would be shot by the Fulanis. Those who planted and those who were yet to plant, they don’t allow anyone to come here. Since May 2023 till date, no one could come here.”

L-R: Nanribet and Baba Dashial.

The duo are not the only ones with sad tales, the people unanimously lamented the looming food insecurity as over 50 communities in the local government area did not go to farms due to insecurity.

However, the State Government intervened and directed the State-owned Agricultural Services, Training Centre and Marketing Ltd, ASTC to cultivate 900 hectares of land to boost food production in 14 communities recently affected by violent conflicts.

The Agro Rangers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC have also been drafted in to protect the farms to ensure no intruders destroy the cultivated land before the harvest of the crops planted.

The benefitting communities spread in three local government areas of Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Mangu are Jol, Kwi, Rim, and Bachit in Riyom. Sho in Barkin Ladi, as well as Aloghom, Gaude/Kinat, Bwai, Sabon Layi, Mangul- Kantoma Bakin Hanya, Jwakkom/Lighit-Lubang, Kombun, Daika (Atughun), Dangdai and Gyembwas in Mangu.

These communities were sacked during recent attacks and most residents are in the Internal Displaced Persons, IDP camps.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ASTC, Dr. Susan Bentu who spoke during the official flag-off of the farming intervention at Lighit-Lubang said, “We are here to cultivate lands in areas that had been affected by the unfortunate recent armed attacks that have dislodged a lot of farmers, rendered them IDPs and unable to cultivate their lands. Governor Caleb Mutfwang approved intervention for the cultivation of 900 hectares of land for the farmers in the first phase.

“Other phases will be coming in so that farmers can make use of what is left of the rain-fed season rather than allowing the lands to lie waste. This is a result of the appeal from farmers in these areas. We will be cultivating the lands in Riyom, Barkin Ladi, and Mangu. The communities are happy and we are happy to be of service at this time. We are working in conjunction with the Agro Rangers from the NSCDC to give protection because these farms are in the bushes.

“This will encourage those who have been displaced to come back to their homes. The rains are far gone but people can plant cowpeas (white beans), soybeans, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes so that we can make use of what is left of the season. The government is working at providing farm inputs and they will be provided to the farmers.”

The Deputy Corps Commandant, Olushola Bakenne who is the Head of Agro Rangers, NSCDC, Plateau State Command assured the farmers of safety saying, “The Agro Rangers are specialized personnel trained to provide adequate security for farms, farmers and their investment. The men are battle ready, they will provide adequate security coverage for farmers and the government officials that will work here.”

Reacting to the intervention, the District Head of Bungha, Da Danladi Denan through the Bungha District Chairman of Mwaghavul Development Association, Mr. Yabak Retkat expressed joy at the gesture and stated, “When we heard of this kind gesture by the Government of Plateau State, we were so grateful. All these places were cultivated early this year but because of insecurity, the place was deserted.

“The bandits terrorised the people, grazed on the crops and levelled everything, and left the place fallow. We appreciate the government for the invention, we will give our support and we appeal for more inputs because this is our source of livelihood.”

Samuel mentioned earlier added, “I am happy with the government plan but if you observe in this village, we mostly farm maize, but with this present situation, we cannot farm maize. We are happy with the bean farm the government has provided. We understand that the government is willing to assist us in our present condition. We thank the government, there is nothing we can say but thank you.

“Despite this, we still call on the government to assist us with money because some of us collected loans to buy fertiliser, and water pump machines. We are pleading with the government to assist us in settling the loan.”

Baba Dashial noted, “I was not feeling fine before now, I was on the bed when they told me about what the government is doing, immediately, I regained my strength that is why I came out here to see. I am very happy with this, if they continue to help us this way, it will be good.”