By Hope Abah and Idris Mahmud
Makurdi and Katsina — Farmers are expecting to enjoy bumper harvest this year occasioned by the prediction of normal rainfall and adherence to best agronomy practices. This is coming even as climate change is threatening the rainfall pattern across the country.
In Benue State, most farmers believe that the rain, which had just begun, was late for the season, but experts think otherwise, as some posited that the downpour was just right on time.
Daily Trust reports that earlier this year, the Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET)’s annual seasonal rainfall prediction had indicated the probability of bountiful harvest following expected normal rainfall.
To this end, farmers are not only required to plant early maturity crops, but are also to take advantage of the plan to be educated, possibly by governments on which type of crops to plant so as to reduce losses and maximise gains.
Already, in Benue, farmers have just begun tilling following last week’s rainfall while others have started planting mostly yam, maize and melon.
The state’s chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Aondona Hembe Kuhe, admitted that the rains started a bit late but that maize and groundnut farmers should expect high yield this season.
Kuhe, who expressed worry that the current insecurity in the state had displaced nearly a million farmers from their rural homes, said the desertion of their farms could affect food security in the country.
He said if the rains had begun in March, farmers would have produced early maize to sustain food security, noting that, yam should also have been planted earlier, between November and February for proper germination.
The AFAN chairman advised farmers to engage in best agronomy practices to guard against diseases which may affect their crops, especially stressing the need for yam farmers to apply right solutions according to the variety of their soils across the state for bumper results.
“Diseases will affect yam from the soil due to the rainfall, so farmers should apply right solution as appropriate for soil in different locations of the state,” he said.
A farmer, Ogli Sunday, said because the rains began in May did not mean it would affect expected harvest as in his estimation, the timing was alright for his crops such as yam, maize and melon which were still being planted.
Sunday urged the state government to urgently supply farmers with genuine fertilisers before the end of this month for bumper harvest to be a reality else the idea of making the produce available in June/July would upset farmers’ expectation.
Another farmer in the state, Victor Anyebe, appealed that the state government should urgently provide necessary inputs for the rural farmers to mitigate pests attack on crops and control other diseases so that good harvest can be achieved for food sustainability.
In Katsina State, farmers are now set for the take-off of farming activities for this rain-fed season.
In Danja, Kafur and Malumfashi, many of the farmers have taken the advantage of the early rains to till, plough or harrow their lands. Majority are on the stage of farm clearance while in Sabuwa/Dandume axis some of the farmers have already planted.
Malam Sabitu Dabai, a rice farmer in Danja, told this reporter that what the farmers are waiting for in the area is enough rainfall for planting to take off.
“Early planting is sacrosanct in rain-fed farming because one cannot dictate the frequency and volume of the rainfall but to plant too early is also dangerous and that is why we are awaiting for the rain to begin in earnest,” he explained.
Sabitu Dabai also hinted that rice and maize were the dominant crops to be planted in his area this year.
“Just like last year, the trend will repeat itself because many farmers prefer to cultivate food crops, especially rice and maize because of their high yield,” he said.
In Kafur, a maize farmer, Bashir Tasi’u Mahuta, said compared to last year, this farming season is starting late.
“Last year by now, many of us have planted our farms but with the little rain we got, we are now harrowing our farms for the soil to become spongy and keep moisture,” he explained.
He added that through the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrower initiative, many farmers in the area have accessed farm inputs for maize and rice farming this year.
“Farmers that benefitted from the scheme, particularly from the rural areas have booked their fertilizer and seeds for maize and rice farming this year while some in the urban areas are selling the inputs at reduced price,” he said.
Malam Tasi’u further explained that some farmers in the rural areas were left out of the scheme because they had no bank account or BVN.
“Because there was no proper orientation among rural farmers, many of them have no business with banks and as such, they have no bank accounts or BVN. The strict formal documentations for enrolling into the banking system have barred some of the rural farmers that showed interest,” he added.
In Malumfashi, many farmers are in the clearance stage with cotton stems seen in the farms.
Shakiru Usman told this reporter that the early rain did not fall enough in the area to send farmers to the farms.
“You cannot compare us with Dandume and Sabuwa where some farmers have started planting already because they had a heavy rainfall. Farmers here are ever ready, what only stopped us for now is the inadequate rain because even if you plant now, the crop would not germinate,” he said.
He also forecast that many farmers will go for maize and rice, then soybeans and sorghum would follow in preference.
Reports from Kwara, Niger, Oyo, Ekiti and Ogun states indicate that there has been early rainfall and farmers in the areas have planted maize, melon, groundnuts and yam.
In Oyo, Ekiti and Ogun states, maize and melon were said to have germinated and growing.
Farmers in the states hope for bumper harvest if the rain did not cease early.
Meanwhile, an Associate Professor of Plant Breeding and Seed Science, Dr. Lucky Omoigui, of the Federal University of Agriculture (FUAM) Makurdi has advised grain farmers to wait a little more before planting their seeds.
Omoigui posited that the coming of the rain in May, especially in the north, is not late for grain farmers and advised that they would need to allow the rainfall to stabilise by the middle of the month before they begin planting their crops.