South-South farmers lament huge investment loss to flood

They said their woes were becoming an annual occurrence, even as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) warned on Monday that 13 states, including those in the region would experience heavy floods this year.

Some farmers in the South South have bemoaned their huge loss of agricultural products and farmlands to flooding, resulting in waste of resources, hike in food prices and food insecurity.

The farmers in a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) lamented that some of them borrowed money for their agriculture businesses, but had not been able to pay back their loans due to flood menace.

However, experts have, among other suggestions, said that to stem the trend, government should develop flood surviving crops for farmlands prone to flooding.

They urged farmers to always insure their businesses to be able to stand firm in the case of eventualities.

The respondents said this would alleviate the sufferings of the farmers as well as impact positively on food production and prices.

According to Mr Ernest Ovat of Araghara Community in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River, the community witnessed a huge destruction of farmlands and agricultural produce due to massive flooding in August.

Ovat said that the river in the area overflowed into the community and destroyed not only farmlands but lives and properties.

He said earlier in the year, the people had a similar situation during which flood swept away not just farms but killed a member of the community.

“Obubra being one of the largest producers of cassava in the state lost huge cassava, yam and rice farms owing to the havoc by flood,’’ he said.

The Vice Chairman of the local government area, Mrs Peace Obeten, urged the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to assist the residents who lost their farmlands, produce, houses and loved ones.

Mr Nkor Nathaniel, Director Agricultural Services, Cross River Ministry of Agriculture, said, “Floods may be natural but their impacts on agriculture can be minimised if farmers adhere to meteorological reports.”

He said that the reports might not be accurate but could give good predictions of areas a farmer should avoid each year.

Nathaniel urged the nation’s agricultural research institutes to assist farmers by developing Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs) that could withstand extreme weather conditions such as drought and flood.

The Agricultural Services director said he was aware of some rice varieties that could withstand flood but not aware of any variety of cassava, yam and other crops developed to do so.

He added that to reduce flooding of farming communities, there should be proper drainage system, stoppage of felling of trees along rivers banks, among others.

In Rivers, Mr Goodwin Akandu, Chairman, Etche Cooperative Farmers Association noted that several farms in parts of Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West, Etche, Ikwerre and Obio/Akpor LGAs recorded high loss of tuber crops.

According to him, farmers in Umu-agwo and Okoro-agwu farm settlements in Etche area had sad experiences as many cassava farms were destroyed during a flood incident.

Mrs Edith Owolo, another farmer in Ahoada-West area, said that a communal farmland measuring three hectares and shared amongst three cassava-farmer cooperative groups, was destroyed by flood this year.

She lamented that each of the group invested over a million Naira on agro-inputs as well as N3 million on labour, but lost everything to flood.

Meanwhile, Mr Godwin Odigie, Head, Department of Agriculture, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Council, Edo, has articulated the negative effects of flooding on farmlands, saying it erodes the nutrients of top soil.

He says that by this, flooding reduces the soil organic nature which results in poor yield.

Odigie said that flood could turn a farmland into erosion and gully sites.

Mr Joseph Akpofabe, Public Relations Officer, Benin Operation Office of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said that flood bred parasites which caused reduction of feed intake of livestock.

According to him, flooding is a conducive breeding ground for parasites in fish pond and fish pond overflow.

‘’It enhances diseases associated with livestock, affects poultry health and performance negatively as well as reduce egg production and life span of the birds,’’Akpofabe said.

On his part, Mr Izibeken Otiti, a farmer in Bayelsa, said that besides the direct effect, the submergence of farmlands flooding created complex abiotic stress on crops.

He said the combination of all the physical and chemical alterations caused by flooding could substantially reduce crop growth and yield.

“The intensification of the hydrological cycle due to climate warming is projected to alter the timing, magnitude, and frequency of extreme floods,’’ he said.

In Delta, a mechanised rice farmer and former commissioner, Mr Raymos Guanah, said: ‘’Flood-based farming systems are underappreciated and poorly understood by governments and relevant stakeholders.

”To realise the full potential, governance must be improved by familiarising policy makers, extension workers, academics and other water professionals with the potential for and benefits of floods-based farming.”

Another mechanised farmer in Ugbolu, near Asaba, Mr Samuel Dike, said some farmers still do not know the type of crops to plant in their areas, especially when approaching the rainy season.

”Farmers who borrowed money to finance their farms keep recalling the damage caused by flood on their farmlands.

”Some don’t even recover from these damages, and each year, they still repeat the same mistake,” he added.

Dike, however, urged government to ensure sensitisation of farmers on the need to change the varieties of their crops in consideration of their farm sites.

An environmentalist, Ms Theresa Omame, noted that most homes depended solely on subsistence farming, even as agriculture suffered mostly from impact of flooding.

She said that any impact of flooding on their crops, poultry, fisheries and vegetables might cost them their livelihood, income, economy and investment as well as devastate them.

‘’As you know, most farmers are subsistence and depends solely on agriculture and when the flood takes over their farms, they become frail and impoverished.

“The challenge of the farmers is that they do not insure their businesses and the high collateral-based interest rates by banks remains a major factor.’’

Omame noted that government, through NEMA and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had tried to mitigate the impact of the natural disaster by providing some kind of succour to the victims.

She, however, said that government should do more and not allow farmers to be out of business in order to ensure food security and economic boost.


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