Makurdi, Abuja, Bauchi, Jalingo — It was an unusual meeting that brought together state commissioners and federal directors of agriculture from the 36 states of the federation and top officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to deliberate on how to turn the catastrophe of the recent flood into a blessing for the Nigerian farmer.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Akinwumi Adesina who chaired the meeting said the Federal Government has already put in place a flood recovery food production plan to support farmers in the flood affected areas, adding that as the flood water recedes, government will embark on a flood recession food production intervention.
He said President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the release of N9.7 billion to his ministry for the implementation of the food recovery plan which, he said, dispels the speculation of food crises that had been rife before the meeting.
Speaking on a projected slide show, a satellite generated imagery of flood affected areas obtained from the International Water Management Institute, the minister told the participants that there was no cause for alarm, adding, "the extent of crop loss as share of cultivated area is highest for Anambra State with 39 percent, Kogi 28.8 percent, Bayelsa 18.5 percent, Taraba 14.2 percent, Edo 11.1 percent and Adamawa 10.3 percent.
"First, we will release 40,400 metric tons of food from the strategic grains reserve for families affected directly by the flood. Second, we will provide improved seed and fertilizers to farmers that are directly affected. These will be provided by the Federal Government free of charge at no cost to the states to allow these farmers to quickly go back to the farm as the flood water has receded.
"Third, in the states that are affected by the flood, with vast areas that are not affected that I have shown you from the data, we will provide improved seeds and fertilizers and other farm inputs to farmers in those areas to do what we call doubled up production plan, allowing them to produce more food for in their state.
"Finally, in other parts of the country that are not affected at all, we will provide improved seeds, fertilizers and farm implements to help our farmers to double up on food production. That way we will have enough food produced from other parts of the country to shore up national food supply. And we can move from the area of surplus production to area of deficit," he said.
But some of the state agriculture commissioners disagreed with the minister over the Federal Government's rating of the flood affected states with some of then saying their states have been underrated. Some of the commissioners wondered how some states with limited population of farmers and less affected by the flood are rated higher than worst affected states.
Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has said the state has lost over 1,200 hectares of farmlands to floods that affected 15 local government areas of the state. The agency's chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Inuwa Bello said, "after the flood, SEMA had assessed the situation and the interim report was out for submission to the Federal Government. 15 local governments were affected, we recorded seven deaths, 1000 households were washed away, and over 1,200 hectares of farmland were washed away and over N9 billion was the cost implication."
He said most of the crops affected were rice, maize, millet, guinea corn, wheat, beans, groundnut, cotton and vegetables like tomatoes, pepper, and many others.
Taraba State Emergency Management Agency said about 80,664 hectares of farmland across six local governments of the state have been washed away by floods that devastated the state from late July to early October, leaving in its trail palpable fear in the minds of many that there will be famine.
Statistics obtained from the state government in Jalingo revealed that Gassol LGA was the worst hit, with 35,664 hectares of farmland washed away by the flood. Karim Lamido had 14,000 hectares flooded. Other local governments affected are Lau, Ibi, Wukari and Ardo Kola with 10,600; 10,000; 10,000 and 2,632 hectares of washed farmlands respectively.
Taraba Commissioner for Agriculture Anthony Jellason said over 30,000 hectares of rice farms across the six local governments were inundated by the flood, adding that other crops affected are maize, millet, sugarcane, groundnuts and cassava.
He said the devastation will affect the economy of the state negatively as about 54 per cent of the state economy is agriculture based.
He, however, assured that government will use the relief materials donated to the state by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), corporate organizations and the N400 million assistance the Federal Government gave the state judiciously.
Reports from Kogi State indicate that over 230,000 farmlands covering over 13 assorted crops have been washed away by the flood that affected nine local governments in the state. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Olufemi Bolarin, has said, listing yam, rice, sugar cane, guinea corn, maize, cow pea, garden eggs, pepper and vegetables as mostly affected.
He said Ibaji local government which is known for mass production of yam was submerged by the flood while about 120,000 hectares of rice farms and over 50,000 hectares of yam farms were all washed away, adding, "also, 50,000 hectares of sugar cane nursery owned by Confluence Sugar, large hectares of vegetable (Ugwu), pepper and garden eggs in Ajaokuta and Basa local government were also affected, adding, "thousands of earthen fish ponds were also swept away."
Officials in Benue State said they cannot yet ascertained the cost of damage done by floods to farmlands across the state until a proper investigation is concluded. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Eugene Aliegba, said some experts are already being contacted to determine the extent of damage.
He said five local governments that include Gwer-East, Makurdi, Logo, Agatu and Guma were worst affected by the flood that swept farm produce away across the state. He said crops such as rice, yam, cassava and maize were among the food crops mostly devastated.
Similarly, executive secretary of the state Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Adikpo Agbatse told our correspondent on phone that the committee set up to determine the damage caused by the flood would make its finding known in due course.
Tina A. Hassan, Abdulwasiu Hassan, Ahmed Mohammed, Terkula Igidi and Usman A. Bello