Adamu Ori spoke slowly as he struggled to knit his words together, his mind flooded by uncertainties. Mr Ori, a cattle herder and flood victim in Zugobiya area of Musari ward in Jigawa State, lamented how herders were severely affected by the recent flood disasters across Nigeria due to the peculiarity of their lifestyle and means of livelihood.
“We have lost our cows and farms to the flood; our houses in the bush have been taken over by the flooding, and no grazing land because the grass has been damaged by the flood and we have to migrate to the hinterlands,” he said. He explained that they had to travel on a canoe for a distance of about 15 kilometres to buy daily essentials before migrating to the hinterlands.
“Before the flooding, no one could allow even a hen to enter his farm but after the floods, we didn’t hesitate to put the animals on the farm even if the farm belongs to the neighbours, irrespective of their tribes.
“No one will stop you from entering his farm because he knows the situation you are in and that he is saving the life of the animal. This is because without this practice, more cows will die, and many have died after the flooding,” he narrated.
Another herder, Jabbi Ahmadu, told PREMIUM TIMES that he lost over 30 cows including goats to the flooding disaster, adding that the incident was the worst experience ever in the area in the past few decades.
He said: “My younger brother lost over 20 cows, not to talk of other relatives who are also counting their losses on animals and farm produce. Many times what you can do is just slaughter the animal, afterwards, you call the butcher who surprisingly will come and price the slaughtered goat as low as N500.
Muhammad Usman, who sent his cows to other areas because of access to greener pasture, said he left behind other cows that were dying of hunger and couldn’t move farther.
“I am now operating ‘Achaba’ (commercial motorcycle) taking passengers on my machine from the Baturiya community to other places to sustain me and my family,” Mr Usman said.
Guri and neighbouring Kirikasamma council areas of Jigawa have fertile land suitable for farming and grazing. But the struggle for control of the lush land has led to deadly conflicts between farmers and herders over the years. With a landmass of 1,062 and 797 each, both council areas cover the ‘Baturiya’ wetlands game reserve.
Aside from grazing and farming, the natural wetland is also home to around 378 migratory bird species from Europe and Australia. PREMIUM TIMES gathered from residents that the area has been visited by members of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation, including Prince Philip and King Charles.
Although over the years, both areas have remained hotbeds of farmer-herder conflicts in the state, the recent flood incidents worsened the frosty relationship as both groups now compete for the available land space following the devastating impacts of floods.
In the northern fringe of Musari town in the Guri council area which is occupied by over 300 Fulani households, this year’s flood incident is widely regarded as he most devastating, displacing the entire nomad settlements and killing hundreds of cows and livestock in those areas, according to the district head of Musari town, Musa Abdullahi.
Mr Abdullahi told PREMIUM TIMES that most of the affected herders are taking refuge at several IDP camps in the surrounding hinterlands and school buildings, while others have moved farther into the deep forest in search of pastures.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the areas, farmers lamented how some of the herders encroached on their farmlands mostly during night grazing, feeding on some of the remaining farm produce shortly after the floods subsided.
Earlier in October, this newspaper reported how a soldier, who was mediating the conflict between the farmers and herders in Gajiya Community in the Guri council area, was killed.
Residents said the assailants were the herders who were caught in violent conflicts with farmers in the area. The soldier, Danlami Danjuma, a sergeant, was among the soldiers who responded to a distress call from the Gagiya community where the herders were said to have encroached into farmland.
The local government chairman, Musa Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES that “the herders are in desperate search of pasture following the devastating effects of flooding on the grazing areas and farmlands. The soldiers rush to the scene to quell tension after herders encroached on farmlands”.
Muhammad Alfano, one of the farmers in Takazza Community in Guri, said farmers were left with the double tragedy of the flood and the herders’ encroachment on their farmlands.
“The flood has washed out our entire investment in the farms. After the flood subsided, we are now replanting tomatoes, maize, beans and other cash crops that will partially sustain us, but between October to November, strange herders do come and encroach on our farms.
“After the rainy season, the herders from Bauchi, Yobe states and the Niger Republic, started coming to graze on the remnants of our harvest and bushes. Unfortunately, after the flooding washed out our farm produce, we are now replanting other cash crops in the exact farm fields where the herders do come annually for grazing. That is where the trouble lies.
“The herders do come with cows and they are like a moving train, what we have planted is what will sustain us, and the government needs to intervene and ensure security in the area because the farming community is already tense following the flooding and will not fold its hands and watch the herders destroy their crops.”
In the neighbouring Kirikassamma local council area, farming communities have lamented that herders are daring them on a daily basis by moving unchallenged and encroaching on their farmlands.
Ibrahim Muhammad, a resident of ‘Matara Gari-Gana in Marma ward, lost his rice farm to the herders. According to him, the herders are from the ‘Zamfarawa Fulani clan’ who are often dreaded than the indigenous ‘Hadejawa and Jafunawa Fulani clan’ found in the areas.
“After the flooding subsided, the herders started wandering around at any time of the day, destroying the remaining farm produce, and nobody could dare them. I am a victim: my six hectares of rice farm and that of my father were encroached on by the herders,” Mr Muhammad told PREMIUM TIMES.
The council chairman of Kirikassamma, Isah Adamu, also told this newspaper that the crisis was frequent following the devastating effects of flooding and the herders now converge in one place with their cattle searching for pasture.
“The herders have no place to graze, they are grouped in one place that has little pasture which is not enough for them, and eventually, they encroach on farmland.
“The crisis is imminent (because) we are facing a difficult situation this year. The report of the encroachment of farmland is almost daily; day and night people lodge complaints about the incident,” the council chairman said.
In 2021, after several years of violent attacks, the Guri Local Government Chairman, Musa Muhammad, initiated a local response mechanism in addressing the deadly conflicts. An official of the council, Muhammad Aliyu, said the council area has recruited at least 60 Fulani pastoralists to keep watch of the areas by providing them with monthly allowances and logistic support.
Mr Aliyu said the local government co-opted the indigenous herders because most of the crimes committed were allegedly carried out by strange herders who visited the area en mass annually in search of greener pastures.
The official acknowledged that this year’s incident worsened because 70 per cent of the grazing and farmlands in the Guri council area were washed out by the flood. He said the number of pastoralists competing for grazing has outgrown the available landmass. He called on the government to provide support and help mitigate the effect of flooding on their environments.
The impacts of floods in Jigawa State and neighbouring Kano communities are more significant in agricultural practices among residents. In both states, farmers are counting their losses amid efforts to contain the impact of the flood that destroyed their farmlands and crops.
Earlier in the year, the emergency management agencies in the two states said the floods have caused the death of 160 people––134 in Jigawa and 26 in Kano. The agencies said most of the deaths were due to the collapse of building structures, mostly mud houses, and boat accidents.
A farmer, Salisu Garba, from the Kubayo community in Kirikassamma local government area, Jigawa, described the flooding as the most devastating incident in their community, after the disasters washed away their farms and destroyed houses.
In the neighbouring Guri local government area, Ado Dauda, who invested N2 million in his rice farm, said he is now bankrupt as the flooding washed out his entire life servings.
He said: “The damage done in our community ‘Garmaguwa Gabas’ cannot be quantified. I invested over N2 million in my rice farm which is my entire savings from previous farming earnings but the flood has washed out everything.
“This is for me, and there are others in my community who spent more than myself. There are more than 70 farmers in our community, and we have lost farm produce worth over N100 million. We are now replanting maize and tomatoes for the dry season after the flooding subsided to get something to rely on and sustain a living.”
In Kano, farmers at Gishiri Wuya and Laraba communities in Warawa local government area said the flooding affected their areas for the first time destroying their houses and farmlands.
Mahmuda Abdullahi, a resident of the Gishiri Wuya, a popular rice farming community in the Warawa council area, told this newspaper that the flooding affected the movement of hundreds of residents for about three days because many of them were reluctant to relocate believing that the water would not submerge their communities.
Hafsa Yakuba, a displaced woman from the Gishiri Wuya community, said the flooding was most devastating in the area.
“Initially, we relocated to the hinterland within the community where we cook thinking that the water will subside. But the flow of the water submerged our farmlands and houses, just as a building collapsed and killed a little boy in my area”.
The SEMA spokesperson in Kano, Ahmed Isah, said the flooding affected 25 local government areas of the state destroying over 13,200 numbers of farmlands and destroying over 12,000 houses and other structures, injuring over 100 people.
“Worst flood ever”
For Ababkar Ribadu, District Head of Ribadu community in Fufore LGA of Adamawa State, the recent flood incident in the state is the worst he had experienced in his entire life. The monarch said the flood submerged the entire districts in the LGA except one.
“I have a farm where I harvest over 100 bags of maize every year, but this year I will not get even two bags and I am not the only one affected,” Mr Ribadu said.
Asked if there were any forms of early warnings from the government to his people asking them to vacate before the flood disaster struck, Mr Ribadu said there were warnings but the intensity of the flood exceeded their expectations.
“The flood surpassed the capacity of those living close to the River Benue area, it submerged where it was not supposed to reach,” the district head said.
Mr Ribadu lamented that the farmers in his district have been plunged into serious suffering as a result of the flood disaster. He urged the government to support farmers with major inputs and infrastructures for dry-season farming so as for them to recover their losses.
“Everything is expensive. Fertilisers, herbicides and even fuel to power irrigation machines are no-go areas now. I want both the state and local governments to assist farmers in this regard,” he said.
Fidelis Ali, Demsa LGA district head, said he is also a victim of the flood disaster and that he lost over 95 per cent of his farm produce to the flood.
“I watched my maize farm growing well and I was expecting a bountiful harvest but when the flood started, all my farm was submerged,” he said.
Although Mr Ali said he was lucky to get at least four bags of maize from the submerged farm, if not for the flood, he would have harvested over 50 bags of maize from his farm, the farmer said.
“Some farmers did not even get a bag out of their farms. We need government support,” he said.
High prices, food insecurity
In Yobe State, Baba-Adamu Makeri, who spoke on behalf of the village head of Dadigar, said the flood was a raging tsunami that had never been witnessed in the area.
“Maybe you’re too small to understand this,” he said to this reporter. “But this season will be long. There will be food shortage. How can you even ask such a question? We’ve witnessed this and I can’t tell you the number of bags of rice we’ve missed in this village alone.”
Yobe is amongst states in Northern Nigeria with the highest number of rice farmers, especially in areas like Bursari, Bade, Jakusko, and Yusufari.
Hussaini Gangawa, a climate change activist in Yobe, told PREMIUM TIMES that even with the flood impact, Masaba ward in Bursari area still produces rice and other crops and farm produce in high commercial quantities.
“Well, we’re disturbed to be honest with you because the issue (flood) has taken us back to square one not only here in Yobe,” Mr Gangawa said.
“Aside from Yobe, states like Bauchi, Jigawa, Taraba, Adamawa have been hit by this massive flooding and those are the places that produce the food.”
The floods have led to fears among residents that food scarcity is imminent, Mr Kachalla said.
The Vice Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria AFAN in Bauchi State, Muhammad- Aminu Tukur, re-echoed Mr Kachalla’s sentiment. He said the loss has begun to manifest because large scale farmers are already making contacts to see if they could get farm produce.
The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria boss in Yobe State, Baba Gishuwarin, told PREMIUM TIMES that over 25,000 rice farmers lost their farmlands to the floods.
“And this is just from the rice part,” Mr Gishuwarin, himself a commercial farmer, said.
“We’re not talking about other farmers, especially millet, maize and what have you. The floods have made it impossible for us to harvest anything; a whole year gone.”
He called on the government and other stakeholders to provide assistance to farmers and others playing valuable roles across the value chain.
***This investigation was completed with the support of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development and the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Open Climate Reporting Initiative.
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