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Farming and Livestock

Dikwa farmers appeal to government for more land and increased security

22 April 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes

With the rainy season in northeast Nigeria just starting, farmers in Dikwa, Borno State, can hardly wait to get back to their lands – but they first have to overcome a few obstacles.

Insecurity in the area is a major stumbling block. The farmers need more land but they have to wait for permission from the government to venture into the bushes on the outskirts of the town. Without sufficient troops, civilian joint task force members and vigilantes looking out for them, it is still dangerous to farm too far away from Dikwa town.

And deadly improvised explosive devices are everywhere. Although the insurgents have planted many on highways, they have also hidden them in the bushes outside towns. Many farmers, firewood collectors and people foraging for food in the bushes have already died or been severely wounded and maimed after detonating these dangerous devices.

Dikwa is also home to hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who fled their homes in five other local government areas to escape persistent deadly attacks by insurgents and settled in Dikwa. This has resulted in the population of Dikwa exploding. With so many more people in town, there are many more farmers who now also need land.

As yet, the government has not given the residents or IDPs permission to go further into the bushes to claim more farming land.  

The rainy season starts towards the end of this month and lasts until the end of October. Although a few farmers have already started preparing their land, most are waiting for Ramadan to end on the evening of Sunday, May 1.

RNI reporter Rawa Bukar Tela spoke to some farmers.

Ali Umaru said: “We are getting prepared to farm. Many have started clearing their lands, even though the rains have only just started. Immediately after Ramadan, our holy fasting period, we will all need to start clearing the bushes and getting our farms ready. But, because of the influx of IDPs, we need a lot more space to farm.”

Abour Musarram Dikwa said: “If the government permits us to go further into the bushes to farm, we will not need food assistance from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or humanitarian aid agencies. But, before we can successfully farm, we need more equipment, such as fertiliser, pesticides and seedlings.

“We will also need more troops, civilian joint task force members and vigilantes to help keep us safe while we farm. But, at present, there is no guarantee of safety outside the town, where we prefer to farm because there is more land,” he said.

“We want the government to provide security forces to watch over us while we farm. There should be checkpoints and armed guards to protect us. That is the only way we can farm in peace. And it is not just for the farmers, other people, such as firewood collectors and those who forage for food or items they can sell, will also be more secure.”

Musarram Dikwa said farmers in the area were desperate for more space. “Because there are so many more people living in Dikwa now, the authorities need to increase the number of fields so that there is more space and all of us will be able to farm.”

He said IEDs were a major obstacle, especially as the insurgents were now planting more of them in farming and wood-gathering areas.

“We are acutely aware that going into the bushes to farm is dangerous. Many farmers and other people have already fallen victim to these devices. Some have died and others are severely wounded. But there’s nothing we can do about it. Even the grass has grown so tall that it is easy to miss seeing an IED. We pray Allah will protect us,” Musarram Dikwa said.

“But I want to caution fellow residents that they should avoid sending small children to the farms, or into the bushes on errands, because children just run wherever they want and do not look where they are going. The also do not know about IEDs. They might find one and pick it up, not knowing what it is. They do not realise how dangerous IEDs are and that they could be killed or maimed.

“In fact, all people should be very wary. If they see anything suspicious, they must report it immediately to the authorities. They should not let their curiosity be the cause of their deaths. They must not dig them up, touch them or move them because it could detonate at any minute.”

For farmer Ari Abdul, his main concern was the amount of land available to farmers. “I want the government to allow us to access areas further into the bushes so that our farming will become sustainable and we will not have to depend on the government, NGOs or individuals. We just need more land.”

AISHA SD JAMAL            

About the author

Elvis Mugisha