By Maria Famakinwa
The relentless activities of bandits, who have been terrorising farmers and stealing their farm produce across the State have instilled a deep sense of despondency and insecurity among the farmers. Farmers have always been protective of their crops as they are the fruits of their hard work, which are expected to bring in income or at the very least, feed them and their families.
Findings revealed that the farmers, who once relied on their land to sustain their families and contribute to the local economy, now find themselves caught between the fear of robbery, abduction and the desperate need to provide for their loved ones.
Incessant attacks on farmers and their crops mean they now have to choose between saving themselves or their crops in the absence of security guarantee against incessant threats. The fear of being targeted by bandits has become overwhelming, causing many to abandon their farmland for safety leaving their crops untended and their livelihoods in jeopardy.
One of the victims is Mr Lanre Ajibade, who has been farming in Akure North for close to ten years. Ajibade, had gone to his farm in May last year only to be attacked by some herdsmen. He explained that his attackers wanted him dead but he was lucky to survive.
His words:“I went to the farm, as usual, to attend to my cocoa last year May. I was on a tree when some herdsmen numbering four came asking me if I saw one of their cows. They claimed that the cow went astray. I replied that I did not see any cow and if the cow had passed my farm, I would have noticed it because it rained that day. Four of them started beating me. They hit my head against a tree and I fell. I pretended to be dead and they ran away.
“I called for help and people around the place came to my rescue. I went to the hospital and I was treated. Since then, I have not gone to my farm alone. Farmers need to be protected to fight hunger otherwise, prices of foodstuffs will keep increasing,” he warned.
Another victim, Mr Lawrence Olowu, lamented that he took to farming after his monthly salary as a civil servant could no longer sustain him and his family. The man who said that it was his first attempt to embrace farming added that he regretted venturing into it because the yam and plantain he planted were harvested by unknown bandits.
His words: “We were advised to go into farming to cushion the effect of the harsh economy which I did after listening to testimonies of some of my friends who were into farming. I took loan from my office cooperative and rented a plot of land in Oda town where I planted yam and plantain. I visited the farm every weekend with my family to work on it without knowing that some unscrupulous elements were planning to steal my crops. The yams and plantain I planted were harvested by bandits a week before I was planning to harvest them. It was only few left. I didn’t know where to start from because people I asked around the farm said that they were not aware of such. Who then do I hold responsible?”
A public servant, Mrs Afolabi whose husband’s farm at Itaogbolu was invaded by bandits said that her husband planted yam and cassava on the farm and was waiting for the day of harvesting before they invaded the farm. “There have been reported cases of bandits stealing people’s crops in the area until the very day when my husband’s farm was attacked.”she divulged.
“My husband went to the farm around 8 a.m with his okada, as he was parking the okada to enter his farm, his mobile phone rang and he picked the call without knowing that someone was on the farm uprooting the yam. As soon as the thief heard my husband speaking, he ran away leaving the yams he uprooted behind.
“My husband ran after him in order to take his picture but he covered his face as he continued running. My husband was able to take the picture of his clothes and went to their camp later in the day to report to their leader and showed him the picture taken. The leader who claimed to know the culprit started begging my husband to forgive him and he paid for the uprooted yams. He revealed that the perpetrator was newly brought from the village and promised to send him back to avoid problem. Bandits are preventing farmers from going to the farms which is the major reason for hike in prices of foodstuffs,” she said.
Another farmer at Owode, Mrs Ebunola Bankole, explained that she stopped farming since last year April when unknown person uprooted all her cassava. The woman added that until farmers are provided enough security on the farm she would not go back to farming.
Her words: “I have been a cassava farmer since we moved to Owode in the year 2019 and it has been helping my family to meet some financial needs. My husband who did not like farming later supported me when he saw that it was profitable to farm. We also planted maize and sold to consumers. This was the practice until last year when I went to the farm with people who wanted to buy corn and discovered that my corn and cassava had been harvested. I reported the case but to no avail.
“Since then, I became discouraged. I cannot quantify my efforts and the money spent. The only thing I do now is to plant tomatoes, pepper and vegetables besides my house where it can be monitored. Government encourage us to go to farm but it cannot work without putting proper security in place. What would have happened to me if those bandits who invaded my farm last year met me on the farm? Many are ready to farm to beat hunger but life is more important.”
The story is not different from Mr Obasanya Folorunsho, a farmer in Ose local government area of Ondo State whose tomatoes were harvested by bandits last year December. The man who disclosed that he borrowed money to fund the farm said that they carried out the act in the dead of the night. While calling on concerned authorities to prioritize security across the state, he said, “There is food scarcity because the bandits are intentional in their attempt at impoverishing the people. Many crops due for harvest have been stolen. They operate at midnight when they will be free to carry out their evil acts.
“Up till today, the attacks still continue, if they invade anybody’s farm and meet the owner on the farm, such should consider himself lucky if he is not killed because many farmers have been killed by bandits. Yams, cassavas and other crops were stolen leaving the owners in pains. Some farmers who wanted to confront them were injured. We are calling on the government to intervene because we cannot run away from the bandits. Their intention is to drive the people out and take over the community.
“Since my tomatoes were stolen early December last year, I have vowed not to consider farming again until there is full security. Up till now, I am yet to recover from the loss. The land is fertile to cultivate yam, rice, cassava, millet, but take my case for example. I borrowed close to N1m to farm but everything was wasted by bandits. I am not the only person in this situation, some of my friends are in the same situation. If small-scale farmers like us cannot farm to support the big-time farmers because of insecurity, how can the country sustain food security?. He wondered”.