The clarion call in Nigeria is for people to go into farming or Agriculture which is said to be the next gold mine; but this is fraught with so many hindrances as the activities of Buku Haram,Fulani Herdsmen ,bandits etc have made the practice of Agriculture a very dangerous mission.As Senator Shehu Sani said recently “going to the farm is not the problem but returning from the farm”.But apart form the above there are other dangers and predicaments of farming in Nigeria.These are enumerated in this interview by Mrs Udeme Emmanuel Udonyah, former State President for Fadama in Akwa Ibom and the current President of Ikot-Ekpene Food and Cash Crop Multi-purpose Cooperative Society, Akwa Ibom. The Cooperative society which started out as a normal cooperative is now made up of 95 per cent widows since their male folks have died off over time.
Q:May we get to meet you?
ANS: My names are Mrs Udeme Emmanuel Udonyah. I’m the former State President for Fadama in Akwa Ibom and the current President of Ikot-Ekpene Food and Cash Crop Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Akwa Ibom.We operate mostly in Ikot-Ekpene LGA Akwa Ibom but we extend our market and produce to other LGA’S and to the State capital, Uyo. We have been serving as contact to a number of Agencies;for example the FAO,USAID,Aquaculture,MADE(Market Development in the Niger Delta)in cassava cultivation and Aquaculture,USADE(on cassava cultivation and processing).When we started the group in 1994 only a few were widows but over time we have been losing our dear ones to death.In fact that is what is attracting our sponsors because when they see we are mainly widows and how serious we are in the farming business……. That’s what attracts their support.
We started as a contact group for ADP(Agric. Development Programme)when their programme was for women in Agriculture .The time they came to see that we were mainly a woman group they brought their extension officials to train us on a lot of programmes like how to process soya beans to milk and so on and so forth.
Q:As the head Ikot-Ekpene Women Cash Crop and Multi-purpose Cooperative Society;how difficult is it managing farmers?
ANS:What happens is that as you heard,members are just women and as a head farmer i expend my leadership capacity along with other executives to manage the group.It may interest you to know that about 95% of the women today in the group are widows,not voluntarily-but due to time and unforeseen ocurence .Presently we are participating in the National Organic Agriculture of Nigeria and we make up pillar 3 in the South-South geopolitical zone.
Q:Is the government helping you or your group?Which one is helping the society better-the local government,State or Federal government?
ANS:Non of the government Agencies is assisting us financially.The govts. are not helping us in any way.As we speak the rosd to our farms and factory are bad and they have not repaired it.We are saying this because we require their help and support.So we want you to help us publicise this in order to engineer them to do something.
The should come and repair the road leading to our farm and factory at Ikot-Enwang village in Ikot-Ekpene LGA. So that the women can have access road to the factory and the farm.We also need assistance for mare machines-harmer mill,dryer for our cassava chips and pillets. And utility vehicles among others.We have made representations to Mobill PLC ,NDDC,and our LGA Chairman is also aware.When we approached them last year the said it was not in the budget.This year they said there was no money,that they only have money to pay salaries.
The federal government is also aware of this problem as we have made representations to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.So,its a very big problem.If not that the USADF(United States Agricultural Development Foundation)came and helped us build the factory we have not had support from anybody as yet.
Q:give us ten challenges militating against the average Nigerian farmer?
ANS:The foremost if finance,another one is training,availability of land(maybe am saying this because for female folks land is a big issue).To some farmers the biggest challenge is ready market,another is needed information–i hope am able to remember the whole ten because they are so many.There is apparent need for usable and adequate information.For me a lot of land i used with my husband while he was alife i dont have firm control over it today because i’m a lady.So for women,as i said land is a big issue due to various reasons i may not enumerate here.
Q:What can we do both the farmer and government and associations ….do to make the nation have a better productive Agricultural sector?
ANS:They should not only think of giving loans to farmers because agriculture is a big and complex issue for now–especially for female folks,its not easy for them to work to the level of men,make enough money to take care of their families and still repay the loans.Also,i want to suggest farmers and agency collaboration -whereby lands can be acquired by agencies and then they collaborate with farmers to till it like what we used to have when the River Basin Authorities were in charge.That model could work very well with female farmers:That is Farmers/Agency joint management .This is what i mean by the above.It could be the way to go.
Q:Why are you supporting organic Agriculture and not the other type?
ANS;I’M supporting organic farming because organic is life.If you eat food that come out of organic farming you are surer of better life and better living because everything from organic is natural ,with no chemical infection or disease.Even though it maybe easier to make more money by going the opposite direction.We believe when there is enough publicity people will patronize it very well. That is one of the problems we face since we lack support given the fact that adequate information takes a lot of funds to achieve or execute.
Q:In what areas of farming can you count yourself a success?And why did you chose Agriculture?
ANS:In crop farming ,i’m into vegitables-Tel feira(Ugu),Water leaf,Saint leaf,Bitter leaf ,Pepper and Afan etc .Any vegitable that is found in Akwa Ibom…..we are inti it.I used to farm cassava but there is hindrance that ‘s why we went into processing but the collapse of the road leading to our factory in Akwa Ibom is a big hindrance for us.We are also into fish farming etc