The current fuel scarcity bedeviling the nation has begun to take a toll on farmers, especially those who are into irrigation farming.
Most irrigation farmers rely on fuel-pumping machines to get water from nearby dams to keep the crops nurtured by watering it constantly as it is an integral component of growing crops until harvest time.
Irrigation farmers often cultivate near dams, streams and rivers, gulleys and ravines, among similar places where they can easily channel water to their farms.
It was gathered from some of the farmers on their farms in Jos, the Plateau State capital, that while some have pumping machines to draw water into their farms, others do not have.
Although others have the water pumping machine, they don’t have the pipes or hose to connect the water from the dam to their plants. Therefore, in order to keep their farming going, the farmers rent pumping machines and hose among themselves.
But the current fuel scarcity in the country right now has suddenly constituted a challenge to them because they can hardly get fuel to buy, thereby hampering their irrigation farming in one way or the other despite their collaboration.
A farmer, Mrs. Atong James, who owns a farm along the Lamingo area of Jos, said the fuel scarcity is crippling their irrigation farming since that is the only thing they use to power their pumping machine.
James said she used to water her farm at least two to three times in a week, but now she struggles to water her farm once a week, adding that their efforts to get fuel from black marketers is also not yielding result as the black marketers too are finding it difficult to get fuel.
James, who cultivates Irish potatoes, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, cabbage, among other crops, said in this dry season, she only cultivated Irish potatoes and onions.
But unlike the Irish potatoes, she explained, which can still manage to germinate by watering it once in a week, the onions requires to be watered at least three times in a week, and meeting up with that has been a huge challenge because of the fuel scarcity.
She also complained about their inability to purchase fertilizer, saying that the issue of access to fertilizer by farmers has been a general problem from time immemorial which remains a limitation to farming in the country.
On his part, John Ajiji, said he has two pumping machinesand prior to the fuel scarcity, he often fills both of them to pump water to his farm, but that now he can hardly fill one of the pumping machines.
Ajiji said before the scarcity, they bought a gallon of fuel for between N600 and N800, but now a gallon costs between N1,500 and N1,700.
He said if the fuel situation does not improve, he would farm at a loss because he is almost on the verge of losing his onion farm, which requires frequent watering and called on the government to do whatever it can to improve the fuel situation so that irrigation farmers do not farm at a loss and be discouraged to farm next season.
Also, another farmer, Mangvwat Bamaiyi Boksar, said apart from the fuel situation, even the dam is far from the farms, and it also cost them some efforts to get the hose or pipes to the dam to pump in water into their farms.
He said as things are currently going, he was not sure of making considerable earning from the dry season farming, but will have no other alternative than to continue and hope for the best.
According to him, the government is encouraging them to return to the farm, but is not doing things that will create the enabling environment for them to farm.
Boksar said he came from Mangu to engage in dry season farming, and that two of his children are in secondary school and he was hoping to raise money from his farm to pay their school fees.
From the farmers’ lamentation, it was imperative for the authorities to urgently do something about the fuel situation so that its negative effect on irrigation farming will be minimal.
This way, a vacuum between dry season farming and rainy season farming would not be created, because irrigation farming often ensures crop availability at all times, without having to wait for rainy season alone to cultivate and harvest crops.