Internally displaced persons at the Kawar Maila camp in Maiduguri urgently need farming equipment and more security, saying they are helpless without them.
They have asked the government and non-governmental organisations to help them so that they can start irrigation farming, which would allow them to grow bigger crops, make more money because they would be able to grow more than one crop cycle in rotation, making better use of every hectare, and it was healthier because with drip irrigation the rice roots were not submerged.
They told RNI reporter Hadiza Dawood that most of the farmers went to their farms on the outskirts of the city even though insurgents were often still on the attack.
Bukar Alhaji Bukar, the secretary of Kawar Maila, said the residents of the camp had always been farmers, even before the start of the insurgency in 2009.
Persistent brutal attacks by extremists from the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram and, since 2016, by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had forced them to leave the countryside and take shelter in the relatively safe camp but they still had to go to their lands to farm.
He said the internally displaced persons had planted carrots, onions and tomatoes and rice but they did not have enough fertiliser to produce bumper harvests.
“We don’t have generators. We don’t have enough water supply, no good pipes and no money to buy all these things. We are now helpless. We are counting on the government to help us going forward. We desperately need fertiliser to make the land more fertile. Farming is the only work we have,” he said. “It is our livelihood.”
He said his farm was in the Konduga Local Government Area, about 25km southeast of Maiduguri, adding that he and other farmers in the area spent five to seven days on their farms and then returned to Maiduguri. Farmers whose lands were further away would return to the camp once a month.
Bukar Alhaji Bukar said he had farmed during the wet season that had recently ended but he had not managed to produce a bumper crop because of the low rainfall.
If properly planted, watered and cared for, farmers could easily produce 50 bags of rice but they needed fertiliser, generators and pipes for irrigation.
Mommodu Kura, an internally displaced person and a farmer from the Abadam Local Government Area, about 250km from Maiduguri, said the government needed to provide security as well.
“We are still afraid to go to our land because of attacks by insurgents. Some farmers have even given up their land because they are scared they will be attacked. They say they are putting their lives first,” he said.
Maryam Bukar said she could not farm in Maiduguri because there was not enough land and they did not have any security. She knew of many farmers who had been “mercilessly” killed on their lands. She said the government had provided security only in some areas. “If there had been no security, many more farmers would have been killed.”