By Esther Nworie
Rural farmers of Ekpaomaka community, Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Monday, decried the menace of rice pests on their farms saying that they are losing over N50 million naira annually to pests that have continued to destroy their rice farms since 2016.
They spoke to Citizens’ Advocate newspaper when our reporter visited the community.
Ekpaomaka is one of the agrarian communities in Ikwo that produces rice in large quantities.
The farmers said they no longer produce rice that can sustain their families let alone in large quantity for commercial purposes since pests started destroying their rice farms since 2016.
The farmers said their children have all dropped out of schools because of lack of money to pay their fees.
The people said before pests started attacking their rice farms, each farmer owning a plot of land, makes over 15 big drums of rice which they process and sell to solve their financial needs and pay their children’s school fees.
But now they manage to produce half drum of rice in a plot of land which they said have brought hunger and untold hardship to farmers who don’t have secondary source of income.
One of the rice farmers, Okpezu Chukwuma said that pests have made many rice farmers in the area not to continue farming.
“We have vast arable lands for rice cultivation and other crops but the problem we have is pests. We need insecticides and pesticides because pest have dealt with us, it has eaten up our crops especially rice.
“Since 2016, pests have continued to eat our rice and we have not been able to get the pesticides that can kill them. Since that year, we have been having low production and also hunger. This year, we are afraid that pests will attack our rice and that is why we started rice cultivation this year as early as May when we supposed to start in this July. We are very much afraid and we want help to save us from pests this year.
“Once the pests attack the rice, the leaves will dry off and there will be no fruits on it. Since that 2016 the pests started, we have lost not less than N50 million naira every year to pests. We are known for massive rice production but pests have remained our obstacle and it is causing us lots of problem including hunger because we no longer produce what we eat, we have low productivity generally”, he said.
Another aged farmer, Mrs. Chinyere Andrew said “pests have destroyed all our crops. We no longer cultivate rice the way we used to do since pests started destroying our rice. Before pests started destroying our rice farms, we use to get 15 big drums of rice in one plot of land but we are making only half drum. It has affected us badly and we need assistance in the areas of pesticides that can kill the pests. We are dying of hunger as a result of this situation, we have no money to solve our needs because it is from this rice cultivation that we use and solve our financial problems when we have bumper harvest.
“All my children; five boys have dropped out of school because of pests which adversely affected me. I make money through rice cultivation/production. It is from it that I train my children in school but now, they are out of school because no money for them to continue. We need pesticides and fertilizers. Fertilizer is no longer on the reach of the common man. A bag is now N15,000 and most of us cannot afford it”.