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Why Katsina farmers abandoned large scale cocoyam farming

Cocoyam farmers in Katsina State have expressed concern over how, for almost a decade now, leaf blight disease has been hindering large scale production of the crop in the state.

Fifteen years ago, the southern part of Katsina State was well known for the large scale production of cocoyam. The many merchants from the south, east and Niger Republic trooped to buy the produce in the state at very cheap rate.

The effect of leaf blight disease for about eight years now is however fast affecting large scale production of the crop.

Malam Musa Yusuf, a cocoyam farmer at Dankawo, Funtua LGA, said there were no longer prospects in cocoyam farming compared with other crops such as rice, soybeans, maize and sorghum in the state.

Persisted leaf blight disease has made many of us to shy away from cultivation of cocoyam because both government and agricultural companies are paying less attention to curtail the dreaded disease perhaps because those who majorly survive on the production of the crop are the peasants and vulnerable groups who have neither the voice nor the resources to influence its future,” said Musa Yusuf.

He added that farmers on their own have tried different remedies seeking improvement in the situation but all in vain hence the resort to the production of maize and rice.

“It is hard now to see a farmer that produces cocoyam on a hectare or more of farmland; many of those who produce it now cultivate it in small farms, plot of lands close to town and backyard of houses,” Yusuf also explained.

Malam Jamilu Sani who deals with tuber crops at Bakori market also said the crop is fast coming to extinction in the markets as its supply is very poor in comparison with the last 15 years.

“If you go round the market you will discover that the supply of cocoyam is very poor, to the extent that those merchants that came from far to buy the produce are no longer coming. Had the government and agricultural companies taken early measure to contain the disease, cocoyam farming would have successfully improved by now,” Sani said.

He added that despite low production, a bag of cocoyam did not cost more than N5,000 because the produce has been relegated to local consumption only.

Alhaji Murnai Barau, a retired agriculture worker, said the disease bedevilling cocoyam for years requires strategic intervention of both government and the private agricultural companies.

“Farmers need to be supplied with new improved seeds of cocoyam because the recycling of the infected seeds leads to build up of the leaf blight disease and the reduction of the crop’s yield. Similarly, the mode of propagation enhances transmission of the disease from one generation to the next, that is why the impact of the disease moved beyond one season of damage,” Alhaji Barau said.

He added that farmers need to be reached through enlightenment campaigns on the nature of the disease and how to mitigate it. “It is not encouraging how cocoyam farmers are virtually left to their own devices over the years concerning the crop’s disease,” he lamented.

Source: Daily Trust

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