What is the function of governance, what purpose is it expected to serve? Are we not supposed to be beneficiaries of the common good, the reason why any government exists in the first place? Of what value are farm inputs to a farmer when they arrive four months behind schedule?
The people of Tionsha a community in Benue state, the supposed food basket of the Nigeria are seeking answers to these questions and many more. They are asking no one but their government. “For donkey years we have been silent, fearing to ask questions. We are farmers who cannot point to any agricultural programme or project that has been implemented in this community by successive governments over the years. Now is the time to ask questions and to demand answers to these questions. We must break the silence” The chief of the community would say in a farmer’s forum organized by ACTIVISTA Benue as parts of campaign actions to mark the World Food Day.
Now is the time to ask questions and to demand answers to these questions We must break the silence
When Activista Nigeria rolled out her plans to commemorate the 2011 World Food Day, we moved from symbolism – usually characterized by short term public events and road shows. We wanted more. We planned to bring small holders farmers face to face with governments at the local level. The aim was to create an avenue where stakeholders in the agriculture industry would discuss and in turn initiate rolling campaigns across the various locations. This in turn will lead to a follow up on issues deliberated by the farmers, with a guarantee of commitment from the local authorities.
In Benue, government officials were absent at this forum even though they had earlier promised to be attend. Although we were hopeful they would show up but we were not at all surprised they did not. “…Is it not government? We know them and are used to this kind of attitude” a community member lamented.
While agriculture remains core to national development, those who are the very life of the sector, subsistent farmers are continually plagued by challenges and it is surprising that the government seems not only blind but mute to this reality. At the end of the forum, the farmers voiced up the challenges that confront them and together proffered practical solutions to their problems. In Tionsha, no farmer has ever benefited from any agricultural credit facility, farm inputs arrive four months after they are needed and their exorbitant prizes makes it nearly impossible for the average farmer to purchase them.
The farmers are not asking for the impossible. Resources such as fertilizers needed for agricultural activities should get to where they are needed, when they are needed, and in the right proportion. The farmers want to have access to agricultural credits or loans making available the needed capital to invest into their farms. Are these too much to ask from a government that one elected into power?
Even though the government did not honor the invitation to attend the farmer’s forum, the farmers are resolute. With the support of ACTIVISTA core volunteers in Benue, they are taking their demands to the establishment. An advocacy committee comprising four women and three men has been constituted with a simple terms of reference, “take our demands to government”. Since the government cannot condescend to go to Tionsha, Tionsha has no other option but to visit the Government House. For the community members and us, never has this statement made as much sense as it does today.
Since the government cannot condescend to go to Tionsha, Tionsha has no other option but to visit the Government House.