THE Abia State Commissioner for Agriculture, Professor Ikechi Mgbeoji raised alarm over scarcity of cassava stems and an impending food shortage in the state as a result of massive bush burning and the menace of herdsmen.
In Umuahia on Friday, Mgbeoji, who had noted the acute shortage of cassava stems in the area, said Abia North will feel the shortfall more than other areas.
He described as “unscrupulous and unfortunate,” the activities of youths and some farmers in the area who indulge in indiscriminate bush burning during hunting expeditions, which affect the cassava stems that would be used in the upcoming planting season.
He said: “It is true that there is scarcity of cassava stems, especially the improved variety in Abia North. The reason is the massive bush burning and destruction of large farm lands in the area by cattle.
“Therefore, we should expect food crisis because farmers are finding it very difficult to get cassava stems for cultivation this farming season.”
The commissioner appealed to farmers and youths of the area to be cautious, while preparing their farmlands for cultivation or during hunting expedition.
According to the New Agency of Nigeria (NAN), some farmers in the area said that the scarcity of cassava stem is a serious constraint to them this current farming season.
Rev. Ernest Onyeukwu, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry and large scale farming in Item, said, “the worrisome and man-made challenge facing us are the activities of herdsmen.’’
He accused the herdsmen of unleashing their cattle to farmlands to destroy the crops every year, noting that “a large portion of my farm was recently ravaged completely by cattle.
“I went to farm one day and discovered that all I laboured for have been destroyed by cattle. I wept.”
Mr Kalu Nmasinobi from Ohafia said that he was still hoping to get enough stems for his farm and his mother’s.
Most of the subsistence farmers in the area, described the development as “frustrating” as the scarcity had dampened their zeal to farm this season, because cassava is the predominant crop in the area.
Mrs. Chinyere Onyebuchi said: “The communities are an agrarian but we are getting discouraged because of this unfortunate situation we have found ourselves.
“Most subsistence farmers cultivate cassava every farming season because you are not only sure of feeding your family but it puts some income in your pocket.”
The farmers also expressed the fear that the situation would spell food scarcity and hunger in the state, especially with the economic impact of COVID-19.
They appealed to the state government and research institutes in the state, especially the National Root Crop Research Institute and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, both in Umudike, to come to their rescue.