National TRAIL Podium: My Fears Over Food Security in Nigeria-Dilli

*Give us an introductory background to who Mai Madu Dilli, (Sarkin Noman Biu Emirate) is.*

I would rather be brief for I have a lot of stories to tell about Mai Madu Ali Dili and so here I summarise,
Born in Biu( Ruth Royer Memorial Hospital Garkida) had my early education in Biu Bauchi and Jos from 1963 to 1973, had my GCE and got employed by the North eastern state government ministry of Natural Resources in Maiduguri,
Initially posted to Dikwa and later taken to Borno Cattle Ranch Gombole, the only cattle ranch in Northern Nigeria then, here I was exposed to cattle ranching as it was then manned by seasoned Nigerian professionals and experts from America and Australia volunteer services,while there I got admitted into the ABU College of Agriculture Samaru Zaria to read Agric in 1976 and after the pre technical I proceeded to College of Animal Science Kaduna where I specialized in Animal science, I read Diploma and came back to Borno where I joined others to establish the Gujba Cattle Ranch now in Yobe state, after a year I got admission to the National Veterinary Research Institute College of Animal Science in 1979 and obtained my HND in 1981 and went for NYSC in Cross River State I was assigned to establish a farm by the Cross River Basin Development Authority in Ikom of which I did to their satisfaction and they offered me employment but I was in the services of Borno state govt and so came back to Maiduguri but not before they gave me an Award and a lot of gifts including a street named after me in the Village,
In Maiduguri I became the officer incharge of the Livestock investigation and Breeding Centre in Dalori opposite the University of Maiduguri, but not very long Pfizer Products Limited a multinational company with Headquarters in New York offered me employment and I accepted and relocated to Lagos where I started as Technical Sales Representative incharge of the North East Nigeria, this lasted for three years, when the government of then General Buhari came in 1984 they got discouraged leading to their exit from Nigeria, however there was a management buy out and so we continued as a company but I came back to Maiduguri to open the first Animal health services store around Kasuwan Shanu we sold livestock drugs vitamins minerals and feeds, in 1985 I was approached by Alhaji Umar Sanda Birma to help in establishing a farm in Biu, which I accepted and established the Birma Agric Projects Ltd in Kur Mwabulu along Damboa road from Biu, I was later joined by some Danish Nationals in the farm and we performed wonders, for the first time while Nigeria’s maximum yield per hectare of Maize was 900kg we achieved a per hectare yield of 6500kg or 6.5 metric tones of Maize, the highest ever in Nigeria, l left Birma after three years and opened Facco Feeds Nig in Maiduguri I was producing livestock feeds for both ruminants and poultry but with the Nigerian govt policy on Agriculture not favorable under IBB I went back to Lagos to got into other trades including Clearing and Forwarding, Shipping and later importing from Germany, this lasted until after June 12 palaver, while still in Lagos I ventured into Mining along with my Italian friends, we established a mining company in Jos with a Tin Shed in Zaramaganda and Tudunwada Wada Jos,
As Lagos was becoming very uncomfortable I relocated part of my family to Abuja the new city, I was therefore going round Lagos Jo’s and Abuja, while in Abuja I do nothing I got drawn in to the world of politics culminating into my contest for the Chair of Abuja Municipal Area Council in 1996, I later became the Deputy Chairman and later acting chairman, when the then Head of state General Abatcha died the political atmosphere changed and I had become more political and so we got attracted to Borno our original home, after a long sojourn in opposition PDP we later join ANPP formed a govt, became Adviser on Agriculture to the Gov and finally Commissioner for agriculture,
Today I am practicing farmer, a Rancher and a Dairy farmer, I get involved in to value addition for I have a rice mill, a mini Flour mill, and an Oil mill, all in Biu,
His Royal Highness found it appropriate to appoint me as the Sarkin Noma of Biu emirate,
Along the journey I was also at the Agricultural College (University) Yorkshire, St Johns University York, the Ogun state University Ago Iwoye from which I obtained certificates in Horse and Equine management art, PGD and Masters in Public Administration

1.. *The rains this year has been said to be a mixed blessing. What is the situation in Borno* ?

The rainfall this year has been actually very high, we had shorter duration of it last year resulting into a dry spell which affected crop production, again this year it came higher than what may be we prayed for. We thank the God for his mercies,
For those who planted early especially Maize they may not have much problem in southern parts of the state, but I think most people for fear of last year’s experience planted much later falling into the excessive rain period, it has stunted the growth of crops especially maize,
For Cowpea otherwise known as Beans we all have suffered in majority of the farms all over the state, when there is too much moisture on ground hardly do you plant beans to germinate and so a lot lost from the state of germination , farmers are also scared and not sure of the continuations of rain which makes it risky to plant, having planted several times,
For rice it has been ok as far as precipitation is concerned, the problem is inputs this time, so generally speaking there is likely going to be shortfall in our harvest, except sorghum and millet in central and northern and some parts of southern Borno where harvest have so far been good

2. **Do you foresee the possibility of food shortage given the reported damages to farmlands?*
There is very high possibility of food shortages this year for a couple of reasons,
First of all we just talked of excessive precipitation with resultant flooding not only in Borno but in about 33 states of the federation, this destroyed farms and even farmers, there is the likelihood of the flood destroying the Irrigation structures which will affect even the irrigation farming mostly around the river basins in the dry season, also even that did not experience flood there have been erosions,
Secondly, inputs especially fertilizers and chemicals have been difficult to come by this season, for importers of of any inputs have met brick wall since the lockdown as a result of Covid-19 and scarcity of foreign exchange have lost capacity to bring in inputs, it has also resulted in scarcity of products sending the price out the ordinary farmers reach, without these inputs naturally crop yields are sure to go down making food unavailable,
Thirdly the problem of insurgency in the crop production areas of the north east and north west is contributing to the shortage of food this year, the insurgents not only stop people from farming but destroy the already planted and farms ready for harvest,
With all these factors food shortages may be experienced

3. *We understand farmers are selling off their products directly from the farm. Given the grim picture you have painted, what advice do you have for farmers, particularly in Biu emirate?*

It is actually unfortunate that farmers are now selling their produce/ harvest at the farm gate, that is the clear indication of food scarcity, but actually the problem here is the grain traders and some Rice millers from all over the nation seeing these factors are out to buy as much as they can anticipating
scarcity of especially paddy, the
desperation is such they buy paddy
for up to 30,000 naira a bag of
85/90kg, and you know the bag of 85/90kg cannot give you 50kg of polished rice so you know the rest,
The problem we have in Biu and to some extent southern Borno is the fact that we don’t have any other trade but farming and unfortunately we only have one season farming in most of the areas except may be Shani, Bayo, a bit of Hawul and A/Uba where we have rivers around for dry season farming,
In other words we work for only four months in a year and waisting the remaining eight months doing nothing

4. *What special appeals can you make to Government in the face it the foreseen situation?*

To be sincere we are even lucky in this country for having the present administration in place, if rice importation was not banned we would have been experiencing what is happening in the Horn of Africa by now, for the first time in the history of this country Nigerian farmers have been able to triple the production of rice, in so many areas around the river basins traditional vegetable crops gave way to rice farms, low lying areas all over used for rice production during the rainy season,
The Anchor Borrowers Program introduced by the President and strongly supported by the Governor and the Development Finance department and staff of the CBN changed the narratives in food production all over the country, it made people more aware of farming and technics including the use of inputs, it made farm inputs available to farmers in their locality, consultants were engaged in training and formation of farmers groups and cooperatives, the result is mass production of food all over the country,
My appeal to the government therefore,as it is now, that food shortage is imminent, the emphasis should be towards the coming dry season, the deficit can only be closed by encouraging more farmers into the dry and irrigation this time,
All over the developed world farm subsidy is a tradition, therefore instead putting all our effort in petroleum subsidies running into trillions of naira I believe part of that should be channelled into Agriculture, much as CBN has tried by introducing the Anchor Borrowers Program, money spent in core crop production is less than a trillion naira, but the impact is massive food being produced today creating a long line of value chain and jobs, in other words immediate subsidy regime be created for Agriculture especially crop and livestock farming, Agro chemicals, fertilizers, certified seeds and other farm inputs be made available at subsidized prices, as it is today the farmers capacity has been depleted, with Covid-19, last year’s dry spell and of course flood this season


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