Thursday, 31 March 2016

Benue farmers fighting poverty with garden egg

Garden egg is a highly valued delicacy in Nigerian society such that its importance cannot be overemphasised to consumers and farmers alike.

The plant, which is botanically known as Solanum Melongena, is reputed to be an economic fruit belonging to the family of solanaceae and widely accepted as food and for other medicinal purposes.

While it is consumed daily by rural and urban families, some producing households depend on it as their main source of income.

In Benue State, farmers who earn their livelihood from garden egg farming have urged government at all levels to pay adequate attention in order to boost its production in commercial quantity to augment the nation’s economy in the face of dwindling oil fortunes.

Ibrahim Iliya, a dry season garden egg farmer at the Wurukum side of River Benue’s under bridge in Makurdi, said the state government over the years, had paid lip service to the development of small scale vegetable farmers like himself, who contribute their quota to the farming of the plant.

He said the hardships in getting fertiliser, pesticides and water needed to grow the crop in large quantity would be minimised if government provided the enabling environment for the farmers to improve on available technology and expand their farms.

“Fertiliser, pesticides and engines to pump water are a problem. We are disturbed and the government doesn’t seem to care. It’s been lip service over the years, which is all we get when they come here to address us and promise big things,” he said.

He explained further that he hired farms every dry season for between N7,000 and N60,000 depending on the size of land made available to him, adding that soon after the rains set in, the area would be covered by the flowing river which would force farmers like him to suspend their activities until the next season.

Despite the constraints, Iliya disclosed that he still realised encouraging gains at the end of harvest, especially with the ever ready market for his produce by buyers who flood the farms from as early as 6.00a.m. to take delivery of their purchases at moderate prices for onward sale to consumers.

Another farmer at the waterside, Jamilu Usman, told our correspondent that garden egg farming was quite lucrative except that he lacked access to government’s input and modern technology to boost production.

“We will do a lot better if the state government encourages us by way of small loans to buy fertiliser and generators to pump water from the deep river source. The government can also provide permanent land for us so that during the rainy season, we can continue with the farming of garden egg,” Usman said.

Meanwhile, a buyer, Abdul Rasheed, said he bought a 25kg bag of garden eggs from the farmers at their farms under the Wurukum bridge for N2,500 and sold each for N30.

He said he made between N2,000 and N3,000 gain after retailing a 50kg bag of garden eggs either by hawking within residential areas in Makurdi metropolis or selling in major markets within the town.

For Madam Linda Anar, who travels from Ikpayongo village, near Makurdi on a daily basis to Wurukum under bridge to buy vegetables which sometimes included garden egg from the farms, the fruit was cherished by her rural consumers, who believed that the plant helped to fight cancer and other diseases.

“For almost 20 years now, I come here (Makurdi) on daily basis from Ikpayongo to buy these farm produce and other vegetables to sell in the market. It has helped me and my family a lot. I’m a registered member with the vegetable association,” Anar said.

Interestingly, there is good news for farmers, buyers and consumers of garden eggs who have all agreed that the benefits of garden egg drives away poverty and some diseases as Mr. James Anbua, the Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources disclosed recently that the government planned to develop dry season farming as a major shift into agriculture from overdependence on oil revenue.

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