Pests Add Insult to Farmers’ Injuries
Monday, August 06, 2012
The hairy caterpillar pests are among key threats to farmers in their efforts to recover from the huge crop failure that rocked the country in last year’s cropping season.
Farming communities in the North Bank Region, who were among the hardest hit by last year’s crop failure, are having reservations to see their crops perform well.
More than a month after the start of the rainy season, farmers in different regions are still busy sowing seeds, because they said pests, including birds and rodents had destroyed their earlier sown seeds.
On a visit to most of the affected areas, this paper was told by Amadou Jobe, a farmer in the North Bank Region, that he had no other option but to re-sow a two-hectare maize farm ravaged by the outbreak of the hairy caterpillars.
He described the destruction as discouraging, because it affected him financially.
“I had to buy seeds two times for the same piece of land this season, and buying fertiliser is inevitable,” he said.
Some other farmers in Lower Baddibu related the poor start of their farming to the invasion of birds and rodents on their farms.
“We have seen birds, rodents and other creatures like millipedes becoming a threat to our hope to recover from our last year’s battle with crop failure,” Abdoulie Bah said.
He explained that birds and rodents exhumed seeds sowed before it could germinate, and millipedes attacked some of the crops beginning to germinate.
Farmers are in a similar dilemma in the Kiangs, where some are still in the kick-off stage of the farming season.
Yahya Faye described the situation in Kiang as threatening, noting that farmers cannot understand why their main crops especially, coos could not grow up since the start of the season in June.
“Whenever it rains, the crops would be buried by the sand we have tilled, making it difficult for the crops to grow,” he said.
Lack of fertiliser is the commonest problem among the farming community, though reportedly in government stores, it is yet to be in the reach of many farmers in the provinces.
Apart from access to the fertiliser, many farmers complained about the high cost.
“If the cost of one bag of NPK fertiliser is D1, 000, how can we, the farmers, afford to get it for our farms?” a farmer rhetorically asked.
He continued that the main task on farmers is carrying the load of feeding their families.
Badarra Jobe, Director of Njawara Agricultural Training Centre (NATC) , told The Daily News that pest disaster in the North Bank Region was caused by late plantation of the crops.
He indicated that many farmers were late to start the cropping season, due to lack of the required amount of seeds and information of the risk involved.
By the time some of them began to sow their seeds, he said, the pests had already hatched their eggs with their lava, mature enough to destroy the crops.
The birds and other pests, including the hairy caterpillars and millipedes, according to him, had no other feeding option but on the farmers’ crops because of last year’s groundnut failure.
“Our analysis showed that groundnuts which registered the biggest loss in last year, is the most widely-consumed crop for humans, animals and insects. And because of its failure, there is nothing left for these pests to survive. Both the birds and the rodents were already hungry enough,” Mr Jobe explained.
He added: “Some fields were wiped out completely, which discouraged many farmers in replanting more crops.”
Another Agricultural analyst believed that the planting of cereal crops at this stage of the rainy season would not be a wise idea.
He noted that the rainfall in The Gambia is projected to last for three months.
“Already, the rainy season has gone half-way. Many farmers, however, could not see that point,” he said.
Author: Ebrima Bah