Emmanuel Ugwu, Umuahia
An Abia State based journalist, Mr. Steve Oko, was in tears on Monday as he conducted his fellow journalists round his cassava farm destroyed by cattle apparently led into the farm by herdsmen yet to be identified.
Oko, who is the state correspondent of the Authority newspaper, said that he was horrified and devastated when he visited his cassava farm at the weekend only to discover that both the labour and the money he invested in the cassava farm had gone with the wind.
â€œThe entire farmland now looks like a football fieldâ€, he lamented, adding, â€œCows have turned the two plots of land into a grazing field.â€
He also said that the herdsmen deliberately set fire on the nearby bush to clear the way for easy passage of their cattle and to make it possible for fresh grasses to sprout by January.
The journalist said he decided to go into cassava farming â€œas part of strategies to survive the biting economic hardship in the countryâ€, adding that he had invested over N463, 000 to cultivate the two plots of land located at Olokolo in Umuahia South local government of Abia State.
He expressed disappointment that his dream of feeding his family with home-made garri and also earn some money from the crop has now become a mirage as he would have to be buying garri from the market next year.
â€œPart of the reasons I also embraced farming was because the cost of garri was almost unaffordable by the beginning of this year thus making cassava farming a very lucrative venture.
Oko said he had already petitioned the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Anthony Ogbizi, who also doubles as the state chairman of Farmers/ Herdsmen Conflict Resolution Committee.
He demanded that the owners of the animals and â€œthe callous herdsmen be made to bear the full responsibility of their actionâ€ while adequate compensation must the paid for the destroyed farm crops.
â€œIt is hard to reconcile that in a democracy, government and security agencies will watch herdsmen use their herds, which is their private business to inflict loss on other farmers,â€ he said. It is unacceptable.
Apart from cassava, other crops on the journalistâ€™s farm including coco-yam and pumpkin were also destroyed by the cows that had found the farm a good grazing ground on daily basis.