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ASTC cultivates 900 hectares of land for IDPs in 14 Plateau state communities

The Plateau State government-owned Agricultural Services, Training Centre and Marketing Ltd, ASTC, has cultivated 900 hectares of land to boost food production in 14 communities recently affected by violent conflicts as the Agro Rangers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC assures of protecting the farms to ensure no intruders destroy the cultivated land before the harvest of the crops planted.

The benefitting communities spread in three local government areas of Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Mangu are
Jol, Kwi, Rim and Bachit in Riyom. Sho in Barkin Ladi, as well as Aloghom, Gaude/Kinat, Bwai, Sabon Layi, Mangul- Kantoma Bakin Hanya, Jwakkom/ Lighit-Lubang, Kombun, Daika (Atughun), Dangdai and Gyembwas in Mangu.

Recall that these communities were sacked during recent attacks and most residents are in the Internal Displaced Persons, IDP camps. Many of their farms had not been cultivated and those cultivated were destroyed by either cattle which are released to graze on them or by assailants who cut down the crops with machetes.

The IDPs had ceased worrying about their condition in the temporary camps but expressed deep concern about what they would eat as they were unable to go to farms during the season.

To alleviate their plight, the ASTC offered support to the delight of the people as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ASTC, Dr. Susan Bentu explained during the official flag-off of the farming intervention at the weekend that the State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang directed it.

She said, “We are here to cultivate lands in areas that had been affected by the unfortunate recent armed attacks that have dislodged a lot of farmers, rendered them IDPs and unable to cultivate their lands. This has been made possible by the Plateau State government. The Governor, Caleb Mutfwang approved an intervention for the cultivation of 900 hectares of land for the farmers in the first phase. Other phases will be coming in so that farmers can make use of what is left of the rain-fed season rather than allowing the lands to lie waste.

“This is as a result of appeal and cry from farmers in these areas so we will be cultivating the lands in Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Mangu. This will be a week-long exercise and would be extended if necessary. The communities are happy and we are happy to be of service at this time. We are working in conjunction with the Agro Rangers from the NSCDC to give protection because these farms are in the bushes.

“This will encourage those who have been displaced to come back to their homes. The rains are far gone but people can plant cowpeas (white beans), soybeans, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes so that we can make use of what is left of the season. The government is working at providing farm inputs and they will be provided to the farmers.”

Also, the Deputy Corps Commandant, Olushola Bakenne who is the Head of Agro Rangers, NSCDC, Plateau State Command assured the farmers of safety saying, “The Agro Rangers are specialized personnel trained to provide adequate security for farms, farmers and their investment. The men are battle ready, they will provide adequate security coverage for farmers and the government officials that will work here.”

However, the District Head of Bungha, Da Danladi Denan represented by the District Chairman of Mwaghavul Development Association, Mr. Yabak Retkat expressed joy at the gesture and stated, “When we heard of this kind gesture by the Government of Plateau State, we were so grateful. All these places were cultivated early this year but because of insecurity, the place was deserted.

“The bandits terrorized the people, grazed on the crops and levelled everything and left the place fallow. We appreciate the government for the invention, we will give our support and we appeal for more inputs because this is our source of livelihood.”

Meanwhile, farmers like Baba Ezekiel Dashial and Nanribet Samuel who suffered losses have had their crops destroyed and their farm implements like knapsack sprayers, and pumping machines used for irrigation farming stolen appealed for more assistance to enable them to repay the loan they obtained to invest in the farms.

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