Godwin AJOM, Calabar
Scores of cocoa farmers in Ikom are now tears, following an inferno that gutted about nine hectares of their farmland, with many of them lamenting about the loans they took and how such loans would be paid.
The incident happened on Monday in Edor and Ogbagante-Akparabong communities, destroying the source of livelihood of scores of farmers who have put the value of their losses at millions of naira.
Speaking on the incident, one of the affected farmers, Mr Richard Ndoma of Akparabong community explained that in his own community, six massive farms were razed.
“In nearby Edor community, 13 cocoa farms were affected. So in all, 19 massive cocoa farms have been razed by this fire. These farmlands are about nine hectares.
“The fire was ignited by a retired soldier who also has a farm. He did not carefully clear the precincts of his farms. And so, when he set fire in his own farm, it spread to all the neighbouring farms.
“I am completely devastated. My entire investments worth over N7 million, my entire savings have been burnt away. My sweat over the years of nurturing the cocoa nurseries, the weeding and labour costs, the high cost of chemicals, the transportation are all wasted.”
Richard, who spoke on behalf of other affected farmers, said he borrowed money from banks and cooperative societies to nurture the farm and wondered how he would be able to repay such loans.
The farmers have appealed to the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to come to their aid.
“We seriously appeal to SEMA and NEMA to help us. This fire has completely devastated us. We need help. Such help will bring us back on our feet,,even though it takes some years and huge costs to raise cocoa nurseries to maturity,” he said.