Malleri in Kwami LGA of Gombe State is a farming community located about 60 kilometers in the northeastern part of Gombe city.
Our reporter, who visited the local community, reported on residents’ fears of constant hippo attacks on their farmland.
60-year-old farmer Abu Bakr al-Hajj, along with his children, has been clearing his farm on the banks of the Dadin-Kowa River for dry-season farming, hoping to make up for the losses he made during the rainy season after the floods destroyed his farms. .
He explained that while he was recovering from flood losses, a puff of hippos swept across his farms and destroyed crop residues and other farms that had survived the floods.
He said, “We used to experience occasional floods on our farms, but last year was the worst. I suffered heavy losses on my five farms where I planted rice and sorghum from floods and hippos.
Hippos usually destroy our farms. The government has prevented us from killing them. We see them destroying our crops but the government has warned us not to kill or harm them.
“In the past, hippos grazed at night, but these days we see them in broad daylight roaming our farms and destroying crops.”
He noted that the people of Maleri and the neighboring communities on the banks of the Dadin Cua River were at risk of starvation if the government did not intervene.
He added, “Although they do not attack people, the losses we are recording are incalculable. Therefore, we appeal to the government to prevent them from attacking our farms.”
For his part, Malam Saeed Muhammad (54 years old), a vegetable farmer, said that apart from the hippopotamus attacks and floods, they lacked agricultural tools and inputs during the dry season.
He said: Apart from onions, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables, I also grow beans. But last year, we didn’t get fertilizer and other agricultural inputs.
“Also, due to the sharp increase in diesel prices, we could not operate our machines to irrigate the farmland. We had to give up growing vegetables and grow beans that could grow easily near the river.
But after struggling to grow beans, our farms were destroyed by floods and hippos. Now, most of us do not have food in our homes; being subsistence farmers.”
So Malam Muhammad said, “We really need help to be able to feed our families and meet our other needs.”
When our reporter met Mallam Baburu Magaji, 53, on his farm on the outskirts of Malere, he said he was engaged in the cultivation of rice, melons, guinea sorghum and maize.
He said, “We are used to flash floods, but last year they consumed agricultural lands in high-rise areas that we never expected to reach. Many farms were destroyed after people spent huge amounts of money on cultivating them.
“We need the government’s help to be able to get back on our feet because we lost all our investment in farms due to the flood.”
But he noted: “Our other problem is the hippos, and the only option for us is to stay on the farms to protect them and prevent the animals from encroaching on our crops and destroying them.”
The head of the Rice Growers Association in Maleri Alhaji Sarki complained that last year hippos destroyed several hectares of rice in Maleri and the surrounding villages.
He said, “Hippos destroyed my farms. We planted rice hoping to make up for the losses we had from floods but the hippos invaded at night and ended everything.”
Sarky explained that they surrounded their lands with prickles and thorns as a temporary measure to prevent hippos from crossing into farmland.
He said, “Fear of attacks by hippos is what kept us from planting rice. They are invading the farms now even in the afternoon. I have lost more than three hectares.”
“After the rains abated, I sowed again, but was also destroyed by the hippos. I lost my investment in three plantations worth more than N300,000.
“I also planted wheat, but when it began to bloom, hippos came in the night and ate all the plants.
“You see them (pointing to the soot of the hippos in the river); they are waiting for us to leave the farms and they will come out and invade our crops and destroy them.
“So, in addition to the money spent to get good seedlings, fertilizers and other farming tools. Now, we have to hire the services of guards to protect the farms.”
Sarky criticized the government’s failure to protect them from frequent hippo attacks.
Another farmer, Uziru Ali (30), said: “Now we pay guards daily to protect our farms. We pay at least N1,000 per farm per day. We have no choice but to pay because one of the problems with hippos is that even if they don’t eat anything On farms, just passing through them destroys whatever is being sown.
Hippo attacks were more severe last year because of the flood. Because the river was flooded, the hippos had no choice but to cross over to our farms in search of food. So, in broad daylight, hippos invaded farms.”
He pointed out that had it not been for the hippos, they would have been able to compensate for the losses they recorded from the flood.
He said, “Although we suffered losses during the rainy season due to floods, if there had been no danger of hippos, we could have compensated for the losses. The threat of hippos is great and we fear that there will be even greater losses looming if adequate care is not taken.” “.
Therefore, Ali appealed for help from the government to engage the services of rangers to protect their farms.
Government to establish a hippopotamus colony
When contacted, Ismail Oba-Miceli, Director General of Press Affairs for Governor Mohamed Inuwa Yahya, said the state government was aware and working to address the hippo issue in Maliri village and other communities along the Dadin Kwa River in Funakai, Kwame and Yamalto/Dipa LGAs.
He said that although the affected farmland is under the jurisdiction of the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority (UBRBDA), the state government is ready to address any issue affecting indigenous people and other residents of the state.
Miceli said: “We have taken conscious steps towards finding a permanent solution to this issue to ensure that humans and hippos can coexist peacefully.
“Because the hippopotamus is an endangered species, in May 2022 state government officials met with Dr. Lynn Baker, a US-based conservation biologist and some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) about how to establish a hippopotamus colony in the state.”