Unfinished N63m Project Frustrates Yam Farmers in Benue

As a N63 million yam processing plant project stalls in Zaki Biam, a suburb of Benue State, farmers said they are having difficulties in storing their produce

A report by Udeme, a project tracking platform in Nigeria, reveals that a member representing Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo, Richard Gbande, nominated the fabrication and installation of a two-ton per day yam processing plant.

It reports further that N63,000,000 was budgeted for the project which was awarded to the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NRICT) for implementation.

FARMERS LAMENT

John Ugbe has been a farmer all his life. Farming has been his source of livelihood and what he used to generate income to train his four children in school, from primary to university education.

“I have been a farmer all my life. For us here in this part of the world, if you don’t farm, they may see you as an unreasonable person. I have four children, whom, by God’s grace, I have trained in school to university level with the funds I generate here,’’ he says.

Storage has been a major challenge for John, who reveals that his yam barn has been where he has been storing for the past few years that he has been practising farming.

“My yam barn has been the only storage facility here. The bad side of this storage system is that we tend to make losses after harvest. During harvest, some yams get ‘injured’. In such cases, when you bring them to the house and store or keep them for the next few weeks or months, they will all go to waste.”

Jerry Uwua, 27, says farming has been a “lucrative job”, although reduced profits from recent losses in farm harvest have been discouraging.

“Farming has been lucrative for me. I’m young, but the reality here is that we are mostly farmers, and that is what we do here. One common scenario is the number of losses we incur because all the processes we pass through after harvest are local. My yam barn is the only place I keep my yams after harvest.”

Jerry also laments how the price of yams has been relatively low due to the demand level.

“When you take your yam to the market, the price they pay is not as high as it should be because the people buying it know that if you don’t sell it, it will get to a point in the year that it (the yam) gets spoiled.’’

At the Zaki Biam Yam market, a yam tuber sells for between N100 and N300 depending on the size, a price Jerry refers to as low due to the lack of advanced processing equipment.

“The price of yam here is low because of the demand. We have people who come here to buy yam every day, but the price is not encouraging with the current economic reality,’’ he added.

‘LAWMAKER HAS NOTHING TO SAY’

Spokesman for the lawmaker, Kelvin Atsem, said his principal, has no update on the project or details of the contract.

“There are no details of the contractors with my principal. He has revealed that all the details of the contract are with the supervising agency; they awarded the contract to their preferred contractor. I don’t have such details. All I know about the project is that I was told the contractors have built a fence at the site,” he said.

A Freedom of Information request to NRICT in March, but, the agency did not respond to the enquiry

However, a document obtained by UDEME from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, revealed that all 2022 Zonal Interventions Projects (ZIPs) had been fully funded.

During the visit to the project site in May 2023, it was found that the contractor had only built a fence around the land allocated for the project, and nothing more.

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