Dec 4, 2008, 4:26 AM
At least 50 hectares of rice paddies have been reportedly destroyed by marauding hippopotamuses, bush pigs and the intrusion of salt water into the rice fields in the
The incident, said to be an annual occurrence, has left hungry farmers in the area in a desperate position, and has in recent days been the center of discussion with local authorities in the area.
This reporter, who visited the area, learned that this rather unfortunate situation came at a time when most farmers have harvested their crops, but are yet to move them from their rice fields.
Some of the farmers who spoke to this reporter expressed concern that if such an “alarming episode” continued the quest for the attainment of food self sufficiency would not be achieved.
This reporter, who spoke to several women rice growers at their rice fields, also heard that virtually most of the produce by the farmers has been destroyed by the hippos, and other pests.
Also not spared by the rampaging hippos is an 80-hectare rice field, which according to the villagers was cultivated for President Yahya Jammeh.
For one Malafie Marenah, the hippos have destroyed all that she cultivated in her rice field that serve as a source of livelihood for her family.
“Bush pigs and hippos have caused a great loss to us by destroying our rice fields this year. None of us have cultivated more than 10 bags of rice, all due to the hippos which continue to frustrate our efforts,” she explained.
She appealed to the government to come to their aid, noting that they are left with nothing and the living condition is hard for them.
She also told this reporter that another major constraint is the poor road network that connects the swamp rice fields to the village.
Jumba Saidykhan, another woman rice grower looked worried when this reporter approached her.
“I am completely desperate, because since the hippos started their rampage, we have not been left with anything in our fields. Hippos entered my rice field at night, and before morning there was nothing left for me to feed my family,” Saidykhan added.
She went on to appeal to government to come to their aid, so as to enable them protect their rice fields.
“People are living because there is abundant rice to eat, but if there is no food in the village, the living condition will be difficult for us,” she stated.
Ajaratou Sano Touray, who spoke on behalf of the women rice growers association, said the animals continued to give them a nightmare.
“Even the 80-hectare rice field cultivate by the villagers for President Yahya Jammeh in answer to his clarion call for people to go back to the land has not been spared.
“As we speak, if you visit the rice field, you will not see anything there because the hippos have destroyed everything,” she added.
According to her, if they are to estimate their production, 80 percent of all the produce have been destroyed.
“We have responded to the President’s call for us to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, but our efforts are being dashed by the growing number of hippos,” she further explained.
Victim upon victim who all spoke to this reporter called on the authorities to come to their aid, adding that this year’s cropping season had a low harvest.