The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 174 snakebites per 100,000 population reported per year in Nigeria, mainly by the saw-scaled or carpet vipers.
Snakes and scorpions on the farm can't stop Abuja farmers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 174 snakebites per 100,000 population reported per year in Nigeria, mainly by the saw-scaled or carpet vipers.

After Esther Panya (not real name) was bitten by a scorpion on the farm, at the beginning of this year’s farming season in Jikwoyi Phase I, a suburb of Abuja, many farming families in the community were forced to adjust their safety practices.

The incident is an ugly reminder of fatal incidents of poisonous snake bites on their farms some years ago.

But many of the farmers, who are mostly women, say scorpion and snake bites are not regular occurrences in the area nowadays. 

Therefore, Esther's case is seen as an isolated incident.

"We now use chemicals to spray on the farms shortly before the beginning of farming and before harvest," says Talatha Adamu, a guinea corn farmer.

The farmlands near the hills of the area are cultivated by mainly indigenous Gbagyi, an ethnic group indigenous to lands where the Federal Capital Territory now stands.

They have continued with the local farming techniques of their people.

There is growing knowledge on the use of herbicides such as Gramazone, Parafox and other chemicals to clear dangerous reptiles, amphibians, and pests.

"Because of the threat by cattle and herdsmen, women are no longer involved in cultivation and weeding in the farms," says Azmi Bawa, another Guinea corn farmer. "We only go for harvest."

"You can see the pains we go through sieving and washing of the guinea corn harvest because of the chemicals we have applied on the farms," says Ladi Zaria, another guinea corn farmer.

The community complained of inadequate intervention by way of extension services and other technical support to the people, which means their production will remain at traditional and subsistence level. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 174 snakebites per 100,000 population reported per year in Nigeria, mainly by the saw-scaled or carpet vipers.

There have been a lot of reported tragedies in the Benue Valley, with 497 per 100,000 persons per year and a mortality rate of 12.2 per cent.

Also, about 250 persons were reported to have died from snake bites in Gombe and Plateau states in the last six months, many of them farmers.

“Some NGOs [nongovernment organisations] have visited but nothing came out of their visits,” says Jonathan Z. Jetta, the palace secretary to the chief of Jikwoyi, Rev Bawa S. Jetta.

But Zakari Aliyu, the spokesman for the FCT Agricultural and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS) said the agency has been assisting small holder farmers with chemicals as well as extension services to help boost their efforts.

If the right safety measures and farming inputs are put in place, it will help protect farmers in the FCT and enhance food security.

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