Benue State: Home of Resourceful Farmers Who Produce Sweet Yams

Benue State: Home of Resourceful Farmers Who Produce Sweet Yams

When it comes to the production of yams in Nigeria, Benue farmers undoubtedly occupy the most prominent place. From Zaki-Biam to Katsina-Ala to Logo and Kwande, yam farmers in Benue bestraddle the landscape like a colossus.

The story of their prowess in the production of yams has travelled far and wide, attracting the attention of global agriculture enthusiasts.

Photos of a yam market.
Benue farmers produce yams in large quantities. Photo credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/Getty Images.
Source: Getty Images

2 million tubers of yam produced weekly

In March 2021, it was estimated that more than 2 million tubers of yam are churned out from Benue state weekly.

On Benue roads, trucks of yams exiting the state and heading south are a regular phenomenon.

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The farmers work in the hinterlands and bring their produce to the small towns for sale.

Separate markets for yams

Local markets in many local governments of the state have separate yam markets solely built for that purpose.

The Sankara axis of Benue state records remarkable success in yam farming such that the yam markets are hubs for high-profile economic activities.

There is a yam market in Ugba in Logo local government, and there is one in Gbogh Market in Katsina-Ala. There is another one in Kyado Market in Ukum, and one in Ayati also in Ukum, among others.

The fame of Zaki-Biam yam market

One of the markets which have gained international recognition is the one in Zaki-Biam in Ukum local government area of the state.

The yam market in Zaki-Biam has been reported to be the largest in Africa and, some say, the world. It was estimated in 2020 that, at least 120 to 200 trucks of yam leave the market daily.

Also, the same 2020 estimate says a record 200,000 tubers of yam go out of the market every day. This is a feat that has put the market on the world agricultural map.

Yam storage facility built by the federal government

The market is so big and notable that the federal government of Nigeria in 2020 inaugurated a 200,000-capacity yam storage facility in the area.

Governor Samuel Ortom said during the inauguration of the facility:

“The location of the project in Zaki-Biam (the traditional yam-producing area of Benue) is therefore strategic, as the facility will serve as a hub for Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states."

On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who inaugurated the facility, said:

"The market has little storage facilities hence the construction of the storage facility. However, our government will provide access to roads, solar street lights in the market. We have promised to construct homes for the displaced persons in the state and we will keep to our words.

“Besides, post-harvest losses have been the bane of agricultural production in Nigeria; Nigeria produces 17 million tons of yam annually but loses up to 40 per cent on account of inadequate storage and processing facilities.
“Following discussions between the federal government’s MSME clinics project, the Benue State Government and market stakeholders, it was unanimously agreed that 200,000 capacity Yam storage facility should be located right here in Zaki Biam, Benue State."

Many traders who buy yam from Benue state come from many parts of Nigeria, mostly the southeast and south-south.

They travel to the state, buy the yams in large quantities and take it back to the Southern parts of the country for re-sell.

Challenges of farming in Benue

Apart from the problem of lack of storage facilities which the federal government is attempting to solve, there is also that of insecurity.

Over the years, Benue state has been in the eye of the storm regarding clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

The crisis has claimed many lives and made it a near impossibility for some farmers to return to work for fear of losing their lives.

Bem Ugoh, an agricultural research and political economy expert at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, lamented this situation in a 2021 interview with Premium Times.

He said:

“Some of the rice farmers, for instance, have been caged in IDPs camps for close to two years. Most of the areas for agriculture productivity are lying dormant. Farmers cannot go back to farms. The capacity is declining.
“Quite frankly, it has been a very bad weather for farmers. And there is a very serious threat to food security, so that even for their sustainability, farmers can’t get enough not to talk about feeding the markets.”

The way forward for Benue yam farmers

Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, has been at the forefront of calling for more security for farmers who produce yam and other crops in Benue.

While taking part in the inauguration of the yam storage facility in Zaki Biam, the governor said:

“Benue is ready to provide food security to the entire country, but the activities of the Fulani herdsmen have continued to thwart this effort.”

The conclusion that could be drawn from the above is that given the right environment, yam production in Benue is capable of enhancing the economy of the state if properly harnessed and farmers incentivised.

Man opens Agege bread factory in Canada

In a related story, reported that a Nigerian man opened a bakery in Canada.

The man bakes the popular Nigerian delicacy called Agege bread.

A video seen on TikTok showed when some Oyinbo people stormed the place to have a taste.


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