For Bala Mashura, Head of Farmers in Mashaura and Bunkure Local Governments, in Kano State, northwest Nigeria, what used to be a blessing to the villagers has become a source of pains and hardship for them.
Mashaura and Bunkure communities are known for supplying farm produce such as tomatoes, fish, maize and rice to Nigeria’s largest northern commercial city and beyond.
The Gafan dam ㅡ now collapsed ㅡ supplied water for farming, drinking, domestic use and was also a fishing ground for the villagers.
Mashura says the plights of his people started three years ago when excess water occasioned by incessant rainfall brought down the dam and main bridge that connects the two communities.
“Dam was overflown with water, it collapsed, and the bridge also collapsed,” he told HumAngle.
This has come with dire consequences for the agricultural communities- investors have been migrating to Hadejia Local Government in Jigawa State and other neighbouring communities because they can no longer access Gafan, the Farmers’ Head said.
A project initiated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development known as FADAMA 3 launched some years ago in Gafan village has been abandoned due to the collapse of the dam.
Currently, farming is at its lowest ebb, Mashura says.
“Some years back a project was about to be launched by the Federal Government of Nigeria called FADAMA 3, but due to the collapse of the dam, the project has been abandoned,” he disclosed.
“Before now, many farmers used to harvest more than 3000 bags of crops, but currently, the highest we have is 200 to 500 bags of crops.”
This has also been with attendant loss of lives as Mashura told Humangle that only last year the lake claimed ten lives.
Babangida Yahaya, Ward Head of Bunkure town was short of words to describe the hardship that the collapsed dam and the bridge have brought to the people.
“Cars, trucks and other vehicles cannot cross the canal, Gafan community is losing visitors on a daily basis due to the lack of the bridge which has affected the economy of the community,” Yahaya said.
Like Mashura and Yahaya, Rukkaya Ibrahim, a farmer in the community, is worried that the lack of access road has affected social and economic activities of the people.
“The lack of a bridge has restricted most of our farming activities, currently we cannot transport our farm produce to the market because no vehicles can crossover the lake,” a frustrated Ibrahim said.
Villagers trek long distances to get their farm produce to the market while they also risk being drowned each time they attempt crossing the lake.
“We are suffering in terms of transporting goods because we have to trek around the lake to crossover to our neighbouring communities for businesses. Sometimes we use a canoe to cross when the lake is filled with water, but in most instances, during summer the lake turns to a canal which will be hard for us to cross,” she adds.
Kano State Government, it seems, has not hearkened the hues and cries of the villagers despite the apparent hardship. In times of emergency, the risk and losses they experience become more.
“We also face challenges while taking patients to hospitals, most especially during emergency cases, people can easily lose their lives due to the lack of a bridge.”
At the moment, there is no health care facility owned and operated by the state or federal government in the community.
Another villager, Sha’aban Muhammadu Bunkure, popularly known as Sabon Ruwa by the locals, says the dam at Gafan has existed for over 50 years.
He laments that the only bridge that connects the community collapsed three years ago and has not received the government’s attention since then.
“Fishing and irrigation farming are the main activities we do with the dam, a narrow bridge which has been the only link for the community members has collapsed,” he says.
“Over three years now, the bridge has been neglected by the government without being fixed, the collapse of the bridge has allowed the dam to escape.”
He corroborates Mashura’s earlier comments on the dire state of the existing roads.
“During the rainy season, transporting our farm produce is hard, we have to wait till summer when the lake has dried up before we can have a passage.” This, he noted, has affected the peoples’ economy.
It has impacted their access to health care services, Bunkure notes, as villagers often cross to other local government areas to attend health facilities, covering about 15 kilometres to access hospital.
Calls to Kano State Government
The people of Gafan community have two requests for the Government of Kano State- one is for the government to reconstruct the collapsed dam and the other is to rebuild their only bridge.
“Complaints have been made to the Kano State Government but all to no avail,” said Bunkure.
“We are calling unto the government to consider the Gafan dam and also reconstruct the bridge because over three million people are feeding on the benefits of the dam.”
Zaharraden Umar, also a resident of Gafan, says the State Government has ignored all the complaints by villagers to fix both the dam and the bridge.
The Kano State Government has neglected us, Umar laments, adding “ the absence of the bridge has negatively affected our daily activities. Most times, pregnant women lost their lives due to bad roads.”