The Production Of Sugarcane, Irish Potato And Other Traditional Tuber Crops (Nvuh, Tingtyoen, Bwarkham, Ngwan, Laa,Wur-Laawur And Ngaar In Mwaghavul Land, (1850-1970): Challenges And Prospects

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The Production Of Sugarcane, Irish Potato And Other Traditional Tuber Crops (Nvuh, Tingtyoen, Bwarkham, Ngwan, Laa,Wur-Laawur And Ngaar In Mwaghavul Land, (1850-1970): Challenges And Prospects


This study is concerned with the production of sugarcane, cocoyams, Irish potatoes and other new crops introduced in Mwaghavul land and the traditional crops in existence prior to these ones, from 1850-1980. Mwaghavul land is located in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State. It is situated on the South-Eastern escarpment of Jos Plateau and covers a land area of about 295 Square kilometers. The purpose of the study is to analyze the production of these new crops in Mwaghavul land as against the traditionally grown crops of the pre-colonial times. The study dwells on the fact that agriculture, crop agriculture in particular, being the main stay of the economy of the Mwaghavul people from pre-colonial period to the 1980s, has witness significant changes due to the increasing commercialization of the economy. This has given rise to different types of agricultural cropping such as mono cropping and mixed cropping etc. The focus of this study therefore, is to analyze gradual disappearance of the traditional crops, the introduction of the new crops and its commoditization in Mwaghavul land. It is also to examine the challenges associated with the production of the new crops and to suggest possible solutions and recommendations for a better yield.The study is also an attempt to investigate the manner in which new crops had being adopted and the processes and factors which facilitate the transformation of the rural agricultural activities. The study utilizes various sources such as oral, archival, books, journals, articles, thesis, and dissertations. The findings of this research include the relative absence of mechanized agricultural crop production in Mwaghavul land. Agricultural cropping is costly and tasking. From the findings of this research the following recommendations have been made, these include provision of machines, tools by government, training and registration of agricultural croppers and formation of cooperative societies by farmers in Mwaghavul.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The choice of agricultural land used has for some times, been a focus of many research efforts by researchers

Most of Nigerian rural populations are, including geographers, ecologists and economists. In crop agriculture in particular, the emphasis is on the distribution of the crops, soil type and the types of other rural economy that will enhance man’s livelihood. farmers who engage in the cultivation of various crops for their livelihood. However, the production of these crops depends largely on natural and human factors such as climate, soil, topography agricultural inputs and political factors.

Agriculture is a vital base for the existence of any society in the world and also one of the major sectors of the Nigerian economy which generates about 50% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).Crop production is paramount

where a greater number of people are self employed to ensure a food situation that will feed the increasing population of the area. Besides most manufacturing industries use agricultural products (agro-base).1

Food production is obviously one of the most important human activities. The history of agriculture which also includes agricultural tools dates back to perhaps between 7,000 and 4,000 B.C.2 It is difficult and sometimes misleading to point out a single origin of agriculture because at different times and in different places many plants and animals have been domesticated depending on the climate, taste of the people and availability of such species in a given area. Thus, each society has its independent history of plant and animal domestication.

Generally speaking, the domestication of plants and animals started during the Neolithic period. The earliest form of agriculture involved the use of crude tools of stones and wood and most of the crops and animals domesticated were found around Man.3 With the migration of people from one region to the other, there was the diffusion of agricultural practices and ideas among various societies.

The domestication of plants and animals is one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of man because it had and still has some far reaching consequences on his way of life. Man, who was initially a hunter-gatherer, abandon such life and took to sedentism (settling down in one place) after mastering the seasons and careful selection of plants and animal species. Domestication guaranteed a steady supply and man concentrated on production which surplus was generated. The existence of a surplus made it possible for man to store for future use and partly for exchange. Surplus also enabled man to have plenty of leisure times to be involved in other economic pursuits such as manufacturing (handicrafts), trading and the invention of new ideas to ease his problems.

Thus, as the physical and mental ability of man developed so also did he apply these to various activities including agriculture. In most African societies in general, and in Mwaghavul land in particular, the system of traditional agriculture adopted by farmers, have always been able to produce an adequate food supply. Mass famines have been very rare, except for pest attacks and bad farming seasons.4

sugar cane now one of the major grass plant produced for consumption which also serves as a source of raw material in sugar manufacturing industries in many parts of West Africa, most importantly it is a source of sustainable clean energy that is free from pollutants. In Mwaghavul Land in particular, the south western part of the Local Government, Sugarcane is an important crop apart from maize (zea mays), Soyabeans (glyane max), Sweet potato (ipomea batatas), Cocoyam and others. Sugarcane, a tall perennial grass is a specie and hybrid that belong to the family of gramineae. It is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Around the eighth Century AD, Arab traders introduced sugarcane from south Asia to the other parts of the Abbasid Caliphate in the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia and into the riverine areas of West Africa like Burkinafaso, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. They are grown in swamps in northern Nigeria around Kano Bida, Zaria and Sokoto.5

Irish potatoe, which was first domesticated in the region of modern day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia between 8000 and 5000 BC has since spread around the world and become a staple crop in many countries it is believed that it entered Africa with the coming of the colonialist who consumed it as vegetable rather than as staple starch. It was first grown mostly at the Canary Islands.6

In Mwaghavul land, Kerang, Ampang West and Mangun districts of Mangu, Irish potatoes was grown for early missionary consumption. Latter it was grown for commercial purposes. With improved varieties it was wide spread on the central and southern plateau

1.2 Aims and Objectives of the Study

The paramount aim of this study is to;

  1. To state the economic and agricultural values of these crops over the pre-existing traditional tuber crops.
  2. To see the changing nature and challenges between the production of traditional food crops and the introduction of other cash crops such as sugarcane, Irish potato, cocoyam etc.
  3. To see whether or not these new crops have added to food security in Mwaghavul land.
  4. To identify the challenges faced by the introduction of these crops.
  5. To identify how farmers cope with the cultivation and adaptation of the new crops.
  6. To state the progress made and new production methods, marketability and storage.

1.3 Statement of the Problem

Every researchable topic has a “problem”. According to meekya, the research problem is an academic perplexing question posted for solution.

Therefore, the problems associated with this study include;

  1. Search to know the economic value of the production of sugarcane, Irish potatoes e.t.c in Mwaghavul land.
  2. To identify reasons for their wide acceptance by farmers over other traditional tubers or food crops such as (millet, small cocoyam, and others as did mentioned.
  3. To identify the varieties introduced and their adaptability in the region.
  4. Search to know when these crops were introduced, to identify the extent of which they have been resistant to pest and diseases. To identify the type of fertilizer and nutrients suitable for cultivation of the crops.

1.4 Significance and Justifications of the Study

For a long time, historians and agriculturalist have concentrated their attention on tracing; the origins, distribution and impact of such crops as Maize, Plantain, Banana, Oil palm, Kola, Cotton, Tobacco, Groundnut in Nigeria; The jos plateau and Mwaghavul land in particular given lesser or no attention to sugarcane and Irish potatoe farming as well as in other food and cash crops.

The few that carried out research on agricultural crop production include; Goshit Z.D (2000), Lohor S.A (1994), Chandighis, K.M (2009), Jallo P.J.(2008), and Nwanan Istifanus (2006).There is therefore, the need to study the introduction of these crops following the increase changes in the production of both crops (Sugarcane and Irish potato). Crop production, though not a new area of scholarship but the centrality of the production of these crops makes the study compelling.

The research apart from analyzing the attitude of the people towards the new crops production, it also highlight the measures taken by the farmers during colonial and the post-colonial cultivation of their food crops to transforming crops production in Mwaghavul land. The study is important because it reveals how and why the production of new crops gain wide acceptance and has become leading crops in Mwaghavul land compare to the traditional crops. This can be seen by the numbers of traders coming from other parts of plateau and Nigeria to buy them and also by the local developments that has accrue as a result of the production of these crops.

Though most of the production is done by the peasants using local technology, there is an increasing need for government to assist them with modern farm inputs to enhance much better yields. This can help to solve the problem of food insecurity in Mwaghavul land, Plateau and Nigeria.

1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research covers the period from 1850-2014 that is to say from pre-colonial to post-colonial periods.

Secondly, the research focuses largely on the production of sugarcane and Irish potatoe and their economic value over other traditional crops in Mwaghavul land.

Thirdly, this dissertation concerns itself with the factors which made this production visible in Mwaghavul land.

Most importantly, the research is limited to Mwaghavul land which has nine districts namely, Mangu, Panyam, Pushit, Kereng, Ampang West, Mangun, Mangu Halle, Chakfem and Jipal out of which none is lacking in the production of these crops but at different levels.

1.6 The Geography of the Study Area

Mwaghavul land and chiefdom is located in the south-eastern escarpment of Jos, and covers a land area of about 295 square kilometres. It is about 70 kilometres south-east of Jos town, the state capital of Plateau state, and it is bounded in the North by Barkin Ladi LGA (Berom land), in the South East by Pankshin Local Government Area. To the East by Gindiri, Pyem Chiefdom and to the South and West by Qua’an Pan and Bokkos Local Government Areas respectively. The land also covers an area of about 64 square kilometers from Kantoma to Chakfem (north to south) and from Tileng-Mpat to Kombun (east to west) is a distance of about 44 square kilometers.8

The population of the area has been on the increase over the years. According to the population census of 1934, Mwaghavul people in Mwaghavul land numbered 20,265 and rose to 59,625 in 1963 and the population is pegged at 2341,103 according to the 2006 population census.9

The land is drained by a network of streams and rivers from neighbouring and upland communities from tributary rivers. Its major streams are Dunglaar (Mangu Helle) and Dung wurang (Mangu), which are before Mangu town when coming from Jos. The third is Dung Rim (Daika) between Mangu town and Daika, Dung Ndai between Daika and Dung Pungak at kerang, Dung Shangkwahal and Dung Kisak at Kopshu (Ampang West), and Dung Yinaat (Panyam).10

Spring waters are found at Niyes and Lankasta, (Panyam) and amshal at Konji (Kerang), this produces SWAN water which is sold nation wide. These spring all year round and support the irrigation of crops such as Irish potatoes and sugar cane as well as other vegetables. The Ampidong, a crater lake located at Ampang West and has been attracting national and international geographers and tourists, supplies Bwonpe agriculturalist with the needed water as well as the Mufil Irish plantation in Ampang West at mostly dry season.11

The original vegetation of the land was largely Guinea Savannah due to the human activities, it has been replaced with secondary vegetations. The primary vegetations were tall grasses and trees such as Twaas, Khir, Pichom. The secondary vegetations were planted by individuals and government agricultural agencies like the forest along Mangu-Panyam road at Ndai. The trees include eucalyptus, mango, and guava to mention a few.12

1.7 Method of Data Collection

This research work depends on various sources of history. These sources can be broadly classified into primary, secondary and tertiary sources. The primary sources include oral interviews which involves interviews conducted at random with the people of the study area, especially adults whose occupation is crop production and whose ages range from forty years and above and are currently residing in the area. Others include agricultural officials and business men whom are involved in the sale of these crops.

Other relevant primary sources are archival materials. Many Nigerian states have National Archives that house different forms of raw data considered to be of valuable importance to historians. These include official documents such as annual reports, statistical surveys, population census report of colonial and post-colonial periods, especially the ones that concerns the topic of this research have been consulted.

The secondary sources are materials already existing on issues related to the topic. These include works of historians, economists, geographers, and scientist and agriculturalists among others, hence the reliance on multidisciplinary approach. These materials can be found in national and state libraries as well as libraries of school and colleges and universities in Nigeria.

1.8 Definition Of Concepts

This is rather a broad topic to be tackled than examining just some parochial questions. Thus, the research work is titled “The Production of Sugarcane and Irish Potato and Other Traditional Tuber Crops in Mwaghavul Land, Challenges and prospects (1850-1970). To really get an insight into what it is all about, a clear definition of key concepts like production, Sugarcane, Irish potato, traditional, Tuber crop, Mwaghavul land challenge and prospects is paramount.

i. Production;

The encyclopedia Britannica volume 1, 15th edition; Defines Production as the relationship between the amount of output produced and the quantities of the inputs such as labour and capital used. The underlying assumption is that producers seek to maximize the output that can be obtained from given quantities of inputs by choosing the most efficient methods of production available.13

Also the chambers 21st Century Dictionary Revise Edition 1996; defines Production as the act or process of producing something. It can be a series of activities carried out in sequence as part of a manufacturing process that will field a lot or become more fruitful.14

ii. Crop;

A plant, especially a cereal, grown to be harvested as food, livestock fodder, or fuel or for any other economic purpose. Usually for a specific year.15

iii. Sugarcane;

Thomas F. Described Sugarcane as a large coarse grass with shoots (culms) reaching height up to 6m. Having sold shoots weight. The dark sticky sugar initially extracted from the culms consists of sucrose, glucose and small amount of protein, minerals, organic and peptic gum ash and pigments.16

iv. Irish potato;

Irish potato is an edible tuber from solanum tuberosum plant, which is actually native to South America not Ireland. Irish potato are named after Ireland because they are closely associated with the Irish potato famine, caused by mould infestation of the Irish potato crop or white potato to creamy white fresh boiled, fried or roasted or turn into potato salad.17

v. Mwaghavul language;

It is among the Afro Asiatic languages spoken on the Jos plateau and it belongs to the Chadic sub-family as indicated by Lohor et al (2011). It is located in the south-eastern escarpment of Jos, and covered a land area of about 295 square kilometers.18

vi. Challenge

Is defined as a new or difficult task that tests somebody’s ability and skill.

vii. Prospect:

The possibility that something will happen.

Both terms have been defined by the Oxford Advanced Learners

Dictionary 6th Edition.19

viii. Traditional as to crop;

According to the encyclopedia 15th edition refers to those communicated from ancestors to descendants without writing, but as traditional opinion20.

Chapter Five

General Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary and Conclusion

As has been examined in this work, it is quite clear that Mwaghavul land was, and is still an agricultural society. Crop production had been one of the basic economic activities of the area which was first started on a subsistence basis but now, have grown and developed into major economic basis in the area. This work which centered on the pre-colonial and post –colonial crops or what the crop agriculturalist called endangered crop and the new crops has been divided into chapters which are summarized below:

Chapter one is the general introduction to the study which extensively deals with the introductory background to the study, aims and objectives of the study, statement of research problem, significance and justifications of the study, scope and limitation of the study, a presentation of the geography of the study area, the method of Data collection and the Definition of major concepts in that order.

Chapter two concentrates on the existing literatures related to the study through a review process. This view literatures from scholars like, A.G. Hopkins, Walter Rodney, Ogunremi. E.A., Claude Ake, Herbert Baker, Thomas P. F., Anochili B.C, John H. Martin among others. This looks at the strength and weakness of these scholars with an attempt to analyzing some in my own way to the benefit of this work.
The third chapter is an introduction of the pre-colonial Mwaghavul crops to the establishment of colonial/post-colonial crops. The chapter studied the gradual vanishing of the endangered species of crops whose causes range from poor yield and low economic value, to the emergencies of new crops owing to the transition from pre-colonial to colonial rule, which first is aimed at the maximization of the benefit of the British government. The chapter also studies the acceptability of the new crops by the Mwaghavul, its production and export to neighbouring communities of these new crops. The chapter also looked at the Benefit of the production of these new crops to the rural people first and then to the entire Mwaghavul land. It also discusses the problem of land degradation as it affects crop production in Mwaghavul land. This which I did giving some examples of some of the affected places and also showing some pictures of the degraded lands.

5.2 Conclusion

From the forgoing discussion, it will be agree that the door is never closed for any historical research. This work draws upon the production of the major economic in Mwagavul land which has become the main stay of the economy of the people. The work has been elaborated on discussing how, why and for whom these crops are produced.

However, the production of the new crops has been be devil by some problems such as ignorance of the farmer, the problem of diseases and pest that destroy these crops and how to control them, the unmechanized nature of the production of these crops, inadequate extension officers to educate the farmers on how the production of the crop should be improved’ the persistent fluctuation in the price of the crops; and the inability of various governments to assist farmers in the production of the crops.

Therefore, this work has discussed a lot on the production of the new crops, the gradual disappearance of the old ones in Mwagavul land. But it is neither the beginning nor the end of research on this subject matter. It is believed that the work will be highly valuable to any researcher who intends to venture into a research on the area, or any other areas that relates to this one.

5.3 Contribution to Knowledge

This research has opened ground for further research into agricultural production such as sugarcane; Irish potato and cocoyam which the area is well known for, and will also generate a database for researchers in agronomy.

The research has also identified the soil type, pest that affects the crop, their propagation period, preservation and storage and the method of fertilizer application of the crops.

The research tends to show the medical value of these crops.

It is with hope that these research that this research will expand the economical importance of this crop as a well of generating revenue for the people involved in the cultivation.

5.4 Recommendations

From the findings of this research, the following recommendation has been made, Government should practice infrastructural development in the rural areas in order to enable farmers have easy access to markets for their commodity and a free flow of information from the urban centres to the rural areas. And also to provide incentives to the youths who have abandoned agricultural production in the area to migrate and settle in the urban centres. Government should also make the construction and maintenance of roads as well the provision of adequate security for marketers and dealers in agricultural products. This will help the rural farmers to sell his farm product at reasonable price and would also encourage agricultural labour to be more productive. Added to this, government should also help in the provision of processing and storage facilities which would help to preserve perishable products such as Irish potatoes among others which are often sold at a giveaway price due to their perishable nature1.

The government should also increase the number of extension officers being sent to Mwaghavul land and all over the country in order to educate and conscioustize farmers on new methods of cultivation, disease and pest control and improve seed varieties. Provision should also be made on new technology in order to boost the production of these crops. Efforts should also be made on the training and re-training of farmers on how to use the new machines such as tractors, harvesters, processing machines and to also put in place a good maintenance culture. These machines should not only be made available but the peasants who produce the bulk of food stuffs in the country should have access to them. Herbicides and pesticides which promote good cultivation and storage of crops should also be provided at subsidized rates. These efforts would curb instances of food shortages. There should also be ban on food importation which discourages local food production2.

The private sector, nongovernmental organization and the government should join hands to assist farmers with loans in forms of cash in order to enable the farmers to produce more goods. This will require the National Agricultural and co-operative Bank (NACB) to rise up to its challenges as the major banks to support farmers in the area with agricultural loans. In the best of the farmer’s interest, a good price fixing mechanism should evolve to stabilize the fluctuating price of the commodity in the market.

Labour mobilization and organization for agricultural production should be upgraded by training and registering with the country’s trade union, which would curtail periods of labour bottle-necks which are often the peak times for labour demands for the production of crops especially Sugarcane and Irish potatoes. In this respect, those who offer wage or hired labour to farmers despite the fact that they still own farms of their own should form groups of about ten members each. This would solve the problem of hunting for labourer in times of serious need, which would make them offer service to farmers who might need their services and even on credit under formal terms of agreements.

This group should not only be form, but be giving orientation on the art and science for the production of commodity crops by a professional agricultural officer. This will also prevent the exploitation of the poor farmers. The groups should also endavour to invest their wages in lucrative businesses so as to prevent instances where they dispose their farms products due to lack of wage labour in the dry season3.

Co-operative should be formed by the peasants in Mwaghavul land which are registered and organized by the agricultural department in the state. This is because most farmers have not seen the need to register with the state and local government agricultural departments. This registration as the case is today will offer them opportunity to have access to government incentives and grants from non-governmental organizations such as Food and Agricultural Organization (F.A.O) as evident in the FADAMA programmes today.4 further research is recommended on the quality and industrial potentials of these new crops in Mwaghavul land.

Therefore with the above recommendations among other things, it is believed that the production of these new crops will be improved upon and farmers will adequately benefit from it.

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