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Friday, August 7, 2015

African rain makers in the eyes of drought

REMMY NWEKE in this report examines the prowess of African rain makers as option for check-mating droughts on the continent and world at large.

GROWING up in a typical African agrarian town, Aguleri of Anambra State in the eastern part of Nigeria, one is constrained to hear very often about rain makers and their prowess, which include the ‘extra-ordinary’ powers to force rain down or send it away, most times to draw attention in order to be contracted or better still to disrupt functions of their supposed enemies.

But it is disheartening to note that over the years in spite of the professed powers, some African nations and communities, even in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country suffer a kind of lack of rain or its frequency to aid crops to grow optimally.

The most prevalent one or exhibition of this prowess by supposed rain makers occur during burial ceremonies or occasions where people are expected to gather for a function in an open place. It is also very often that environmental watchers will see that the weather has suddenly become cloudy and the sky opens up just to drench participants at such occasion and make a mockery of the ceremony and their organizers for daring to disobey ‘rain makers’.

God’s rain, no appeal:
Recently, a burial in Nkwelle town in Anambra State, attracted friends and well-wishers from home and abroad and lasted for a week. Before the burial, a rain maker was consulted to ‘hold’ the rain temporarily from disrupting the ceremony until the week is over, that is approximated seven days.

To the amazement of those in the know, there was no rain from Saturday of the previous week until the next Saturday, but on the evening of the last day, Saturday, the rain maker was consulted to extend the rain holding ‘sense’ but he vehemently refused, claiming that the rain that will follow on Sunday is God’s divine rain and no one dare obstruct it.

Also to the surprise of everyone at the funeral who was to attend the burial thanksgiving ceremony in a church the following day, Sunday; just a few minutes past midnight, the sky opened as it rained cat and dog till about 1pm, with attendant thunder storms. This, no doubt, forced some of the participants for the burial thanksgiving ceremony in the church to stay back.

Wars of Rain Makers:
In the past, there have been instances where rain makers claimed to have sent rain specifically to an occasion because they want to exhibit their prowess, thereby causing heavy downpour only within the arena of such occasion, which has made some Africans to believe in the know-how of the rain makers to assert themselves.

There was also a situation, a given rain maker in town has to show another rainmaker in a nearby town, that ‘power-pass-power’ by sending heavy rains during the former’s ceremony to the extent of getting people and visitors drenched.

How to engage a rain maker:
Then an agreement is usually reached on what should be brought before the gods invariably for sacrifice of sort. The list very often includes a clay pot accommodating several leaves and shrubs among other mixture.

For instance, at Nkwelle also in Anambra State, the rain maker, who chooses to be anonymous, his price was bargained down to N20,000 for the ‘workmanship’ in addition to the N10,000 for the purchase of firewoods for the making of fire among other ingredients required for him, the rain maker to sleep in a nearby thick bush cum forest for three days, while he feeds himself with food which he prepares, drinks and cigarettes.

Drought in our land:
Therefore, at times the news filters that a community is suffering from one form of drought or another. Although generally, drought could be defined as a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this, according to an open source online Wikipedia.
Also, Wikipedia identified that countries of Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya suffered drought very often and specifically in 2011 saw the death of about 260,000 persons with an estimated 10,000 per day.

The FEWS Net food security projection for East Africa, NaijaAgroNet gathered at the height of the drought, between July and September 2011 attracted the sum of $1.3 billion as relief, though reports have it that demographically, 9.5 million were in need of assistance in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, in addition to what environmentalists described as severe drought between July 2011 and mid-2012 in East Africa region.

As said by officials of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) office in Somalia, the food crisis in Somalia primarily affected farmers in the south rather than the northern pastoralists. 

Speaking recently, the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Dr Anthony Anuforom, told newsmen that in Nigeria, there are possibilities of slight drought in some states including Benue and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, while in others like Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom, there would be a kind of extended rain fall till end of October 2015.

Namibia drought triggers 210,000 tonnes Cereal import:
In Namibia, NaijaAgroNet reports that the government has concluded plans to import 210,000 tonnes of Cereal to ensure food security as a consequence of the 2013 and 2015 droughts.

The devastating effects of the two droughts, NaijaAgroNet gathered resulted in some of the poorest harvests in recent history and also had an adverse impact on the country’s livestock rangelands. Thus, a serious food shortage is forecast for the northern communal areas by the end of August 2015, according to the Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation Report made available to NaijaAgroNet by the government notable among which was maize production in the communal areas of the Zambezi.

The Situation Report added that Kavango East and Kavango West regions indicated a reduction of 80 per cent below average and 73 per cent lower than last season’s harvest. Whereas in the commercial areas, the maize harvest showed a significant drop of 46 per cent less than last season’s harvest and 12 per cent below the average production.

As a country, the national rough aggregate production for maize, millet, sorghum and wheat is estimated at 67 800 tonnes, which tend to reflect a substantial decrease in the harvest of about 46 per cent below the average production and 49 per cent lower than last season’s harvest.

The national cereal aggregate is 17 per cent lower than the 2013 drought, demonstrating the seriousness of the current drought. But the report states that although maize production in the commercial areas recorded about 36,700 tonnes this season, over 92 per cent of this total came from irrigation projects, and dry land maize only contributed about 8 per cent of the total.

Pearl millet production showed a decrease of over 74 per cent below average and 65 per cent less than last season.

“Sorghum production has also showed a significant decrease and is estimated at 79 per cnt below the average production and 60 per cent lower than last season. Wheat is a winter crop and production thereof is ongoing. The harvest estimate for wheat is provisionally forecast at 12 700 tonnes. This reflects an increase of 21 per cent above the average production and 23 per cent higher than last season,” the report notes.

Many dry land crop producers in both communal and commercial areas are reported to have suffered a total crop failure, with no single harvest this year.

“Available cereal locally for the current marketing/consumption period is estimated at 92 500 tonnes. This comprises 20 300 tonnes of wheat, 54 700 tonnes of white maize and 17 500 tonnes of pearl millet and sorghum,” according to the report.

“In contrast, the current domestic cereal domestic availability is only about 28 per cent of the cereal requirements; hence a shortfall of 234 000 tonnes is required to cover the shortfall. This consists of 59 800 tonnes of wheat, 118 100 tonnes of maize and 56 100 tonnes of pearl millet and sorghum.”

“After the considerations of imports received during May and June this year, an after-trade deficit of 209 100 tonnes is estimated. This deficit consists of 47 000 tonnes of wheat, 107 100 tonnes of maize and 55 000 tonnes of millet/sorghum. This deficit under the normal circumstances is expected to be covered through commercial imports in the form of either grain or meals,” the report further states.

As Commercial maize declines:
In a related development, South Africa from where Namibia gets most of its maize imports, reported a 31 per cent decrease in commercial white maize harvested this season. According to the South Africa June 2015 Monthly Food Security Bulletin, the country expects only 9,840 million tonnes this season, compared to 14 250 million tonnes received last season.

Water availability for livestock is limited too, as most catchment areas did not receive significant inflows this season. The affected regions are mostly the north-central regions that are heavily dependent on surface/rainfall water for livestock consumption. “Given the poor harvest as well as poor grazing conditions, the majority of households are expected to face serious food insecurity conditions as from August,” the report warns.

It is recommended that the current food aid, which was set for three months targeting vulnerable people, should be extended and broadened to include all households affected by drought this year, until such time that they are able to regain their normal livelihoods, the SA report says.

Invited by England’s first family:
In April 2012, a team of famous rainmakers from Edo State led by one OsaroboEnogie was invited to England to attend the Royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton despite the snubbing of Nigerian former president, his vice president and other first ladies. 

The rainmakers were honoured and accommodated in Windsor Castle just to ensure it did not rain within the duration of the Royal wedding, in spite of high-level skepticisms among scientists over weather modification efforts.

How to make rain:
Obviously, various rainmakers vary in methods in either holding down the rain or causing it to happen. According to Vanguard Newspapers reports, a native doctor who asked for anonymity but identified himself as rain-holder Kamuope Alabi said weather alteration is mostly done in the native ways by using leaves, shrubs and herbs. 

“We can use leaves, roots with some incantations to drive away the rain. If it is cloudy, once we match some leaves together and put it in a basin facing the direction where we want it to go, in few minutes, you will see the result and it will not rain,”Alabi said.

Of course, Alabi was reported to have refused to mention the leaves and shrubs used in clearing the weather, pointed out that he could rig a thunderstorm out of a desert but he does not do it for a fee as it’s against the interest of his gods insisting that he only does it to benefit his people.

“If a close relation is having a social function in an open place and it is being threatened by the rain, I can do it or if some people beseech me to do it in their favour, I will do it. But I don’t do it to exploit people at social functions. I don’t charge a fee either. It is against the gods,” he insisted.

Alabi further stressed that some of those fronting themselves with this power to make rain no longer use the power for the right purpose, adding that some of them use the power to intimidate people by sending down the rain when they have occasion to celebrate unless the celebrant gives them money as a form of bribe.

“The rainmaker would enter the bush and pluck leaves, stems and even roots of plants, shrubs and grasses. The combination of these are burnt in fire and as soon as the smoke goes to the sky, the rain starts pouring,” the rainmaker and Geography graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said the modern method uses a kind of stone called ‘crystal stone.’

He explained that modern technique affords practising rain makers a type of stone known as the crystal stone; emphasizing that “the stone is washed and as soon as the stone starts glazing, the sky starts changing and soon rain starts.” He added that the method is dangerous because it often attracts heavy thunderstorm.

For every African and believer in African rain making, it is time to harness this mysticism by identifying those who make rain and engaging them positively for the sake of the continent, saving lives and creating more green environment where ordinarily it could be impossible in addition to the foreign exchange accruable from anticipated rain makers’ exploration.
This could mean even engaging rain makers like professors on sabbaticals and when their task is completed could return to their abodes.

+Remmy Nweke (ITRealms) 

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