They are mostly young girls whose ages range from 10 – 16 years. They are easily identified with the sticks they usually hold with which they re-trash harvested rice at the various farms around Dukku, Makera, Ambursa and Gwadangwaji areas of Birnin Kebbi. Their number often varies but at any given time they are not less than 20.
Their mission is to move about the rice farms that have been harvested. When they get there, they divide the rice residues among themselves and re-trashed it to get some rice which they will take home to their parents.
When our correspondent ran into the energetic, determined and ambitious young girls who appear ready to work to find food for their families in the various murky and waterlogged rice farms around Kebbi State, Aisha Aliyu, 16, the most senior among her team told Daily Trust that what informed their food search adventure was to make sure their parents, particularly their mothers, do not starve.
She said, “We don’t pay the farmers anything, we only come to the rice farms on their permission to search for rice, vegetables and other crops that we can take home to our parents.
“We usually come to this farm settlement every year from Kalangu, Makera and other communities here in Birnin Kebbi. We are 21 in number and we always make sure that everyone in the group gets something to take home to their parents no matter how small it is.”
Hadiza Batulu is a 13-year-old JSS1 student at Salamatu Husseni Government Girls’ Secondary School in Birnin Kebbi. Her area of food search at the farm is vegetables. The young Hadiza was gathering okra and other vegetables when this reporter met her.
She said, “Apart from re-trashing rice residues at the farms, we ask for the permission of the farmers to plant ‘rama’ (kenaf) and sell the leaves for our economic well-being and to help the fertility of the farm.
“We have through this means sustained our families’ economic needs. Some rice farmers on their own also plant ‘rama’ (kenaf) which they sometimes sell the leaves to us which also we sell to maintain our families.
“There is nothing we do at the farms that the famers are not aware of. They realise we are only trying to help in maintaining our families so they always allow us in their farms,” Hadiza Batulu said.
A farmer, Abdullahi Aminu, who spoke to our correspondent, said the food adventure of the girls was known to farmers in any part of the farm areas particularly in Birnin Kebbi.
“We know them, they always come here to make a living from the left over in various farms. The good thing about them is that they will never enter into any farm without seeking permission from the farm owner.”
Another farmer, Yahaya Sarki, stated that the girls are only interested in finding a means of livelihood for their families by gathering left over crops in the farms. He said some of their parents are either old or suffering from some illness which has made it difficult for them to go out in search of a living.
“The girls are just determined and courageous. What do you think their parents would have survived on if they are not doing what they are doing?” Sarki said.