By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
The rate at which farmers in Nigeria are abandoning their lands due to fear of either being killed or kidnapped is quite alarming. This is evidently due to the worsening security challenges bedevilling the country over the past decades.
Food crisis occurs when people are unable to get access or afford adequate food to satisfy their needs. Recently, there have been a lot of concern over the looming danger of a food crisis in many nations, including Nigeria.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), among others, has been persistent in expressing concern over the global food crisis over the years.
This problem has been attributed to a number of factors including climate change, population growth and poor crop yield. Meanwhile, high oil prices, under-investment in agriculture, dominance in supply chain of food and agricultural policies among others skyrocket prices of food. Subsequently, the neglect of the agricultural sector due to over reliance on petrol has also contributed a lot to the increasing food deficiency in Nigeria.
The UN Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the world has indicated that 2.3 billion people (about 30 per cent of the global population) lacked access to adequate food in 2020 which is an increase by 320 million compared to 2019.
This is probably connected to COVID-19 impacts which have led to severe and widespread increase in global food insecurity, affecting vulnerable households in almost every country, with impacts expected to continue through 2022 and possibly beyond.
According to the FAO report, at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a worse level of food insecurity between March and May 2020. This is largely due to the effects of armed conflicts, COVID-19 and climate change. Unless necessary actions are implemented, this figure is expected to skyrocket to over 12.8 million people by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Climate change coupled with crops attacked by pests and diseases, farmers-herders clashes, armed banditry, kidnapping and the activities of Boko Haram have added to the food insecurity challenges in the country. Their activities have led to population displacement, deaths, non-cultivation of farmlands and burning down of farm produce which have reduced the quality and quantity of food.
Looking critically, from Benue to Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kaduna states, farmers-herders’ clashes have left in their trail heavy losses of lives and property. The losses of lives have adversely affected farming activities and other related businesses. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in farm outputs, a development that has heightened the fear of hunger.
Unfortunately, in banditry-ravaged Zamfara and Katsina states, many farmers are driven away and forced to abandon their vast hectares of land due to fear of being kidnapped or killed by bandits. On 7th June, 2021, a total of 41 defenseless farmers were ruthlessly murdered in cold blood by bandits in Bungudu LGA of Zamfara State while they were busy clearing their farmlands and planting crops.
Additionally, in northeastern Nigeria, especially in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, Boko Haram insurgency has led to killings and displacement of tens of thousands of people, while their arable lands were left uncultivated leading to decrease in agricultural activities in the entire region.
On November 28, 2020, Boko Haram insurgents launched an aggressive attack on Zabarmari village in Jere LGA of Borno State where they slaughtered about 41 farmers who were working in their rice fields. All these atrocities have been scaring farmers away from their lands, and the implication is obviously seen on the drop in agricultural produce leading to corresponding food shortage.
Similarly, not long ago, FAO raised an alarm of impending food insecurity in the North East, saying that insurgency has chased about 65,800 Borno farmers away from their farms. Besides, the UN has also cautioned Nigeria against catastrophic food insecurity if preventive measures were not scaled up and enhanced across the country. They further warned that 8.7 million people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States needed humanitarian assistance in 2021, requiring a total of $1.01 billion.
To that effect, a countrywide food crisis is imminent since most of the foodstuffs consumed and traded in Nigeria are grown in the north. Boko Haram and bandits’ activities pose grievous risks to northern farmers, livestock breeders and dealers in farm produce, forcing them to migrate to new locations far from their farmlands while placing additional burden on the transportation of food and farm produce to other states. Consequently, prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, particularly in the southern part of the country as well.
Food is one of the basic necessities of life. Food crises will definitely lead to inadequacy of food products which will no doubt send the society into famine, malnutrition, widespread diseases, deaths among others. As the saying goes, “a hungry man is an angry man”, thus, lack of food can also lead to civil unrest in the society.
The latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Retired Major General Babagana Monguno, point-blankly stated that the government will endeavour to overcome challenges such as climate change, land conflicts, land degradation, rapid urbanization and insurgency in an attempt to thwart food insecurity in the country.
Subject to that, several agricultural policies have been formulated to curtail food security challenges in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these policies have not yielded the desired results of increased food production. Thus, there is a need for the government to go back to the drawing board in order to come up with effective and plausible measures on how to tackle this problem before it metamorphoses into a national chaos.
Mukhtar Ya’u wrote this piece from Madobi, Kano State