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Flooding: How 25 million Nigerians risk severe hunger in 2023

By Gbenga Akinfenwa, Bankole Orimisan (Lagos) and Joke Falaju (Abuja)
13 November 2022   |   4:35 am
Stakeholders in the nation’s food and agriculture value chain have said that unless urgent steps are taken by the Federal Government, the massive destruction to farmlands by the recent floods may result in a severe hunger crisis in 2023.

PHOTO: ICIR Nigeria

• Farmers Seek FG Support To Combat Imminent Food Insecurity
• W’Africa Facing Worst Food Crisis In Decade – Oxfam
• Flooding May Lead To 35% Loss In Food Production – FACAN
• Smallholder Farmers Need Support To Shore Production
• Consideration Of Insurance In Management Of Disasters Is Vital –NAICOM

Stakeholders in the nation’s food and agriculture value chain have said that unless urgent steps are taken by the Federal Government, the massive destruction to farmlands by the recent floods may result in a severe hunger crisis in 2023.

Aside from financial losses incurred by farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, the destruction has been estimated to put 25.3million people across 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in acute food crisis between June and August next year.

This estimation is contained in the Cadre Hamonise report on the food security situation in the country by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The report revealed that though about 17m Nigerians, including Internally Displaced Persons and returnees are currently in a food crisis situation across the affected states, it noted that if nothing was done to salvage the situation, the number may increase to 25.3m people.

The key drivers of the possible increase in the number of victims, according to the report, include damages caused by floods on farmlands, crops and livestocks; consequent high food prices; and high prices of agricultural inputs. Other factors are depreciation of Naira, insurgency in the Northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; armed banditry and kidnapping in Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger states.

Oxfam, on its part, said that West Africa, including Nigeria, is currently facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with 27 million people set to go hungry due to a combination of factors, including flooding.

The organisation predicted that the number could rise to 38 million, an unprecedented level, unless urgent action is taken.

In its official document made available to The Guardian, Oxfam advised the Federal Government to urgently implement progressive taxation measures and use them to invest in powerful and proven measures that reduce inequality, such as universal social protection schemes, to tackle the immediate food price inflation.

“Governments, donors and food companies must rebalance the power in food supply chains, and ensure that the rights of the farmers and workers producing food are respected. More support should be directed to farmers and agricultural workers to expand sustainable domestic and local food production.

“This would reduce dependence on international markets, which exposes countries to supply disruptions and price fluctuations. It is essential that small-scale farmers in low-income countries are supported in having more access to funding, infrastructure, inputs and markets, and that their land rights are protected.”

The FAO report revealed that some local councils in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe were currently experiencing crisis in food consumption, stating that situation is projected to get worse by June next year due to market shocks and the attendant food prices.

It revealed that during the current analysis, most households in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kaduna have adopted crisis level livelihood coping strategies while during the projected period, these areas would most likely resort to more severe livelihood coping strategies, which might lead to a severe depletion of livelihood assets, unless on-going humanitarian action is sustained (in the areas where they are already in operation) and sustainable intervention explored in the states (where no humanitarian operation exists).

The FAO Country Representative, Fred Kafeeto, noted that the devastating impact of flood, high food prices, among others, have resulted in high numbers of people who are food insecure.

He maintained that although all the states were in different food crisis level, the organisation was more concerned about the North East and North West states who were affected by the conflict.

Kaffero noted that to avoid the looming food crisis, farmers must be assisted to continue producing, saying with the increase in the cost of production, especially farm inputs, state governments especially must support the smallholder farmers to produce food.

In the aftermath of the flooding, President of African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, had also stressed the need to act fast to avert food crisis in the country.

Stressing the need for greater action, responsiveness, and delivery, Adesina disclosed that the African Emergency Food Production Facility provided $134 million to Nigeria, in addition to the Japanese International Development Agency’s (JICA) support with an additional $110 million, making a total of $244 million availed for emergency food production in Nigeria.

Without doubt, the recent flooding across 31 states of the federation has had devastating impact on the fragile food security situation of the country.

While the country is still grappling with the ripple effects of COVID-19, insecurity, banditry, the Russia-Ukraine war, the flooding incidents, unfortunately, came at the peak of the harvest period and have further heightened the fears of food shortage in the country in the months ahead.

According to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, over 70,556 hectares of farmland were washed off by the flood.

Though the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the overseeing ministry for farmers, is yet to come up with the exact number of farmlands affected by the flood, farmers have continued to cry out to the federal government to provide them with succour to make up for their losses. Many of the farmers claim to have lost millions of naira to the flood and may be unable to return to farming.

The flooding in Nasarawa State affected one of the nation’s largest rice farms – Olam rice farms. The flood submerged the 4,500-hectares rice farms, destroying crops worth over $15m. The flood also destroyed infrastructure such as dykes, canals and other facilities worth about $8m.

Farmlands running into thousands of hectares in Kogi, Benue, Taraba, Jigawa, Kano, Benue, Kebbi, among other rice producing states in the North, were also been reportedly washed away. It was learnt that about 90 percent of farms were destroyed by flood in Taraba, while others are still counting losses.

However, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakihe emphasised the importance of the October, 2022 CH FAO report as it comes at a phase of economic stress when Nigeria is still faced with post COVID-19 pandemic challenges, and the negative economic impact of Russian-Ukraine war; and not forgetting the daunting insecurity issue, which has continued to threaten Nigeria’s food and nutrition security.

He stated that the challenges have led to disruptions in food production and distribution systems, resulting in poor consumption patterns among several households, especially in areas affected by insecurity.

Umakihe assured of the Ministry’s commitment to upholding the outcome and recommendations arising from it with a view to enhancing the food and nutrition security situation in the concerned states through objective intervention programme.

Though the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, has also debunked fears of a severe food crisis in the country as a result of the flooding, farmers and experts have insisted that unless proactive steps were taken by the federal government to mitigate the current situation, the Minister’s statement may not hold weight.

Chairman, Federation of Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Sadiq Daware, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele to release funds to the farmers to salvage the current situation.

The association has also demanded to meet with the President so as to tell him the challenges farmers are facing in increasing food production in the country.

Of major concern to the farmers is the stoppage of the Anchor Borrowers Programme by the CBN despite the gains recorded in rice and maize production under the programme.

The National President, of Soursop Producers and Processors Association of Nigeria, Silvester Danjuma Bunshak dismissed the Agriculture Minister’s pronouncement that there won’t be food crisis in the country next year as a result of the flooding.

“I don’t know where the Minister is getting his data from but as a member of the cabinet, he has the responsibility to protect Nigerians. I know if nothing is urgently done concerning food security in the country, there will be problem.

“We are the ones at the grassroots; we are farmers. As I speak, my 20 hectares of farm in Taraba State has been taken over by flood and I have lost about N30 million. Prior to now, farmers have been affected by severe drought.”

President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Farouk Mudi noted that the impact of flood on Nigerian farmers cannot be overemphasized, adding, “a lot of farmers were affected and it will, to a large extent, reduce the tonnes of crops produced in the country.”

President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, said prices of goods are bound to go up, considering the magnitude of farms destroyed by the flood, noting that the level of devastation is bound to lead to food shortage.

“Many farms have been destroyed and it is bound to lead to food shortage, but thank God that we still have so many farms that were not affected. Regardless, food will be very expensive.”

Iyama said though the association is yet to put figures to the losses because all that happened across the states is yet to be aggregated, the situation may lead to “about 35 per cent loss of the country’s food production, which is quite huge.”

The National President of the Soybeans Farmers Association of Nigeria (SOFAN), Professor Nafiu Abdu, on his part, warned that if care is not taken, the current flooding challenge could lead to famine in the country because a lot of farmers lost their harvest .

“Quite a lot of farmers couldn’t harvest because of the flooding and somebody who is expecting maybe 20 bags of harvest is going home with less than even five bags. So the effect is going to be big. This will lead to lots of farmers entering into economic recession. There maybe hunger in the land because if the nation needs at least 100 metric tonnes of maize and what has been harvested is less than one metric tonne, the problem would be very big,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Plateau State, Suleiman Dikwa also submitted that the cost of food commodities would get worse by next year, starting from January, noting that it may stabilise after the month of March when farmers are expected to release some hoarded produce.

“The price of food commodities will increase in the short term, at most to the end of first quarter and then stabilise. I expect that the excess hoarded will be released and government can use its strategic reserves to manage food inflation.

“There are many drivers to rising cost of food, the currency redesign, dollar scarcity and rush to earn dollars through laundering and other legitimate demand for dollars through export. There will be rush to hoard the commodities, but because the main aim is to launder currency, we expect that by February they have to release the hoarded commodities, which will flood the market.

“We still have unsold foods commodities from last season. Note that suppliers and consumers are in the same market and those that hoarded could not sell. So, we actually have excess commodities and the price and stock available are not real.”

In the interim, he advised the Federal Government through its strategic reserves to urgently intervene to control the prices, saying, “it is a function of demand and supply and the trend is artificial.”

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister, Dr Abubakar has highlighted steps being taken by the federal government to mitigate the impact of floods on food production to include the conduct of an immediate needs assessment of affected communities and farmlands in all affected States, based on available Remote Sensing report on 2022 flooding; distribution of assorted food commodities from the Federal Government Strategic Food Reserve to the vulnerable and flood victims through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development; and distribution of early maturing seeds (wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, cassava cuttings), fertilizers, agro-chemicals and agro-equipment to affected crop farmers across the country, among other measures.

He also listed the distribution of brooded broilers for restocking of affected smallholder poultry farms; deployment of ongoing mass vaccination of animals to prevent incidents of disease outbreaks that usually occur after flood disasters; and distribution of  fingerling juveniles and other fishing and fishery equipment to fishermen and fisher folks as well as re-stocking of Lakes, Dams and Reservoirs affected by flood with juveniles and fingerlings for post flooding fish production.

Other interventions include collaboration with the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Cooperation (NAIC) to sensitize farmers on the importance of insuring their farms against possible disasters such as floods, fire and drought, among other interventions.

Speaking on the need for farmers to embrace insurance wholly, the Head of Corporate Communications and Market Development, NAICOM, Rasaaq Salami, said flood insurance in the sector is not mandatory to Nigerians but by choice.

He stressed that it was time to implore governments to convoke stakeholders’ engagement and also factor in insurance into the management of disasters in the country, to free governments funds often expended on palliatives for other pressing public good.

Responding to enquiries on the extent of damage occasioned by the flood and possible, the Assistant General Manager of Corporate Services, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) Magdalene Omosimua, said, “the flood is ongoing and as a federal government, we are waiting for the flood to recede before knowing the extent of the damages.”