The threat to food security

This newspaper at the weekend published a disturbing exclusive report on the quantum damage wrecked by floods across the country. The report, which is based on thorough nationwide survey, indicated that as a result of torrential rainfall in recent weeks, with no signs of slowing down, some states, especially those along the courses of Rivers Niger and Benue, are currently devastated by flooding. The floods have devastated farmlands and experts fear it could result in food shortages in the coming months.

It said recent data by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) warned that flooding would persist till the last quarter of 2022. According to the data, almost all the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have experienced one form of flooding or another, leaving in its wake the destruction of lives, property, and livelihoods. So far, as of September 19, 2022, over 400 people have been killed, with Jigawa state being the worst hit, and over 100,000 others displaced.

The extensive and comprehensive report quoted the director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Habib Ahmed, attributing the rampaging floods to above average rainfall and the opening of the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun.

“Based on our communication with the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), the floods are caused by above average rainfall in recent weeks. Also, the Lagdo Dam operators in the Republic of Cameroun have commenced the release of excess water from the reservoir since September 13, 2022. We are aware that the released water cascades down to Nigeria through River Benue and its tributaries thereby inundating communities that have already been impacted by heavy precipitations.

“The released water complicates the situation further downstream as Nigeria’s inland reservoirs including Kainji, Jebba, and Shiroro are also expected to overflow between now and October ending.

“Kainji and Jebba dams have already started spilling excess water from their reservoirs. This will have serious consequences on frontline states and communities along the courses of rivers Niger and Benue. These states include, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi and Kogi states. Niger Delta states including Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa are expected to record heavy floods due predicted above normal rains coupled with the combined waters of rivers Niger and Benue as they empty into the region.

“Consequently, I want to advise all the governments of the frontline states to move away communities at the risk of inundation and identify safe higher grounds for evacuation of persons and preposition of adequate stockpiles of food and non-food items, potable water, hygiene, safety and security to enable them to have a fair level of comfort during periods of possible displacement. These actions become necessary as we collectively work towards finding a lasting solution to the annual threats of floods,” he said.

Agriculture has remained the worst hit and thousands of hectares of land have been destroyed across the country. Farmers have expressed concerns over large-scale destruction of produce. Floods have destroyed rice, maize, sorghum, millet, beans, groundnut, beans farms and hundreds of livestock. They, therefore, called for urgent interventions to mitigate the effects of the disaster, reduce hunger and enhance food security.

For Labaran Hanatu, who lost 25 hectares of her rice farm land in Ajaokuta in Kogi state to the flooding, about 700 bags of paddy rice she was expecting have all gone.

“The losses recorded this year are so enormous that the majority of the smallholder farmers may not go back to farm for in this year’s dry season farming. Most farmers make use of what they realise during the rainy season farming for dry season farming,” she said.

She said after spending over N300, 000 on her 25- hectare farm land, it would be difficult to engage in dry season farming as she does not have enough capital left to do that.

“We are calling on the government to come to our aid. Many of us will be out of the farming business if the government does not intervene.”

Likewise, narrating his experience, Abdulrasheed Labaran Hassan, a rice farmer at Zangougule town in Ibaji local government area of Kogi state, who lost five hectares to floods, regretted that the loss came a few days to the harvest of an estimated 100 bags of rice.

Labaran said he lost 200 bags of paddies, unprocessed rice grains, worth N2 million in less than three weeks. The price of a bag of paddies is between N10, 000 and N13, 000. Hence, he lost nothing less than N2 million to the flood.

We view the investigate report as worrisome and call on the relevant agencies to step up remedial measures to stem its devastating effect on communities and their livelihoods, particularly farmland. Nigeria is already threatened by food insecurity resulting from the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminality. The country cannot afford another threat by way of floods, albeit, a natural disaster, to attaining self-sufficiency in food production.