18.6Million Nigerians In Acute Hunger As Invasion Of Farmers Intensifies


Nigeria’s worsening food crisis apparently occasioned by the continued kidnapping of farmers, has continued to constitute a source for concern among stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector, making many of them abandon food production.

Findings have shown that this is worsening the nation’s food crisis. In a recent policy brief entitled ‘Status of Food Security: Dimensioning the Crisis, Policy Options, and Strategic Responses’ by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, which was made known in a statement signed by the acting head, Strategic Communications and Advocacy, NESG, Ayanyinka Ayanlowo, the number of food-insecure Nigerians increased significantly, from 66.2 million in Q1 2023 to 100 million in Q1 2024 (WFP, 2024), with 18.6 million facing acute hunger and 43.7 million Nigerians showing crisis-level or above crisis-level hunger- coping strategies as of March 2024.

The statistics paint a grim picture, yet the harsh reality surpasses even that. Across various states, farmers are abandoning their lands due to rampant banditry and escalating insecurity. From Benue to Sokoto, Niger to Plateau, Kaduna to Zamfara, and Katsina, the narratives are heart-wrenching.

Recent findings revealed that the year 2024 has already witnessed the loss of 165 farmers to violence. In some regions, bandits levy arbitrary taxes on farmers, leaving them hungry and powerless, confined to their homes.

In Sokoto, farmers bemoan having paid a staggering N3 billion in ransom to bandits. Recently also, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) confirmed the findings of the SB Morgan Intelligence report, indicating that farmers in the North pay terrorists up to N100,000 to gain access to their farmlands during planting or harvest seasons. The report by the Africa-focused research group, disclosed that non-compliant farmers risked abduction, violence, or confiscation of their produce.

And when the attackers chose to kill, they bring sorrow, tears and blood. Most recently, reports indicate that at least six individuals fell victim to suspected herdsmen in the Kadarko community of Keana Local Government Area, Nasarawa State. Within Kadarko, two residents were fatally attacked at Tse-Abir Azer community on a Friday, while three Tiv farmers met a similar fate on Sunday in the same vicinity.

The resultant effect is that food inflation in the country has been on the increase. In January 2024, Nigeria’s food inflation surged to 35.41% from 33.9% in December 2023. Although, Nigeria had resorted to food importation to augment local production due to the crisis, the soaring food importation bill, for a nation touted as the food basket of Africa, said experts, is not sustainable. Checks show that Nigeria has spent over N6.9 trillion in the past five years on food imports.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), reveal that the value of food import transactions in 2022 amounted to over N1.9 trillion, compared to the N2 trillion spent on food imports in 2021. In 2020, Nigeria imported agricultural products worth N1.2 trillion, while in 2019, food imports exceeded N959 billion. The country also imported food products worth N857.6 billion in 2018. Official trade figures from 2018 to 2022 revealed that the value of agricultural imports exceeded exports by more than threefold. Even crops well-suited to Nigerian soil, such as rice, are frequently sourced abroad, while essentials like wheat are predominantly imported.

Information sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) indicated that during the specified timeframe, the total agricultural exports from Nigeria amounted to N1.997 trillion, leading to an agricultural trade deficit of N4.919 trillion. Furthermore, agricultural exports from the country were recorded at N302 billion in 2018, N270 billion in 2019, N322 billion in 2020, N505 billion in 2021, and N598 billion in 2022. This data demonstrates a notable increase of 98 percent from 2018 to 2022.

The stakeholders are worried that although, agriculture remains a cornerstone of Nigeria’s national identity, the nation has yet to accord farming the priority it deserves since gaining independence in 1960. Instead, since oil emerged as the dominant force in the economy, the nation has sidelined other sectors.

Opeyemi Akangbe, the managing director of an Oyo State-based mechanised farm, AgricPlus Ltd, said over the past six decades, successive administrations had merely paid lip-service to agricultural development. Consequently, he lamented, Nigeria, endowed with favourable climatic conditions for diverse crop cultivation, finds itself heavily reliant on food imports.

However, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has affirmed that his administration is channeling resources towards critical sectors to substantially enhance the welfare of Nigerians. He emphasised his administration’s stance against importing food amidst the escalating hunger crisis in the nation. A statement by presidential spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale, disclosed that Tinubu underscored the government’s commitment to transforming scarcity into abundance within the country.

Agricultural advocates consistently urge the Federal Government to enhance its collaboration with key stakeholders of Nigeria’s agriculture sector, stressing the importance of political will to effectively implement crucial agricultural policies aimed at fostering sectoral growth, an area where many governments have fallen short.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that smallholder farmers worldwide contribute significantly to food production, with the majority operating on less than two hectares of land.

But the safety of lives of farmers is very crucial. A large-scale farmer in Benue State, Pius Nwitete, Noted that the government needed to guarantee the safety of farmers’ life and property nationwide. Unfortunately, he said, many farmers had abandoned their fields due to escalating security concerns, particularly in the North-Eastern region.

Stated he: ‘‘In a country where millions endure hunger annually, it is imperative to prioritise empowering and motivating farmers to enhance production, especially amidst the challenges posed by climate change on global food production”.

Another stakeholder, Umar Mohammed, who owns a large farm in Kano, said it was unfortunate that only a few farmers had access to tractors or modern farming equipment, hindering the government’s efforts in its tractorisation programme aimed at bolstering production.

He said as the exorbitant cost of farm inputs posed a significant challenge to farmers’ productivity across the continent, there was an urgent need to subsidise farm inputs considering their critical role in food production.

An agriculture economist, Bello Haruna, said addressing the impact of climate change on agriculture was paramount, with many Nigerian farmers relying on rain-fed agriculture. He added that encouraging irrigation and modern farming practices could mitigate these challenges and boost productivity.

An Abuja-based owner of poultry in Lugbe axis, Vivian Ojo, also said that in order to attract young farmers and address rural-urban migration, the government must create an enabling environment, offer subsidised farm equipment, improve access to land and financial services, provide education and training, and foster market opportunities.

In his submission, 2022/2024 senior academic visitor at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Sonny Iroche, said Nigeria had been facing imminent food scarcity, primarily due to continuous attacks on farmers by bandits and conflicts between herders and farmers, spanning over two decades, from the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to Buhari’s tenure.

He urged President Tinubu’s administration to prioritise agricultural infrastructure development, including modernising irrigation systems, enhancing storage facilities, and improving transportation networks.

Said he: “Additionally, increased investment in research and development is crucial to boost crop yields and enhance farming techniques. Promoting mechanisation and modern farming practices, along with facilitating access to credit and finance for farmers, will further bolster productivity.

“Strengthening farmers’ education and extension services, encouraging private sector participation, and improving market access and value chain integration are also essential steps. Moreover, Nigeria should diversify its agricultural production and invest in agro-processing to add value to its exports.

“By implementing these comprehensive strategies, Nigeria can significantly enhance its agricultural productivity, ensure food security, and emerge as a major food producer not only for its population but also for the region and beyond”.

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