As Nigerian farmers were recovering from the period of inactivity occasioned by the lockdown declared by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the rains came with floods. This left many farmers counting their losses amidst fears that efforts by the authorities to tackle food insecurity may not just be enough; BENJAMIN UMUTEME writes.
Nigeria is in the tropics where the climate is seasonally damp and very humid. Nigeria is affected by four climate types; these climate types are distinguishable from the southern part of the country to the North. However, with the effect of climate change things are no longer the same.
In recent times, the rains do not come as early as they used to in the years past, but when they eventually come, its effects are always devastating. From Kebbi to Delta, Anambra to Jigawa, and Niger to Ondo states, the story has been the same. It’s been tears and lamentations by Nigerians, especially farmers.
The devastation that has been witnessed across the length and breadth of the country did not come as a surprise to experts. In early September, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) advised Nigerians to get ready for more rainfall in the course of the year as more floods were expected in September and October.
NIHSA’s director-general, Mr. Clement Nze, while giving the admonition, said the current flood level sighted in Niamey, Niger Republic, posed a dangerous threat to Nigeria. He explained that any release of excess water from the dams in countries upstream rivers Niger and Benue “this year will have more negative impact on Nigeria which is located downstream of countries in the Niger Basin.”
According to the agency’s boss, the highly vulnerable states are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.
Speaking further, he noted that the flood that ravaged Kebbi state, about a week earlier, left so much to be told; therefore, the current flooding situation called for vigilance on the part of all the stakeholders. He advised states, local governments, multi-national companies and public-spirited individuals to put all hands on deck to save the country from the consequences of a twin pandemic, Covid-19 and floods, in the year 2020.
He said: “The rains are finally here, the volume of river flows on our river surge. River channels could no longer accommodate significant runoff as floodplains, which traditionally serve the alluvial plains and are rich in agricultural productivity, lost its retention capacity to give way to flooding of adjacent lands.
“Lives are being lost, property destroyed and humans are scampering for safety. Farmlands and crop yields are being lost to furry of floodwaters, livestock and ecosystem species are diminishing while hope for livelihood hang in balance due to monumental economic losses.
“As a matter of fact, all the states of the federation have suffered several degrees of flooding since June 2020. The danger is not yet over. Information received from the regional Niger Basin Authority (NBA) by NIHSA has it that as at 7.30am today September 10, 2020, the River Niger flood level in Niamey, Niger Republic, attained an unprecedented level of 7.02m (702cm).
“This is a far cry from the value of 6.60m which I reported in my last press briefing of August 25, 2020. Noting that the Red Alert Warning Zone in Niamey is 6.20m and above, the current flood level sighted in Niamey poses a dangerous threat to the country, Nigeria, which is at the lower portion of Niger Basin within this month of September and October.”
Speaking further, he said: “Based on the report of the expected flood coming down from Niamey and the projected contributions by the inland rivers, both Kainji and Jebbo Dams built on River Niger have continued to spill water downstream.
“The Shiroro Dam on River Koduno, with reservoir level at 381.48m as at 9.00am today, has been maintaining a regulated spilling into the River Niger. The effect of all these is that the communities in the states adjoining River Niger will continue to be highly inundated by river flooding as is being witnessed in the recent time.
“The agency, in addition to monitoring the flow on the River Niger System, is also keeping close tab on the developments on River Benue sub-basin and has maintained close contact with the Cameroonian authorities with regards to flood scenarios in the upper catchment of the sub-basin. Recent information received by the Agency from the Cameroon indicated that the Lagdo Dam is still impounding water.
“Notwithstanding the early warning given by NIHSA in its 2020 AFO and various media publications; urban and flash floods have continued to wreck havoc in many states of the federation, including the FCT.
“As at date, no less than 172 LGA in all states are counting their losses due to flood incidents. The non-existence of any dam structure within the Nigerian portion of River Benue makes Nigeria vulnerable to excessive flooding in the event of sudden or unannounced release of water from the Lagdo Dam.”
Nze also noted that blocked drainages and gutters should be cleared, river channels dredged, and structures within the waterways and floodplains and flood paths pulled down.
As it stands, Nigeria is likely to experience food crisis in the coming months as many farmlands have already been destroyed by floods.
In Shira local government area of Bauchi state, no fewer than 2,600 houses were destroyed, and 3,000 hectares of farmland damaged in the flood. Also, at least three persons lost their lives and several others have been declared missing as a result of the downpour.
According to the police spokesperson in the state, DSP Ahmed Mohammed Wakili, “A total of 2,600 houses were destroyed and thousands of hectares of farmlands were also destroyed in the villages.”
Similarly, Kebbi state which was gradually becoming a hub for rice farming in the country was not spared as over 500,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed. The chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Sani Dododo, said farm produce worth over N5 billion had been destroyed by the flood.
Dododo said further that out of that figure, 450,000 hectares were for rice alone, while the remaining covered other crops, adding that the loss recorded in rice farming could be put at 90 per cent of the total value of the farm produce in the state.
“Over 500,000 hectares of farmlands have been destroyed by the flood disaster in Kebbi state. The destruction translates to over N5 billion worth of farm produced. Rice farms constitute about 90 per cent of the farm produce destroyed,” he said.
For Labaran Hanatu, who lost 16 hectares of her rice farmland to the flood, 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 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.
Another farmer, Zainab Abubakar, said after spending over N300,000 on her 25- hectare farmland, it would be difficult to engage in dry season farming as he 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,” she said.
Another rice farmer, Suleiman Bashir, whose rice farm was submerged in the flood, echoed the sentiments of the other farmers, stating that the situation might force him out of farming.
“I don’t know what to do. I have two large rice farms and they have been completely submerged by the flood,” he said.
Similarly, in Lapei Gwari Town in Bosso local government area of Niger state, which is known for fish farming, at least 200 farmers have had their livelihoods destroyed by the flood which swept away most of the 3,000 fish ponds in the area.
According to some of the farmers, they have been left empty handed. Fatima Zubairu is one of those that were affected and she said: “Today, what we lost here is more than N10 million. We have 10 ponds and we cannot pick a single fish.”
This is as another farmer Mohammed Jibril said his over N10 investment seemed to have gone down the drain, adding that he was at a loss on how to get back to his feet.
“We are farmers that have lost almost everything after investing more than N10 million. We don’t know how many of them are going to get back to their feet,” he said.
For farmers in Kano state, investments in over 5,000 hectares of farmlands worth N4 billion were lost. For Oreva Ofejiro, the loss of his 15-hectare farmland in Nsukwa Town in Ndokwa West local government area to flood has left him devastated.
“I obtained loans to invest in the farm which was due for harvest by November. As it is now, the N300, 000 I collected from a microfinance bank has gone down the drain. How do I repay the loan now when the source of repayment has been destroyed,” he asked.
Food scarcity about to happen
The chairman of the All Farmers Association (AFAN) in Kano, Faruq Mudi, said the large portion of farmlands destroyed by flood might lead to food scarcity and inability of the affected farmers to get back to the farms. The implication, he said, would be food scarcity and high cost of food items.
“Scarcity of farm products is inevitable because the expected harvests may not be visible. Again, food prices may increase because, as you can see, many farmers will not have what they expect and so the scanty produce could become very expensive,” he said.
A fish farmer in Igbokoda, Mr. Wale Atijosan, said, “Flooding is posing a lot of threats to our agricultural activities. Often times, the flood overrun our ponds and sweep off all our fish investments.
“Our soil is not good for most agricultural crops. There is scarcity of land and recurring oil spillage. All our efforts to improvise and manage the little we have are most of the times at the mercy of flooding, especially during rainy seasons.”
Narrating ugly experiences, Abdulrasheed Labaran Hassan, a rice farmer at Zangougule Town in Ajingi local government area of Kano, who lost two hectares to the flood, regretted that the loss came a few days to the harvest of 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.