Food scarcity, starvation loom as floods ravage states




… Already over 400 citizens killed, 100,000 displaced – NIHSA

…Cameroun’s Lagdo Dam has begun release of excess water – NEMA

…Flooding fuelled by climate change –Expert

 ‘…Farmers must key into agric insurance scheme to avoid losses’

Nigeria looks set to face a shortage of agricultural produce in coming months as severe flooding continues to ravage farmlands in different parts of the country; BENJAMIN SAMSON reports.

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.

NIHSA’s warning

In the light of the foregoing, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) recently warned that flooding would persist till the last quarter of 2022. According to the latest data released by the agency, 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.

 Addressing a news conference in Abuja recently, the director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Habib Ahmed, attributed 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

Of course, 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.

Lamentations

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.

Also, a fish farmer in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, Mr. Wale Atijosan, said, “Flooding is posing a lot of threats to our agricultural activities. Oftentimes, the floods overrun our ponds and sweep off all our fish investments.

“Our soil is not good enough for most agricultural crops. There is scarcity of land in addition to a 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 the rainy season.”

Experts’ warning/admonition

In a chat with this reporter, an expert at Global Rights, a non-governmental organisation, Kenechukwu Onuorah, said one major consequence of the persistent flooding is the huge impact it will have on agricultural output. According to him, persistent flooding will make basic foodstuff scarce and expensive if nothing is done urgently to control it.

 “The persistent rain may be good because it creates swampy lands that are good for the plants, but flooding is a disaster. It comes with erosion and washes away the plants. It destroyed the crops and even livestock will have nothing to feed on,” he said.

According to Onuorah, the persistent flooding (and heavy rainfall) is fuelled by climate change due to global warming, poor urban planning, and overflowing dams among others. He, however, said flooding could have been averted, if the government had put preventive measures in place.

 “There is so much we could do that we are not doing. We must ensure appropriate urban planning, and drainage systems. Governments at all levels must work to set Nigeria on the path towards greener renewable energy in order to reverse the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the government is not working in that direction yet.”

Similarly, the chairman of the All Farmers Association (AFAN) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Silas Auta, told our reporter that the large portions of farmlands destroyed by flooding 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.

 Mitigation

Auta noted that to mitigate the effects of these calamities on the food system or food security, farmers should be encouraged to embark on a full-scale dry season farming which could lead to all-year-round farming. He also advised that the government should expand the nation’s irrigable lands by investing more in water resources. He urged farmers to “quickly plant alternative crops that require little time to mature in order to mitigate the crisis.”

 He said, “The government at all levels could support farmers with seeds and other inputs. Whereupon the time left for the rainy season cannot be sufficient for any crop, some form of compensation commensurate to the ascertained loss could be given to the affected farmers.”

 He also suggested that the federal government should dredge the shrinking River Benue and Niger to avert flooding of farms close to their banks.

 “The rivers are shrinking; so whenever there is an overflow elsewhere, we feel it here. Water is not something to struggle with that you can call your brothers to help you. The solution is dredging these rivers, as well as providing more dams to absorb waters being released somewhere else.”

 Meanwhile, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, has advised state governments to make good use of dams belonging to the federal government in their states for irrigation services. The minister, who recently said federal dams in states were not effectively utilised, noted that the only way to mitigate some of the crises in the food value chain is to ensure all-year-round farming activities.

He said the federal government had provided the body of waters that states could use for irrigation activities.

Likewise, in an interview with Blueprint Weekend, an agro-allied insurance professional, Mr. Adegboyega Adefarati, urged farmers across the country to register their farms with the agricultural insurance scheme to avoid total loss after natural disasters.

 According to him, farmers must take proactive measures to secure their farms by insuring them against natural disasters like flood and fire.

 “It has become imperative for our farmers to key into agricultural insurance schemes to avoid losses during any natural disaster that affect farms. It is very important that all farmers, whether assisted by international donor agencies or on their own as individuals, take up the agriculture insurance policy.

 “People will say, I have been doing rice farming here for over 10 years and this type of flooding has never happened. But one cannot actually say when this kind of disaster will happen and the insurance policy to cover for the losses is just a token, like 2.5 per cent of the farmer’s total input in the rice farming.

 “So, we will need to educate our farmers more on the need to foresee this type of natural disaster and prepare for it in advance,” he said.

 Adefarati said further that the damages to the farms could affect farmers and the economic growth of the state if urgent action was not taken. He appealed to the federal government to assist the farmers whose farm lands and crops were destroyed in the disaster.

He pointed out that in recognition of the specialised nature of agricultural risks, the federal government established the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS), which was implemented and managed by the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC).

 He, however, lamented that NAIC “insures less than two per cent of the farmers in Nigeria after almost three decades of its operations,” saying that “therefore, there remains a huge insurance market for the balance of about 98 per cent uninsured.”

“Natural disasters common in agriculture as flood, fire, windstorm, drought, moisture stress, excessive moisture, climate change, heat, outbreak of diseases and pests, and wild animal encroachment.”

 Social risks, he added, include fire, burglary/theft, strike/riot, war/ terrorism, vandalism, moral hazard, socio-cultural risk, financial/market, price fluctuations, depreciations, loss of income, interest changes, and exchange rate.

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