Farmers flee farms on worsening insecurity

As terrorism, banditry and kidnapping continue to escalate, farmers in Nigeria are forced to abandon their farms in many parts of the country.

Since the security situation became intense a few years ago, many farmers have fled to safety, and a number of agribusinesses have gone under after the destruction of their facilities.

Read also: Boko Haram conflict cuts Nigeria wheat crop as farmers flee

The situation has hampered the country’s ability to diversify through agriculture and generates substantial foreign exchange through the sector despite its potential.

“Lots of farmers have abandoned their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

“Farmers should be able to carry out their farming activities without any form of fear and harvest without having to pay bandits. These are crucial in preventing a food crisis,” he added.

The situation has also continued to deter new agricultural investments in key crop-growing states while throwing existing agribusinesses in disarray.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that the capital imported into the agriculture sector in the first quarter of 2022 declined by 99.3 percent to $1.76 million from $237.83 million in the preceding quarter of 2021.

“We have more local problems causing a surge in food prices than the Russian-Ukraine war. We have lost 60 percent of our food production in the northern region due to insecurity,” said Edobong Akpabio, outgoing head of agribusiness at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“A lot of farmers do not cultivate in places where they usually grow crops because of the high rate of insecurity,” she said.

She said insecurity must become a thing of the past before Nigeria could curtail the recent surge in food prices.

Food prices in Africa’s most populous country have surged by more than 50 percent from January to date over escalating insecurity, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian- Ukraine war.

Nigeria’s inflation hit 17.71 percent in May, while food inflation accelerated to 19.5 percent from 18.37 percent in April, driven by the rise in prices of staple foods across the country, according to the NBS.

“Our food production has not been growing in the past few years due to insecurity in the country. If we must tackle the high cost of food, we must address insecurity to tackle rising prices of food,” Muda Yusuf, founder of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, said in a response to questions.

Growth in the agricultural sector has been inconsistent and slowing since the fourth quarter of 2020, before it surprisingly rose to 3.58 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 and slowed to 3.16 percent in the first quarter of 2022, according to NBS data.

Apart from insecurity, climate change has also adversely impacted food production in the country.

Changing climate patterns are negatively impacting farmers’ productivity, leading to a low output that cannot meet the demand of 200 million people, thus resulting in demand overshooting supply.

AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer of X-Ray Consulting Limited, said climate change had become a critical issue for smallholder farmers and that the impact on agriculture was becoming more intense.

“It will be a major determinant of food production. Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is closely linked to the continent’s low adaptive capacity and increasing dependence on resources sensitive to changes in climate,” he said.