BusinessDay

Hunger crisis to worsen as floods drown farmlands

...Largest rice farmland submerged

The number of people going to bed hungry daily is set to rise in Nigeria as heavy rains and flash floods have destroyed thousands of farmlands in key agricultural-producing states.

In a 2022 combined report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Food Programme and the United Nations, Nigeria is listed among five other countries as the ‘hotspot of global hunger’ – where people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

FAO, in a separate report in April, said 90.4 million Nigerians were food-insecure, and malnutrition rates in most northern states had more than doubled.

With the flash floods and release of water from the Ladgo Dam in Cameroon destroying hundreds of farmlands, farmers say hunger levels in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, would rise further as the incidences will push food prices higher in a nation where millions have fallen into food poverty in the past two years.

“Nigeria’s food system is completely in disarray. The ongoing flooding has added to the problems of the food system, thus reducing food availability,” Kabiru Ibrahim, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told BusinessDay.

“Hunger is going to further rise as we currently do not have anything in our reserves that would have served as a buffer to cushion the effect that would come from the shortfall,” Ibrahim said.

He said the flooding situation in the country has added to the problem of worsening insecurity, the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war and surging costs of key inputs already rattling farmers.

This, according to him, is a serious problem for a nation where inflation is at a 17-year high, led by food inflation at 23.12 percent.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency had earlier warned that at least 32 of the 36 states in Nigeria, including Kaduna, Borno, Delta and Bayelsa, were expected to experience a high risk of flooding this year.

Read also: Motorists stranded, properties destroyed as Kogi battles ‘worst flood’

Already, Benue, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Taraba, Kano, Bauchi, Niger, Anambra, Kogi and Ebonyi have recorded flooding incidents within the last month.

Flooding in Nigeria has long been worsened by inadequate infrastructure and underfunded flood defences and is being further exacerbated by the impact of climate change.

The country’s largest farmland of 10,000 hectares in Nasarawa owned by Olam and worth about $140 million investment has been submerged by floods, according to Ade Adefeko, vice president of external relations and stakeholder management at Olam Agri.

“Our entire 4,400 hectare of rice is submerged by the flood,” Adefeko said in a response to questions, describing it as a big loss for the company and Nigeria as well as a setback to the country’s food security quest.

“We have been battling the waters for two weeks but the water pressure took over and broke the 57 km dykes surrounding the farm,” he said.

He added that the Olam team did an evacuation to save over 500 flood victims in its community of operation while running two camps to support them.

In the last few years, prices of everyday meals like bread, spaghetti, noodles, pastries, and biscuits have been rising steadily in Nigeria. It has nearly tripled since February when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Over 105 million Nigerians still live in extreme poverty, according to data from the World Poverty Clock of the Brookings Institute. The World Bank recently projected that the accelerating inflation will push an additional seven million into poverty by the end of 2022 in its report ‘The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual.’

“Survival is the most difficult thing in Nigeria now irrespective of whether you are in the upper, middle or lower income class as there is no source of income the surging inflation is not affecting,” Benson Salami-Olayanju, chairman of Panfcm-Tech-Wise Treasure Investment, said.

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