• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

The deadly duo of insecurity and floods fuel Nigeria’s food crisis

Empty plates and rising prices: Can Nigeria find a way out of the food crisis?

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is grappling with a severe food crisis exacerbated by two formidable challenges: rampant insecurity and devastating floods. These twin threats have not only disrupted agricultural production but also intensified the country’s struggle to achieve food security, leaving millions of Nigerians vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

Addressing the food crisis and ensuring peace is a cry from the populace. Recently, various macro-economic policies have been implemented to address ongoing issues such as naira volatility and inflation. While these control measures have shown some success in stabilising the naira, they have yet to improve the welfare of the vulnerable.

Last week, the naira lost 0.15 percent as the dollar was quoted at N1,510.10 compared to N1,507.83 the previous day at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM). In the parallel market, known as the black market, the naira lost 1.32 percent of its value, with the dollar quoted at N1,520. Despite these fluctuations, Yemi Cardoso, the CBN governor, expressed confidence that naira volatility has ended.

Read also: Nigeria food crisis seen worsening as costs triple

Moreover, as earlier reported by BusinessDay, data from the Central Bank of Nigeria shows that foreign exchange reserves hit a high of $34.07 billion in June, the highest since March 2024. However, the naira’s value has yet to appreciate significantly further.

The efforts of the CBN are commendable, but it is important to remember that there is always a gestation period for policies to have a direct impact on the vulnerable. Do we know the exact duration of this period? Unfortunately, no, because of various economic shocks. Can the vulnerable afford to endure more hunger? No. Have they already sacrificed significantly? Yes. Do they need to endure more? No.

Warning! The government needs to act swiftly as the level of hunger in the land intensifies daily. Insecurity is a core variable significantly impacting the food crisis because farmers are not safe. No one wants to risk their life; hence, many stay at home, seeking alternatives. And remember the adage, “A lazy hand is the devil’s workshop.”

Akinwunmi Adeshina, President of the African Development Bank, has highlighted that insecurity is a major threat to food security in Nigeria. According to the Africa Report, armed groups target commercial farm projects, causing substantial damage.

“The current scenario is a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive disaster management strategies and resilient agricultural practices.”

There’s no way insecurity will persist without causing food supply shortages, leading to price hikes, food inflation, and increased hunger, ultimately boosting poverty levels. This is simple arithmetic that requires no stress.

Flooding is another problem. How do we address this? Flooding in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon, but its intensity and frequency have increased alarmingly. This year, states like Benue, Kogi, and Niger have been among the hardest hit. The floods have inundated farms, washed away topsoil, and ruined crops ready for harvest.

Joseph Utsev, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, stated in April in Abuja, while briefing journalists on the 2024 Annual Flood Outlook for the country, that parts of 148 local government areas in 31 states fall within high flood-risk areas, while parts of 249 LGAs in 36 states and the FCT fall within moderate flood-risk areas.

Among these areas are the major food supply chains of the country, including Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and Yobe. With these projected high-flood-risk areas, the food crisis might extend into 2025 and beyond.

Read also: Nigeria food crisis demands bold action

The combined effects of insecurity and flooding create a perfect storm for Nigeria’s food security crisis. The destruction of crops and displacement of farmers reduce the overall food supply, leading to higher prices and increased competition for scarce resources. Vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly, are particularly at risk of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Moreover, the crisis has broader socio-economic implications. Increased food prices contribute to inflation, straining household budgets and reducing purchasing power. The rural economy, heavily dependent on agriculture, suffers from reduced productivity and investment, further entrenching poverty and underdevelopment.

Act now before it is too late. Experts reveal that October and November 2024 will be particularly tough in terms of food insecurity.

Nigeria’s food security crisis, driven by the dual threats of insecurity and flooding, requires urgent and comprehensive action. The current scenario is a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive disaster management strategies and resilient agricultural practices.

As we navigate through 2024, the focus must be on both immediate relief for affected communities and building long-term resilience against future crises. Only through coordinated efforts at all levels of government, supported by international partners and local communities, can Nigeria hope to overcome this formidable challenge and secure a stable and prosperous future for its people.