• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Farms under fire: Nigeria’s food security on the brink

Farms under fire: Nigeria’s food security on the brink

“The empty plates on dinner tables across the nation are a stark reminder of the crisis brewing in the farmlands.”

The breadbasket of a nation is under attack. Nigeria’s agricultural sector, the lifeblood of millions and a quiet giant contributing over 25 percent of GDP, is facing a silent siege. Insecurity, a relentless enemy armed with fear and violence, has stormed the fertile farmlands, scattering farmers like frightened birds and leaving a trail of crippled food production in its wake. This is not scaremongering or hyperbole; it is a national emergency with the potential to destabilise the entire nation. The smouldering fields and empty barns are a stark warning—the time for action is now.

The evidence is undeniable, a stark message etched in the skyrocketing prices of food. The National Bureau of Statistics paints a grim picture with their April 2024 report: a staggering 40.53 percent year-on-year food inflation rate. This is not an abstract statistic; it translates to the daily struggle of ordinary Nigerians. Staples like rice, once a cornerstone of affordable meals, have seen a mind-boggling 134 percent increase within a year. These numbers represent more than just economic hardship; they represent the rising cost of feeding a family, pushing millions towards the precipice of hunger. The empty plates on dinner tables across the nation are a stark reminder of the crisis brewing in the farmlands.

The culprit behind this devastation is clear: insecurity. It is not a nameless, faceless threat; it has a terrifying form. Farmers, the backbone of the nation, are now targeted by a brutal campaign of kidnappings and banditry. Fear hangs heavy in the air, a suffocating shroud that stifles any hope of cultivation. A 2023 UNICEF report lays bare the horrifying consequences: 25 million Nigerians, a staggering number, face hunger directly linked to this violence. The situation has become so perverse that reports of farmers being forced to pay “levies” to bandits for the “privilege” of cultivating their own land paint a horrifying picture. This isn’t agriculture; it’s extortion at gunpoint.

The consequences of this reign of terror are dire—a domino effect threatening to topple the house of cards that is Nigeria’s food security. Take, for instance, the multi-billion-naira behemoth, Okomu Oil Palm Plc. This agricultural powerhouse, a symbol of Nigeria’s potential, now teeters on the brink of closure due to relentless insecurity.

One may envision the rising consequences of such a loss: an enormous tract of fertile land going silent, its potential output fading away. This would not be an isolated episode; rather, it would be the first in a series of dominoes that could collapse, potentially devastating large-scale agriculture and causing instability in the country’s food supply with potentially long-lasting consequences. Hunger, a spectre already looming large, would tighten its grip on far too many Nigerians.

The solution, though seemingly straightforward, demands a multifaceted approach. First and foremost, security is the bedrock upon which any agricultural revival must be built. Farmers need to feel safe tending their crops, not fearing for their lives. Deploying military forces to troubled regions is a crucial first step, but a sustainable solution requires more. Empowering local communities to establish security outfits fosters a sense of ownership and builds trust. Bureaucratic red tape cannot be a stranglehold on progress; decisive action is paramount.

However, security is merely the first piece of the puzzle. We must reignite the spark of agriculture and make it a prospect that ignites hope, not fear. Fresh initiatives, from providing access to modern farming techniques to establishing loan programmes with favourable terms, can breathe new life into the sector. Rewarding farmers through subsidies and tax breaks can make agriculture a more attractive proposition, a career path paved with possibility, not peril. Let’s incentivize a return to the fields, not a desperate flight from them. By creating an environment that empowers and protects farmers, we can cultivate a future of food security for Nigeria.

Nigeria’s agricultural potential is undeniable. Lush farmlands sprawl across the nation, a testament to the richness of the soil and the tireless spirit of its people. It’s time to extinguish the fires of insecurity that threaten to choke this potential, to replace fear with hope and violence with cultivation. We must cultivate a future of food security, not just for the sake of feeding the nation but for the sake of its prosperity.

A thriving agricultural sector is the backbone of a strong economy, creating jobs, fostering innovation, and ensuring stability.

Let us join hands, extinguish the flames of this present crisis, and cultivate a future where Nigerian food baskets overflow, not with fear but with the promise of a bountiful harvest.