Nigerians thought that terrorism, banditry and COVID-19 were the only threats to food security. They didn’t quite sufficiently reckon with flood. This warning editorial was published earlier. We are re-publishing it to call attention to the devastations of flood in Niger and Kebbi States as well as other parts of the country, and to demand urgent action.
The nation, experts say, may be vulnerable to food scarcity should the authorities choose to ignore the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on farming activities in the country and it’s crippling effect on the economy.
With all the hard work being carried out by the federal government to prevent further spread of the virus, farming is being threatened by the pandemic. And it’s not just the virus that poses a problem, but the pockets of insecurity faced by certain parts of the country, especially the northern region, the nation’s food basket, as well as recent floodings that has aggravated the situation.
According to BBC, this year alone, 70,000 children are at risk and may die of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of COVID-19, while children under age of five years may suffer from acute malnutrition.
Save the Children Fund says the food situation is already bad and has now been worsened by COVID-19 situation. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) as well as Oxfam, a non state player, have voiced out the increasing hunger in the world and the Sahel region is a cause for serious concern. FAO has also noted that in Nigeria, insufficiency of food in the northeast is alarming.
In a report by ReliefWeb on September 1st, 2020 “Sustained conflict and military operations associated with Boko Haram, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, have led to an increase in the population facing Crisis or worse outcomes.”
Experts also warn that much of the Northeast’s household purchasing power is below average, as staple food prices remain above normal, while flooding is equally seen as a threat due to its ability to cause significant displacement.
Reports indicate that 7.09 million people in the covered sixteen northern states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are projected to be food insecure in the lean season of 2020.
This report came before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic ravaging the world, the pandemic is a threat to food security especially in Lagos, Abuja and Kano which have the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
It also looked at the spread of the pandemic to conflict affected areas in the northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa that already suffer from food insecurity with COVID-19 further worsening an already fragile situation.
Insecurity is playing a disturbing possibility as terrorists have caused people to flee to Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) camps. Out of fear of being attacked, they have stopped farming altogether and yielded their land to insurgents and bandits. The situation is now grave as prices of food in markets have spiked as a result of scarcity.
This newspaper is compelled to point out that to point out that in some parts of the South, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have deployed Agro Rangers at the request of the governors of those states to protect farmers. They also guard farms and sound the alarm when it is unsafe to be at the farms due to attacks from bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers and robbers. It is left to the federal government to employ more of this.
While it is also impressive to note that the farmers in Borno State have the army as escort to their farms for protection, an overall plan should be made to protect farmers all across Nigeria.
The federal government needs to tackle insecurity, COVID-19 as welll as flooding before it is too late.
Flooding needs to be checked and adequate efforts made to counter it and the havoc it wrecks in its aftermath.
If not properly addressed, a combination of all of these threats will overwhelm the country’s food situation.
Federal government should encourage farmers by offering them protection and giving them incentives, the needed assistance in terms of inputs and other tools so as to make their lives and vocation easier, especially those who have fled to IDPs camps.
Also we are of the opinion that the federal government should increase grain reserves and set up a task force just like it did for COVID-19, to overlook matters relating to food security. Now is the time to take a definitive action.