Insecurity and Food Crisis in Nigeria.
The food crisis in Nigeria needs to be tackled to avert looming hunger and starvation in the country. According to the October 2022 Cadre Harmonisè, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis carried out twice a year, nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of hunger between June and August 2023. The reason has been that food production insufficiency is on the rise, mainly due to worsening insecurity in virtually all the federation states. The combined effects of armed conflicts, the Fulani herdsmen menace, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, etc., have been ascertained as factors that would inevitably drag down agricultural output (UNICEF,2023; The Guardian, 2021; Disrisu, 2021, Nwozor et al. 2019). The persistent violence in the Northeast states, armed banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest, and the farmer-herder clash in the country has greatly affected food production (UNICEF, 2023; FEWS. NET).
The 2020 Global Report on Food Crises (GNAFC) and Food Security Information Network (FSIN), stated that Nigeria is set to experience a lean food supply crisis as more than 7,000,000 people would suffer acute hunger. The very high cost of food items currently is already an indicator. According to the Guardian (2021), 78,000 farmers in Borno, Katsina, Taraba, Plateau, and other states in the north have abandoned their farmland as a result of attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, and herdsmen; about 56,000 Internally Displaced Household (IDH) farmers from 28 communities in Borno State, who reportedly cultivated about 95,000 metric tonnes of crops yearly, have lost no less than 504,000 metric tonnes of food since 2015 while no fewer than 56,000 farmers in Borno State alone had been displaced. The aforementioned shows the massive reduction of farmers in the country and how it has invariably led to a reduction in food production and an increase in food prices. Displacement and significant disruption to livelihood and market activities, farming households and pastoralists being charged exorbitant fees by armed actors, plus limited access to their farms and land, are contributing factors to the current food crisis in the country.
UNICEF holds that 17,000,000 people are currently food insecure. Conflict displaced over 3 million people, leaving another 4.1 million food-insecure in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states. If the situation is not remedied, the figure may increase in the lean season (UNICEF,2023; WFP,2022). UNICEF further stated that nearly 6 of the 17 million food-insecure Nigerians today are children under five living in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina, and Zamfara states. Three million of them are in Borno State, the epicenter of insurgency. Insurgent activities have disrupted people's lives, deepened insecurity, hampered development, and heightened the food and nutrition insecurity of vulnerable women and children. Insurgency, social disruption, and economic hardship have made thousands of northeastern Nigerian families desperately need food assistance. This is a grave situation because the entire north was a food-producing region and a passing point for livestock moving to different places (Kah, 2017) but has been reduced to beggar states by insecurity.
In the southeast, the violence perpetrated by indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) members has created significant insecurity in the region. It has jeopardized agricultural activities and investments across the southeast geopolitical zone. They (IPOB members) target vehicles and traders delivering agricultural products from the north to the region for destruction. Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi are the states affected by the IPOB violent agitations (Abdulaziz, 2021, cited in Ladan and Badaru, 2021). IPOB imposed sit-at-home orders, depriving daily wage earners of the opportunity to earn an income to buy food. As a result, many of these people go hungry on such days, making them food insecure (Ladan and Badaru, 2021). This imposition can go on for days disrupting all the activities in the region, even farming in the rural communities.
Furthermore, the farmer-herder crisis has adverse economic effects on farming communities and pastoralists, which has enormous financial consequences for all involved (Sulaiman and Ja’afar-Furo 2010 cited in Nnaji et al. 2022, FEWS. NET). It limits the activities of herders and farmers, threatening their livelihoods and reducing agricultural productivity and output, farmers’ cattle holdings, and the harvested land area (Nnaji et al., 2022). The menace of Fulani herdsmen has become a significant threat to food and national security. The Fulani herders are responsible for various attacks, especially ransom kidnappings and militia expeditions against farming communities considered antagonistic to their herding and pasturing activities (Nwozor et al.,2019).
It is pertinent to note that Nigeria is also subject to periodic droughts and floods. This has harmed agricultural output and increased the vulnerability of populations, especially in rural areas. It is one of the reasons why herdsmen move around the country in search of a conducive environment for their livestock. The October 2022 Automated Disaster Analysis and Mapping Rapid Flood Impact Analysis pointed out that over 2.6 million vulnerable people live in the flooded areas, where nearly 3.7 million hectares have been flooded, including 743,000 hectares of crops destroyed before harvest. Nigeria’s Northeast, already burdened with conflict, displacement, and insecurity, has increased food insecurity due to the floods (WFP, 2022).
From the above discussion, Insecurity has played a massive role in the present food crisis in the country. It caused farmers to shy away from their farming activities, displaced many farmers, disrupted the transportation of food crops from the northern to the southern of the country, etc. It affected the socio-economic conditions of thousands of people who now depend on humanitarian to survive.
Food is a basic need for man to survive. Hence the government needs to deal decisively with the root cause of insecurity. Government should make more sustainable herding and farming policies. Government should invest in the agricultural sector of the southern region to mitigate the food crisis ravaging the country.
25 million Nigerians at high risk of food insecurity in 2023. 25 million Nigerians at high risk of food insecurity in 2023 (unicef. o https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/25-million-nigerians-high-risk-food-insecurity-2023 rg)
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