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How insecurity, cost of farm inputs are affecting food production in Nigeria

Nigeria is an agrarian country with over 70 million hectares of agricultural land area and 44% of it under cultivation. The Nigerian agricultural sector absorbs…

Nigeria is an agrarian country with over 70 million hectares of agricultural land area and 44% of it under cultivation. The Nigerian agricultural sector absorbs over 70% of the country’s population, contributing to food security and economic growth of the nation. Despite its arability of land, Nigeria still struggles to feed its teeming population as millions of Nigerians suffer food crisis.

According to a report of the 2024 Cadre Harmonise food security analysis conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and other partners, about 31.5million Nigerians across 26 states and Abuja will face food crisis between June and August this year (2024).

The report further highlighted insecurity in the northern region, fuel scarcity, raising inflation and naira devaluation crisis as some of the factors contributing to food insecurity in Nigeria.

According to National Bureau of Statistics, food inflation rate in February 2024 was 37.92% on a year-on-year basis, signifying 13.57 percent points higher than last year’s 24.35%.

As insecurity continues to make inroad into northern states of Kaduna, Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Benue, others, and inflation of not only food items hitting harder on Nigerians, the agriculture sector in the country is bearing the heavy brunt as more and more farms are deserted because of insecurity and rising cost of farm inputs.

In a research paper, titled “Impact of Insecurity on Food Production in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Usman G. Birat of the Department of Economics at the Kaduna State University, cited kidnapping, banditry, communal clashes, cattle rustling and other insurgent activities as factors responsible for decline in food production, food shortage and high food prices because farmers could not (and some still can’t) access their farms due to insecurity.

According to the Nigerian Security Tracker, Armed Groups have killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023.

In November 2023, at least 13 farmers in Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State were killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.

In December, 2023, bandits ambushed farmers in Katsina, killing 4 and abducting 8. In February this year (2024), bandits killed six people in Nasarawa village of Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.

In recent weeks, Kaduna and Sokoto states have been under attacks by bandits. For example, on March 7, at least 287 schoolchildren of Kuriga Primary and Junior Secondary School were abducted in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Scores of villagers were also abducted on March 12, 13 and 16 this year (2024) in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

With the spate of attacks on villagers, fear is gripping the minds of many farmers in Nigeria, especially those in the volatile states in the northern region.

Malam Ibrahim Muhammad Dantawasa, 48, is a farmer in Bukkuyum Local Government Area of Zamfara State, who was forced to abandon his farms in his hometown to cultivate crops in other relatively safe areas. In an interview with our correspondent, Dantawasa said, “Insecurity is seriously affecting farming and farmers in my community and the state in general. Our farms are not accessible, I had to leave my farms to secure some land in part of Gusau, where the security is at least relatively fair. The farm I cultivate now is close to an Army Barrack; it’s accessible because of the security presence in the area. But the challenge is that the land is not fertile, and therefore, one has to supply a lot of organic fertilizer (manure, refuse, etc) to replenish the soil. Our land in Bukkuyum is very fertile and you only apply inorganic fertilizer when you feel the need. Unlike here where, in addition to the organic fertilizer you have to apply to the soil, you also have to augment it with inorganic fertilizer if you want to produce optimally.

“There were instances when we had to travel to some parts of Jigawa State to farm because farming here is not profitable due to the infertility of the land, and where the land is fertile bandits have denied access to it, and if one goes there one does so at one’s own risk.

“To tell you the truth, we are farming just for the fact that we are used to it, not for any gains now. If you are not farming in your community, it means there are costs that will be incurred in the course of transportation and other things. Aside from all this, there is also the issue of farm inputs – another factor that further slims down your total revenue at the end of the day. The cost of fertilizer has risen astronomically, Golden Fertilizer for example is almost N38,000. A litre of herbicide that was sold for between N1,000 and N2,000 is now going for N6,000 or even more. And this is just as we are in dry season, what then do you think will happen during the rainy season which is the widely practised system by our farmers!”

A 25-year old farmer in Dan Musa Local Government Area of Katsina State, Lawal Mu’azu, has also expressed concern over incessant killings in the country, decrying that insecurity has deprived many farmers access to their farms. “Farming is the backbone of our economy but due to insecurity, many farmers can’t access their farms now and those with access are not consistent with their visits to the farms because of fear of being attacked. This will, in the end, result in poor yield, thereby affecting food security of the farmer, his household and even the country in general. Bandits threaten farmers to give them ‘levies’. If you fail to give it, they’ll destroy your crops. On a farm where you can get 60 bags, you may end up with 20 or so. I know people who contributed money and gave to bandits before they were allowed to harvest their crops.” Mu’azu lamented.

Also sharing a similar experience, Malam Nafi’u Yahaya, a 32-year old farmer in Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State, said the security situation in the country has led to massive yield reduction. “I used to cultivate between 5 and 10 hectares, but this is no longer feasible now,” he said while attributing the development to insecurity and rising cost of farm inputs.

“I know a lot of people who have been victimised by this insecurity. Only three months ago, a wife and a child of my cousin were kidnapped. Alhamdulillah they have gained freedom now but that was after the payment of ransom. We are afraid to go to our farms for fear of what might happen, but one can’t sit at home and die of hunger. Thank God the security situation has gotten better now.”

Yahaya, however, added: “Because of insecurity and high cost of farm inputs, a lot of farmers have given up farming. This is not encouraging! Fertilizer is now a gold. The chemicals we would buy at N1,000 are now around N4,000, going beyond the reach of the poor.”

Sadi Malam Attahiru, another farmer from Gada Local Government Area of Sokoto State, said banditry has negatively affected farming activities in the state. He said, “Bandits are stopping people from farming. Where they allow it, they may come after harvest and kidnap someone and then demand ransom, and it’s the money you realised from the farming that you will use to pay the ransom. Insecurity has forced many farmers out of business.”

Yusuf Ishyaku and Mustapha Ibrahim are farmers in Kubau and Kaduna South Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, respectively. According to them, although the spate of insecurity in the state didn’t directly affect them, they noted that the situation has indirectly affected their livelihood as they now wallow in fear and uncertainty. Ishyaku and Ibrahim also decried how soaring price of farm inputs has compounded the current insecurity challenges farmers are facing in the state.

A 29-year old farmer from Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State who pleaded anonymity lamented how insecurity is hampering socio-economic activities in the state. “A lot of people have been displaced from their homes; many people are no longer living in their ancestral homes now. Farmers have lost their crops and farms. There is a serious problem. Farmlands have been abandoned because people can’t access them to cultivate crops.”

A farmer and a graduate of agriculture in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State who simply identified himself as Theophilus said insecurity had forced him out of his hometown. “I’m from Kwande, one of the insecurity-ravaged communities in Benue State. I’m a farmer but I can’t access my farm in my village now. Our main occupation in Kwande is farming and we used to produce a lot of rice, yam and other crops, but the community has not been accessible for some years. We now resorted to going to other communities to farm on the little land we could get, and one has to pay for the land. This situation has led to reduction in the production volume. Pressure is exerted on lands in relatively secure places while other fertile lands are abandoned because of insecurity reasons.”

In Borno State, one of the worst hit states by Boko Haram, farmers are still shaking the vestiges of fears off their minds to be back on their farms as normalcy gradually returns to some of the communities. Bukar Idris Hassan, 31, is a farmer in Ngulde community of Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State. He said even with fear in his mind, he had best be on his farm than live with hunger while sitting at home: “Farming is what I know since childhood. It is with it that I sponsored my education. Insecurity in this region has affected crop production in no small measure, but this year we have harvested successfully amid fear. Sometimes while working on your farm, if you’re close to a cattle route, you will see the insurgents passing by, they mostly won’t care about you because you are not their target. We just have to farm because it is what we know and grew up doing. Even if you feel like giving up, you can’t give up as it’s the only option you have. It’s when you have other alternative options that you can leave farming. It is better you farm with fear than live with hunger.”

 

Agric expert calls for adoption of climate-smart agriculture to combat hunger, food insecurity in the country

An Agric, climate change expert and senior lecturer with the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Dr. Garba Muhammad, has called for the adoption of climate-smart agriculture to combat hunger and food insecurity in the country. Amidst the current challenges the Nigeria’s agriculture is facing, the expert warned that for the country to get out of the present food crisis, better and improved agronomic practices must be adopted to ensure optimal production.

He said: “The level of insecurity in the country is largely responsible for the challenge of food insecurity we face today. When farmers don’t have an enabling and peaceful environment to cultivate their crops, the implication is that the country’s volume of food production will be negatively affected. Agricultural activities are mostly concentrated in rural areas, and the rural areas are not safe now. Villagers are being attacked, killed and kidnapped, and these are the people that produce the food we eat.

“Even when these insurgent activities were not as ‘widespread’ as they are today, the country was struggling to feed its teeming population. Now with this insecurity, what do you expect? The type of agriculture mostly practised by our farmers here in Nigeria is not on par with what is obtainable in other countries. Some of our approaches to farming and methods of cultivation are traditional and not in tandem with the global best practices. Honestly, for us to get out of the present challenges, we must adopt climate-smart agriculture.

“On top of the insecurity in the country as you know, there is also the question of climate change, which is also a serious factor contributing to the decline in food production. The evidence of this phenomenon is seen in the reduced amount of rainfall, unpredictable rainfall pattern, drought, reduced productivity, and so on. So, for our farmers, the challenges are manifold.

“There is therefore the need for farmers to adopt the use of early maturing, high yielding varieties of seeds, drought-tolerant varieties, disease-tolerant varieties, effective soil management, among other climate-smart practices. Likewise in the livestock sector, for better productivity, farmers should adopt good practices such as better nutritional and reproduction strategies to optimise their production.”

The expert, however, called on government to prioritise agricultural extension services, stressing that it is the most effective way of transferring useful technology to farmers to improve their production and productivity and consequently address the current country’s food crisis.

“Government must use extension services as it the most effective way in which our farmers can acquire knowledge on how to use their little resources to produce optimally, especially in the wake of rising prices of farm inputs in the country. With many farmers forced out of production because of insecurity, high cost of farm inputs and other factors, the (few) ones we have should be taught how to use limited land, space and resources to produce optimally. For us to attain food security, certainly there has to be a holistic approach and sincere commitment on the side of the government. If you talk about food security, you are not only talking about food availability; rather you are talking about food accessibility, its availability and then finally its affordability. The reality now is that all these three components of food security have not been met in Nigeria.”

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