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The Nigerian food crisis may last longer - BUSINESSDAY

APRIL 24, 2024

The Nigerian food crisis may last longer

Shockingly, the food crisis may last even longer than anticipated, as its underlying drivers show no signs of abating; instead, they continue to gather momentum and exacerbate the situation. Key among these drivers are insecurity, climate change, and urbanisation.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, a dark cloud looms over the nation, threatening not just the well-being of its people but also the very stability of the country itself. At the heart of this looming crisis is a relentless surge in food prices, marking its 15th consecutive rise and sending shockwaves through communities already grappling with uncertainty.

With each passing month, hope for relief dwindles further, leaving many to wonder if there’s an end in sight. Recent figures from the National Bureau of Statistics paint a grim reality: food inflation has soared by a staggering 2.09 percent, catapulting from 37.92 percent to a jaw-dropping 40.01 percent year-on-year. This represents a worrying increase of 15.56 percentage points compared to the same time last year, painting a picture of escalating hardship for ordinary Nigerians.

Q: “In the face of a looming food crisis exacerbated by the relentless targeting of farmers and the destruction of their livelihoods, one can’t help but wonder how long this dangerous liaison will persist.”

Over a span of 15 months, food inflation rates have steadily risen, marking a concerning trend. From January 2023 to March 2024, there’s been a significant 65.33 percent increase in food inflation, highlighting the mounting pressure on consumers and the economy. The persistent climb underscores the urgency of effective mitigation measures.

What’s truly alarming is the seemingly unyielding nature of the crisis, fueled by factors that refuse to relent. Insecurity casts a long shadow over the agricultural heartlands, making it increasingly difficult for farmers to tend to their crops and for food to reach those who need it most.

Regrettably, the very government that proclaims itself as “of the people, by the people, and for the people”—a beacon of democracy—often prioritises its own selfish interests over the welfare of its citizens. This betrayal of trust becomes all the more glaring as we witness a disturbing trend: the unholy alliance between political self-interest and terrorism.

In the face of a looming food crisis exacerbated by the relentless targeting of farmers and the destruction of their livelihoods, one can’t help but wonder how long this dangerous liaison will persist. As our leaders continue to play their power games, the plight of the people grows ever more dire, and the integrity of our democracy hangs precariously in the balance.

Entering regions of Nigeria where violence disrupts food supply chains, we encounter a stark reality: the very essence of sustenance is unravelling amid widespread bloodshed. Solomon Dalyop, National President of the Berom Youth Moulders Association, paints a bleak picture, revealing that over 150 communities and villages now suffer under the illegal occupation of militias in troubled areas of the state.

These militias boldly seize land, farming and rebuilding homes without fear, often under the watch of indifferent security forces. Plateau, Taraba, and Benue states emerge as hotspots, once peaceful communities now besieged by marauding herders, leaving destruction in their wake.

Despite government efforts to quell the violence, the slaughter persists. This raises a chilling question: are these terrorists more powerful than those tasked with protecting the people? The spectre of unanswered violence not only worsens hunger but also casts doubt on governance itself.

This crisis extends beyond the Middle Belt, reaching into the northern regions critical for the nation’s food supply. As the death toll climbs and fields lie barren, Nigeria confronts a harsh truth: unchecked brutality jeopardises even the most basic right—access to food.

At the heart of the current food insecurity dilemma lies climate change, an issue the Nigerian government cannot afford to ignore, but little has been done. Climate change compounds the challenges we face, disrupting fragile ecosystems and causing crop failures and reduced yields due to unpredictable weather patterns.

Nigeria’s performance in addressing this crisis, as highlighted by the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), is a mixed bag. While the country ranks high in greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, it falls short in implementing effective climate policies and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

This imbalance poses significant challenges to Nigeria’s agricultural sector. Climate change intensifies its vulnerability, with irregular rainfall, prolonged droughts, and more frequent extreme weather events like floods and storms. These factors lead to lower crop yields, livestock losses, and diminished agricultural productivity.

Smallholder farmers, who lack resilience, are particularly affected, as they rely mainly on rain-fed agriculture and are unable to adapt to changing rainfall patterns. Severe flooding events, such as the one in 2022 that submerged farms and destroyed crops, underscore the devastating impact of climate extremes on farming.

An environmental analyst who preferred to be anonymous said, “It’s crucial to emphasise the urgent need for action on climate change. We’re witnessing the devastating effects of climate change firsthand, with erratic weather patterns wreaking havoc on ecosystems and exacerbating food insecurity worldwide. Nigeria is no exception, facing the brunt of these impacts.”

He added that climate change isn’t just a distant threat—it’s happening now, and it’s affecting the most vulnerable communities, including smallholder farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture. Erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, and extreme weather events like floods are becoming more frequent, leading to crop failures, livestock losses, and reduced agricultural productivity.

The Nigerian government must prioritise climate action by implementing effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources. Investing in climate-resilient agriculture practices and supporting smallholder farmers in building resilience to climate change is essential.

But it’s not just about mitigating the impacts of climate change; it’s also about addressing the root causes. We must challenge the systems of exploitation and inequality that drive environmental degradation and climate injustice. As stewards of the Earth, we have a moral obligation to protect our planet and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Now is the time for bold and decisive action. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Together, we must advocate for climate justice and work towards a greener, more equitable future for all.

According to Abiodun Oyekan, a capital market analyst, urbanisation plays a significant role in exacerbating the food crisis. He highlights how urbanisation draws people away from rural areas, placing strain on already stretched resources in cities.

Oyekan notes the high prevalence of motorcycle riders in the western part of the country, attributing this to internal migration by Northern youth seeking economic opportunities due to insecurity affecting their livelihoods. Initially, these individuals would return to farming during the season, but Oyekan explains that many now find it too dangerous, reflecting the profound impact of insecurity on agricultural practices and livelihoods.

In the face of escalating food insecurity, urgent action is imperative. With concerted efforts to address insecurity, climate change, and urbanisation, Nigeria can pave the way for a more resilient and equitable future. Together, let us work towards ensuring food security for all and building a sustainable nation.


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