Since the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in neighbouring Cameroon in September 2022, many parts of Nigeria have been enmeshed in a devastating flooding crisis. Over 603 people have lost their lives, and more than 1.3 million people have been displaced in one of the worst floods that Nigeria has ever experienced. Described as the “2022 Nigeria Floods”, data from the Federal Government of Nigeria reveals that more than 2,400 people have been injured, and over 82,000 houses have been damaged in the flooding event. About 332,000 homes have also been damaged.
However, numbers alone don’t correctly quantify the scale of the damage of this recent natural disaster. Zooming out of the cumulative effects of the destructive flooding crises, which experts claim has been exacerbated by heavy rains and climate change, this article will examine the impact of the recent floods on agriculture and food production in Nigeria.
Agriculture accounts for about 30% of Nigeria’s GDP, and more than 70% of Nigerians engage in one form of agricultural activity. Over 70 million hectares of land in Nigeria are used to grow maize, cassava, guinea corn, yams, beans, millet, rice, and many other major cash crops. Consequently, the impact of the floods on Nigeria’s food sector must be thoroughly visited, as agriculture remains a core component of Nigerian life.
EFFECTS OF FLOOD ON NIGERIA’S AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
DESTRUCTION OF FARMLANDS
Since the recent flooding began in early September, large farmland across Nigeria has been destroyed. Over 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres) of farmland are now underwater in Benue State, Nigeria’s food basket. Little wonder many Nigerians are concerned that the destruction of farmlands could further affect food supplies already disrupted by armed conflict in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions.
According to Aondongu Kwagh-bee, a rice farmer in Benue state, the recent floods have wiped away everything on his rice farm. “Right now, there is nothing there. Just sand filled up, and the rice has been washed away,” the 30-year-old said. Another rice farmer in Benue State, Olisachebe Hyacinth, claims that more than ₦495 million rice plantation has been destroyed, along with 311 hectares of farmland and countless other equipment. The destruction of farmlands portends grave danger for many Nigerians’ food supply and living conditions.
2. REDUCTION IN FOOD OUTPUT
Flooding affects access to food in several ways; food becomes more scarce, hard to get, and expensive. Nigeria-based commodities exchange AFEX estimates that flooding and other factors will cut maize output in Nigeria by 12% year-on-year and rice by 21%. What we are seeing is the worst case, at least in the last decade,” David Ibidapo, AFEX’s head of market data and research, said of the flooding.
Based on the impact of the flooding, the World Food Programme and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation recently declared that Nigeria was among six countries facing a high risk of catastrophic hunger levels. It is estimated that 19 million people in Nigeria are food insecure, and 14.7 million Nigerian children face malnutrition.
Nigeria already relies on $10 billion of food imports to meet its food and agricultural production shortfalls (wheat, rice, poultry, and fish). This is even though agriculture is the second most important economic activity after crude oil.Aquaculture and fish farming are not spared in the looming food shortage. Floods wash away fish stock, leading to a loss of income for the farmers and a loss of a valuable source of protein nutrients.
3. CHALLENGES TO SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
Smallholder farmers make up 88% of Nigerian farmers. These farmers cultivate, process, and eat directly from their farms. However, smallholder farmers are the worst affected by flooding disasters. A recent research review found that flooding makes smallholder farmers lose their primary source of income while lacking the resources to purchase food in the market. This also sets off a cycle in which high costs mean farmers can’t buy seeds or seedlings, affecting their production ability.
Flooding can also affect smallholder farmers because of the significant damages caused to public infrastructure, limiting farmers’ access to food markets. This infrastructural dilapidation portends many grave consequences for smallholder farmers. For instance, farmers can’t access needed inputs (like seeds or fertilisers) and markets for their goods. In addition, supply chain disruptions increased prices and the destruction of farm produce and stored reserves.
4. INCREASE IN FOOD COSTS
Following the recent flooding and the attendant destruction of farmlands across Nigeria, there is a clear and present danger that food costs will rise across Nigeria. Many farmers in Nigeria have verbalised this fear. Farmers say the rising waters will increase food bills since farms are submerged underwater. Already, food inflation in Nigeria hit a 17-year high of 20.8% in September 2022, led by food inflation, which stood at 23.34%.
According to Dimieari Von Kemedi, chief executive of Alluvial Agriculture, a farm collective. “This is a catastrophe indeed. These wrong things are happening at the same time.”
Farming in Nigeria was already hampered by the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 restrictions. Food prices have also shot higher in 2022 because of the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war and nationwide insecurity in Nigeria.
Many proposals have been advanced as veritable solutions to the flooding crises in Nigeria. Some experts have advocated the construction of dams and reservoirs to hold excess water, the construction of levees and spillways, the structure of drainage systems and stormwater management systems, and the dredging of some major rivers in Nigeria. The completion of the Dasin Hausa Dam has been mainly advocated as an all-important stormwater management regime.
However, the challenges of climate change must also be recognized as a major cause of flooding, desert encroachment, and droughts in Nigeria.
Thus, Nigeria must address the yearly flooding crises by implementing infrastructural and policy-driven solutions to stem the malaise. Only then can we guarantee food security and economic prosperity for our farmers.
Image credit: Relief Web