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Farmers look on helplessly as crops are washed away by floods and know they will be left with nothing

3 October 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes

This year’s torrential rainfall has resulted in flooding across the Lake Chad region – Nigeria Niger, Cameroon and Chad – and has had a dire effect on the socioeconomic lives of farmers, who could only look on helplessly as their farmlands were washed away.

Farmers in the area told RNI reporter Aisha Jamal that the flooding was likely to threaten food security, not only in the region but in large parts of Nigeria and the other countries.

Yakaltum Alhaji Bulama, a farmer in Dikwa, said: “I spent a lot of money, about ₦100,000 to prepare my lands, clearing the farm, ploughing and planting. I also built a barrier between my farm and the water, hoping to stop too much water getting into my land. I was hoping for a bumper crop until the floods came and washed it all away all.

“I put all my money into the farm because I thought I would make a profit after the harvest. I thought I would then have more capital. But then this happened and we have lost everything in the flooding.

“I hoped government officials would visit the area to see the destruction and give us some aid. But no one has come.”

Zanna Alhaji Mala, also in Dikwa, said: “The flood has destroyed at least 30,000 hectares of land inside and outside the town. We planted rice, beans and others produce. We were expecting a bumper harvest that would allow us to store some food, as well as sell some at the market. We had high hopes but then the water came and flooded our farms. Our hopes were dashed.”

Mala said he had lost almost 20,000 hectares of rice alone, adding that it had just started growing when the floods came. “It was an unbearable and sad moment for us.”

Ali Kole Hassan, a lecturer in the department of food security of the Mohammet Lawan College of Agriculture in Maiduguri said flooding often destroyed rice and wheat farmlands, which were usually planted in places that had excess water.

“The flood flows over the crops so they cannot breathe and they are washed away. Farmers can do nothing but watch because if they interfere they will be washed away too.

“With the farmlands and crops washed away, there is a threat to people’s access to food. If they have no food or cannot afford to buy enough food, especially with the exorbitant cost of food now, then there is a very real threat of food insecurity.

“Here, in Borno State, we have had years of insecurity because of Boko Haram [the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS)] and we are still facing the consequences. Even though most of the community are farmers, only a few are able to farm and then their crops were washed away just before harvesting. With the loss of the crops, the people will not get access to nutritious food and won’t get enough protein, cabohydrates, vitamins, fats and oil that the body needs. In turn, this causes malnutrition, marasmus [severe undernutrition] and spontaneous abortions among pregnant women in the community.”

Hassan said the whole of the Lake Chad region had been affected by the floods. The only people who had benefited were fishermen, who were able to increase their normal catches. But the farmers were in a precarious position financially.

“In Nigeria there is an executive order in place that bans the importation of food items from foreign countries. This was put in place to boost local agriculture production. But even when there has not been a flood, the farmers cannot produce enough food for all and then we have to rely on staple food which is imported and costly. The currency has lost value, which has resulted in a crisis in our economy.

“With the advent of climate change it is certain that flooding could occur annually although the magnitude cannot be determined.

“Farmers should have an insurance policy to help recover what they lose when floods occur. That at least would give them some compensation.

“The government, too, should play a bigger role in food production. Farming is not considered at an enterprise level; it’s regarded as getting something to eat and maybe selling to markets. The government and the non-governmental organisations should help farmers by doing surveys of areas to ascertain whether they are vulnerable to flooding and erosion and also evaluate the risk associated with food production in particular areas. By doing this, there would be less damage and some of the problems would be addressed, especially in this era of climate change.”

  • Marasmus is severe undernutrition — a deficiency in all the macronutrients that the body requires to function, including carbohydrates, protein and fats. Marasmus causes visible wasting of fat and muscle under the skin, giving bodies an emaciated appearance. It causes stunted growth in children.



About the author

Elvis Mugisha