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Food crisis as herders chase farmers out of farm



POOR harvests and the attendant rise in prices of foods this year have been linked to the incidents of raping, kidnapping and wanton killings of farmers across the states of the federation by persons suspected to be armed Fulani herders.


Investigations revealed that some states’ governors who had invested so much money in yam and rice production prior to the last farming season with a view to turning out bumper harvest of these foods for local consumption and for export purposes have been left traumatised.


It was also gathered that following the reports of incessant attacks of farmers and their relations in many agrarian communities across the states, many farmers declined going to farm at farmlands situated a little bit distant away from their homes. Already, states known to be food baskets recorded significant drop in food harvest this season, thereby making foods expensive for the common man.


Recall that the most strategic factor to the persistent food crisis in Nigeria is the Boko Haram insurgency. Since the attacks escalated in 2009, hundreds of civilians have been killed with thousands of households in North Eastern Nigeria displaced, their farmlands and livelihoods completely destroyed.


The nefarious activities of the insurgents contributed greatly to waning food production recorded since 2008. Given that cereal, spice, and vegetable crops are widely grown in the North, the destructive nature of the insurgency, aside from hampering farming activities in the region also resulted in serious security challenges in transporting goods across conflict-prone states in the North to Southern states.


This places enormous constraints on the availability of essential staple foods, especially in Southern states. The general decline in food supply partly reflects in the upward food price trajectory witnessed between January 2015 and January 2016. Higher food prices without a corresponding increase in income would greatly impinge on food accessibility.


This suggests that the existence of food insecurity is not peculiar to the northern states of Nigeria, but it is also present in the southern states. The loss of agricultural production due to Boko Haram’s activities is estimated at US$3.5 billion; the total economic impact of the insurgency has been put at US$9 billion. Compounding the food insecurity situation are the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in many parts of Nigeria.


The long-standing herdsmen‒farmers face-off has generated civil unrest of varying dimensions and magnitude resulting in deaths and causing disruptions in agricultural activities. In most cases, the conflict is a loss‒loss situation for both cattle herders and peasant farmers.


The indiscriminate grazing of farmlands has cost farmers a great loss in farm produce and protest by farmers especially the youth on the resulting damage, usually brings about hostile conflict leading to further loss of lives on both sides with evidence of high cases of cattle rustling. The crisis has destabilised food and meat production with a negative implication on food security in Nigeria.


Raping and kidnapping perspective along major highways is a new dimension to terrorism which has greatly restricted farmers to their homes. Observers are ostensibly worried that if the federal government does not intervene to halt the excesses of these armed herders now and return farmers to their farmlands, unprecedented famine with the attendant high cost of living will be the albatross in 2020.


The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in Enugu State, Chukwuma Igbokwe, had warned that herdsmen attacks in the South-East could lead to food scarcity in the zone, noting that the areas herdsmen attacked in the zone were agrarian communities regarded as the ‘food baskets’ of the South-East.


The labour leader pointed out that besides the destruction of crops by cattle, most farmers in the affected communities were no longer going to their farms due to fear of possible attack by armed herdsmen.  Igbokwe said, “Violent activities of the herdsmen in the South-East will lead to food scarcity in the zone, if things continue the way they are going at the moment.


“Before the herdsmen disrupted life in Nimbo, the town was a known agrarian community which was able to produce so much food, but the situation is different now since herdsmen attacked the community.  It is the same situation in other farming communities that are being attacked by the herdsmen.” To address the problem, Igbokwe called on the South-East states to enact grazing laws.


According to him, the law will not only prevent misunderstanding between herdsmen and their hosts, it will also ensure that people seek redress whenever disputes arise.  “The House of Assembly should pass a grazing law in Enugu State, just as it was done in Anambra and Ekiti States.


“Other South-East states should also follow suit by enacting similar laws, so that if you destroy somebody’s crops, you pay, and if you kill or steal somebody’s cow, you also pay,” he said.


However, National Light gathered that kidnapping, in Nassarawa state in particular, where Fulani herdsmen have been taking the undue advantage of being armed with AK 47 to kidnap their Hausa neighbours from their farmlands has taken a new twist.


Alhaji Adamu Bindo told our reporter that the armed Fulani herdsmen have made lives unbearable for their homes but today, “When they chase our people to their farms to kidnap them, our people will now go to their houses and kidnap their wives and children. He added that for some time now, there has been relative peace in the state, saying that when they come back from kidnapping our people, they find out too that their wives and children have also been kidnapped.


“So, when they complain of their wives and children missing, we ask them to release our people as a condition to release their own people, and that has been how we have been managing to coexist with the Fulani herders. Our worry is that kidnapping has stopped many farmers from farming, and that has affected food harvest this year”, Adamu said.

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