Harvest of Floods
The peak of the rainy season is when most traditional farmers hope on the rains to yield good harvests. Lovers of nature are also seen gushing about the breath of fresh air the rain brings forth. In Nigeria, the stories are usually on the contrary, especially for those living close to water bodies. Mainly as a result of rising seas levels, constant rainfalls, lack of proper drainage systems. Flooding has become an annual tragedy the rainy seasons bring forth. In some cases, people are carried away by the flood, houses and properties turned to ruins. Farmlands also are not left out in the wake of destruction. The attendant food insecurity for most farmers is stinging, coupled with the displacement.
In Nigeria, the impact of flooding has been grossly enormous. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in 2018 recounts that large-scale flooding impacted on 826,403 people led to the displacement of 286,119 persons and death of 199. Since September 2019, rising high-water levels in rivers Niger and Benue, and heavy rainfalls in Cross River, Kogi, Niger and Taraba states have affected 18,640 households in 54 communities. About 4,485 persons are currently displaced. The flood disasters are further exacerbating the crisis of food insecurity because of the destruction of farms and forced migration which has turned victims to strangers in their homeland.
Consequent upon food insecurity and displacements, rising incidence of flooding will substantially exacerbate insecurity and underdevelopment. A recent report by Oxfam reveals that about 94 million Nigerians are living in poverty against an estimated 200 million population. Growing food insecurity substantially engendered by flooding will deepen the poverty level in a nation where 70 per cent of its people are farmers. This will significantly undermine the Sustainable Development Goals of No Poverty and Zero Hunger. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), about 3.7 million Nigerians spread across 16 states are already food insecure on account of insurgent attacks, internal displacement, rising food prices. With most of these causal factors still a challenge, recurrent flooding will deepen food insecurity.
Every year, many Nigerians experience flooding, without an end in sight. Flooding has become a recurrent occurrence. As such, it requires painstaking efforts that will sustainably mitigate its occurrence. NEMA and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) have been doing a lot of work to curb flooding and cushion its impact on people. However, these agencies should be strengthened with deployment of personnel, better equipment and staff training on disaster management, including evacuation and care for the displaced.
Early warning signs will help in ensuring readiness. Considering that flooding has become a seasonal issue, proactive measures will ensure minimal hazards and risks faced by people living in flood-prone areas. Equally, ahead of time, government should set up camps that can accommodate people displaced by flood with essential amenities provided in such camps. As part of the readiness to curb flooding, proper drainage system should be constructed across localities with people sensitised on the need to keep the slits free to ensure smooth flow of water. In addition to this, modern drainage systems such as flood detention ponds can be used to control flooding and also aid irrigation for food security.
Relevant stakeholders have a role to place in sensitising the public on environmental security. Ordinarily, most people cannot directly see the impact of environmental security on food production and human population. As such, environmental security which should be a collective effort of all becomes the business of government agencies. There is need to sensitise the public on environment-friendly practices that will significantly reduce the risk of environmental disasters.