War on Hunger and Terror

Many Nigerian farmers are faced with recurrent terror and climate change. Rising violent conflicts limit access to farmlands, destroy farms, and disrupt agricultural activities. Similarly, several farming communities double as killing fields for ravaging non-state armed groups. In some instances, community members are displaced for years. Conditions of displacement camps and host communities are inadequate to what several farmers were used to before the rise of terror. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that about 14.4 million Nigerians face a food crisis. The FAO also holds that the figure consists of 385,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 21 states and Abuja’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT). On Monday, 24th May 2022, reports say over 50 people were killed after an attack on the Kala Balge local government area of Borno state. Many of the victims were farmers.

An end to these woes remains unclear. Other factors combine to worsen the conflict-induced predicament of many farmers in Nigeria. Data from the Nextier Violent Conflict Database indicate that most attacks happen in rural areas, where farming communities are located. Above terror, climate change and industrialisation are also posing significant challenges for the farming populations. Climate change and new violent conflicts combine to induce the southward movement of pastoralists searching for pastures and safety. The ensuing scenes are the economic and often violent struggle between sedentary farmers and cattle herders. The farmers, who are already challenged by low yield, the impact of industrialisation and violence, face this new struggle.

Without robust solutions, threats to agricultural activities in Nigeria will deepen. Insecurity in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin contributes to 54 per cent of the food crisis in Africa, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Besides this, there seems to be an insufficient focus on the impact of insecurity on food availability. In different interviews, Nigeria’s ruling class has linked the abundance or shortage of food items to reported agricultural reforms by the current administration or fluctuations in petrol pump prices. The solutions begin with addressing rural insecurity and ungoverned spaces.

The intensification of securitisation efforts, including the Multi-national Joint Task Force’s efficiency, will help address security threats that hinder farmers from accessing farmlands and alter farming and food systems. Agricultural reforms appear to be happening simultaneously with attacks on farmers and farming communities. However, without securing farming communities, the goals of agro-economic reforms may be unachievable. In exploring options to end food insecurity, the government must liaise with relevant stakeholders, including community actors and security operatives, to arrest threats to agricultural activities. Communities are more inclined to work with government institutions if they feel safe and their sources of livelihood are secured.

Beyond agriculture, the Nigerian government and its development should increase programming outside the agriculture spectrum. Many internally displaced persons no longer have access to farmlands. The report on the food insecure population holds that low household incomes also contribute to food and nutrition insecurity beyond security challenges. Therefore, other economically viable skills should be amplified in displacement camps and host communities to diversify the productivity of the affected population. Multiple factors pose varying degrees of challenges for Nigerians in rural communities and displacement camps, and without sustainable and holistic strategies, the issues will continue on a gloomy path.