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Hunger levels rise despite agric push

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By Abraham Adekunle

Many households suffer from the ensuing food inflation in Nigeria.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s 22.22 percent inflation as of April is far outpacing wage growth. Because of the accelerating inflation, worsening insecurity, the aftermath of the pandemic and the Russia–Ukraine war, hunger levels in Nigeria have aggravated and multiplied humanitarian needs. Experts have said that this is especially intense in war-torn northern regions of the country. They said that Nigeria has failed to grow more food for its fast-rising population.

The chief executive officer of FarmCredit Limited, AfricaFarmer Mogaji, said despite the government’s efforts to boost local production of staple foods, such as rice, beans, tomatoes and maize, in recent years, Nigeria is not producing enough. “More Nigerians go to bed hungry daily because they can’t afford to buy enough food and the situation is worsening due to inflation,” he said. He attributed this to production shortfall, Russian invasion of Ukraine and worsening insecurity in the food-producing states in the country.

Two locals share their experience as a result of the situation.

Food shortage and inflation has made a 40-year-old trader and mother of four in Ikorodu Lagos struggle over a year to pay her husband’s medical bills. She said that she can no longer afford to feed her children three times daily. The harsh economic situation and the constant surge in prices of goods have been her major worries. “Sales are dwindling and my shop is almost empty,” she told the media. “I spend the little I get daily feeding and taking care of my husband who is suffering from a stroke.”

Similarly, a 33-year-old housewife and mother of five in war-torn Mubi in Adamawa State, where people and animals fight to survive also shared her struggles. The woman has twins, one of whom has been sick from birth. The illness has eaten deep into the family’s finances, making feeding a daily struggle and leaving them hungry most times. Many households are struggling to get enough food for their families owing to accelerating inflation and dwindling incomes.

Millions of Nigerians at risk of food emergency assistance.

In April 2023, the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), an agency that provides food assistance worldwide, said one in eight Nigerians were facing acute hunger. That is an estimated 25 million people. Also, a recent World Bank report on food security states that at least 64 million Nigerians are at risk of emergency food and nutritional assistance because of the effects of rising inflation, insecurity, and climate change among others. Globally, hunger levels are accelerating. About 258 million people were going to bed hungry in 2022, and more than 193 million people in 2021.

Nigeria’s hunger rate is growing at a faster pace as food prices account for 60 percent of household spendings. Food prices climbed to record peaks last year. Ibrahim Kabiru, the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, said Nigeria’s case is unique because of the peculiar problems limiting food production. A combined 2022 report by the Food and Agricultural Organization, UNWFP, and the United Nations listed Nigeria among five other countries as the “hotspot of global hunger,” where people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

Is the farmer-herder clash in the Middle Belt a major factor?

One of the states in the North Central zone of Nigeria, Benue, is known as the food basket of the nation. The state is simply a food-producing state. Since the aggravation of the farmer-herder clashes in the Middle Belt region, many farmers have abandoned their farms for fear of being killed, harmed or kidnapped. In some cases, they lose their farmlands because they cannot pay taxes to bandits who have to give them permission to use their land. The result has been considerable shortages of food and large hikes in food prices.

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