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Ongoing attacks on farmers worsen food crisis

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By Usman Oladimeji

These violent acts impair food production, push more people to hunger.

Save the Children, a global humanitarian organization, stated that the ongoing trend of attacks by armed groups targeting Nigerian farmers is severely disrupting the country’s food supply and could lead to an even more catastrophic hunger crisis this year. Attacks on farmers in various sections of the country are causing people to flee their homes, disrupting market situations and food production. Between January and June of 2023, the Nigerian Security Tracker reported that armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and abducted 37 others across Nigeria.

In the northern part of the country state of Borno in June alone, non-state armed groups killed 19 farmers. Save the Children’s Country Director for Nigeria, Famari Barro has spoken out against the incessant trend of violence against farmers, stating that it is contributing to an already severe food shortage in the country, particularly in the northern region where millions of children are at risk of hunger. According to Barro, these violent acts by armed groups not only impair food production but also drive more children to the edge of hunger.

More people could be at risk of starvation without urgent intervention.

This dire situation calls for urgent intervention to protect children and put an end to this devastating armed gang attacking trend and safeguard innocent lives, Barro said. However, if such action is not implemented armed groups will continue to have their way, launching deadly attacks, all of which will continue to increase food cost and push more people to risk of starvation. Bulama, a farmer in the northeast Nigeria for the past 35 years, claims to have experienced several insecurity threats alongside his co-farmers who have been killed.

His words were, “On different occasions where we will be in the field farming, armed groups have attacked and kidnapped farmers who are our friends and brothers, requesting ransom — most times it’s an amount no villager can afford. They have slaughtered farmers and stolen our harvest, leaving us helpless and destitute, he said. The hunger and starvation most of us suffer in this community is because insurgents deprive us of access to the farmlands, and even when we risk our lives in our fields, they steal everything and allow us to starve.”

Over 25 million people could be at risk of food insecurity.

Bulama elaborated that even as farming puts his life in danger, he couldn’t stop in fear for the lives of his children. This describes a tragic reality that many northern farmers face. Back in January 2023, the United Nations estimated that over 25 million people in Nigeria could be at risk of food insecurity this year. This estimate represents a 47 percent increase from the 17 million people already at risk of going hungry due to certain factors such as the persisting insecurity issue, the prolonged hostilities, and the anticipated food cost increases.

Also, two million children under the age of five in the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe are estimated to be at risk of acute malnutrition in 2023, with an additional 700,000 children on the verge of death. More people may go hungry than was previously anticipated due to the climate crisis’s increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather occurrences. This is as Bulama noted that his family’s present hunger situation has been exacerbated by the lack of rain this year.

Nigeria has declared a state of emergency on food insecurity.

He went on to say that “All our remaining crops are dry and dead. As a result, most farmers are destroying their withered crops and beginning over with fresh plantings. There is no food and no place for us to go. We can go without food for several days”. To better combat food shortages, regulate price increases, and provide more security for farmers who are at risk of armed group attacks, Nigeria has declared a state of emergency on food insecurity. Nevertheless, in the absence of a comprehensive approach to mitigate the climate crisis, farmers like Bulama, who rely on farming for sustenance, will continue to encounter difficulties in farming even when it becomes safe.

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