Understanding threats to farming in Nigeria: Security implications for Rural Communities

By Edu Abade

If the Nigerian government at all levels continue to handle security threats to farming and agriculture, which have been exacerbated by herders and farmers clashes, banditry, terrorism, as well as killings and destruction of farmlands by Boko Haram insurgents across the country in the past few years with kids gloves, then the country risks an unprecedented food shortage and insecurity never experienced in decades.

A marketing communications practitioner, Michael Abugo, made the assertion in his presentation titled: Farming To Famine: Security Challenges Among The Rural Population In Nigeria, at a seminar organised by the Nigeria Institute of Training (NIT) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital recently.

He explained that agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy and accounted for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) before the country derailed into placing emphasis on crude oil and that it still remains a key sector of interest with huge potential for employment generation, food security, poverty reduction and capable of elevating the nation’s economy.

He said: “Farming in Nigeria has been one of the most profitable businesses, especially in the rural areas; but it had been plagued with myriads of problems. Some of these problems border on the dearth of proper management, lack of maintenance culture, government insensitivity to the significance of agriculture, corruption and most recently, insecurity has contributed significantly to the deplorable state of the agricultural sector. That is why farming in Nigeria is gradually gravitating towards famine.

“In terms of insecurity, the effects are enormous. They affect life and property, impede growth of businesses, encourage insurgency and corruption, and discourage investment both on local and foreign frontiers. In the rural areas, which house a huge portion of farm locations, the effects of insecurity are enough to cripple the nation’s economy and it is already manifesting.”

Abugo, who defined security as a state or feeling of being safe and free from worry, fear, anxiety, danger and doubts, lamented that the security challenge was threatening national development through the transition of farming to famine, especially in the rural communities, adding that security can also be a form of resilience against or protection from possible damage or harm.

Citing grazing practices in Africa, with South Africa, Rwanda and Morocco as case studies, he noted that currently in South Africa, grazing on private farms exists side by side with communal grazing areas and that specifically, communal grazing systems occupy only 17 percent of the total farming area but sustains 52 per cent of the cattle, 72 per cent of goats and 17 per cent of sheep.

He pointed out that livestock farmers in Rwanda often have shortage of feeds, but the country has initiated a project to train them to store grass using a technique called silage and that the Government of Rwanda (GoR) has put measures in place to encourage zero-grazing because it avoids over-grazing and subsequently reduces land degradation.

On its part, the Kingdom of Morocco through the Forestry Department involved the local communities whose lands were closed to grazing and paid them compensation. Herders formed grazing associations and obtained grazing permits from the Forestry Department to graze on approved areas, which enabled the Forestry Department to curb infractions by herders on grazing in closed grazing lands. The mechanism enhanced forest restoration and its ecosystem.

He also pointed out that besides the damning effect of open grazing in Nigeria, which involves land degradation, environmental pollution and food shortages were among other famine enablers that are also inimical to the sanity of farming and farmers.

According to him, other factors derailing the country from farming to famine include insecurity, exacerbated by banditry, terrorism and violent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers, which often result to loss of lives and destruction of crops and farmlands.

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“Sometimes, farmers get abducted and this often leads to farmers abandoning their farms. Also, communal disputes result in full-blown violence, all of which he said, affect food production as an endangered entity when more farmers fear for their lives and quit farming,” he said.

In his recommendations, he urged government at all levels to prioritise their primary constitutional functions of providing adequate security of lives and property to the citizens with greater focus on eliminating the security threats to rural communities where most farming usually takes place.

He equally charged the Federal Government to strengthen the efforts of the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) to address the challenges through research, acquisition of enabling infrastructure, tools and equipment, among others, as well as ensuring that other research institutes get adequate funding from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Government should also empower relevant institutions such as the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) to enhance insurance coverage for losses incurred by farmers through floods, post-harvest losses and insecurity, among others.

“There is the urgent need to establish effective channels that can connect farmers and well-organised markets through the provision of adequate credit and insurance and the development of basic and critical rural infrastructure with a view to fostering the improvement of food security, create more value and financial opportunities for farmers and the general populace beyond the rural areas.

“For subsistence farmers, the government should initiate relevant investments to accelerate the shift from subsistence farming to market-based production, which in turn enhances value creation and improved income generation for the rural farmers,” he stated.

He also canvassed encouragement and deliberate implementation of anti-open grazing laws through the creation of ranches and improved security across all agricultural investments, maintaining that these could be achieved through the introduction of a national policy and legislation for community policing to help secure farms and farmers.

“Agriculture remains a key sector in driving viable economic development and the well-being of the Nigerian populace and as such, government needs to tackle insecurity with an iron hand in line with food production for rural farmers and implement relevant plans outlined in the National Development Plans (NDP) 2021-2025 that focus on agriculture to facilitate the transformation of the sector into a more significant component of its development,” he concluded.

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