The food inflation in Nigeria has seen food prices rise to double-digit figures while Nigerians earn less income. The rising cost of food is caused by many factors but most notable among them is the incessant conflict for grazing space between farmers and herders, which has resulted in fewer farmers going to their farms and less food being produced.
Nigeria’s growing population also plays a significant role in increasing demand, although and quite unfortunately so, the increased demand is met with dwindling local food production and supply. The Central Bank’s forex bans on certain food items for import and the 15 months border are also contributory factors to Nigeria’s inability to produce enough food to match the existing need.
Many well-meaning Nigerians have called for several measures to be implemented to stop the menace of armed militia groups attacking and killing farmers. Restructuring and state policing are two proposals that are being strongly advocated to curtail the crisis.
Socioeconomic research firm, SBM Intelligence, in a recent report, highlighted the dangers of dwindling food production. The report stated:
“As Nigeria’s population continues to grow robustly, agricultural productivity has been outpaced by domestic demand for all of the country’s main food commodities. In the case of wheat, Africa’s largest consumer lacks the capacity to produce the commodity.”
Basically, Nigeria is not producing nearly enough rice, wheat, fish, tomato and oil palm to match demand.
What should farmers do to protect themselves?
Akingbala Adetokunbo, an Agribusiness and Value Chain expert with POSTERVILLAM told Nairametrics that the food insecurity situation can be salvaged with all hands on deck.
“Food is national security. Food is craft. Food is everything when you think about it,“ he said.
He added that due to covid19 and rising insecurity, land cultivation between those who can afford mechanization services for their operations declined from 70,000 to less than 7,000 hectares, translating into a loss or non-production of grains like maize, soybean and sesame seed; and perishables like pepper, tomatoes, etc.
What this means is that from a mechanised agriculture perspective, Nigeria has lost over 50,000 hectares of arable land that should be cultivated for the 2021 farming season.
The incoming food crisis, also comes at a time of poor economic policies that are also influencing all-round inflation, as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) disclosed that Nigeria’s inflation is a result of CBN’s deficit financing, which has increased significantly, and which is highly inflationary due to its profound effect on money supply growth.
The government’s reluctance to tackle the situation head-on necessitates urgent and alternative forms of protection for farmers.
What motivates the Farmer-Herder crisis?
Several reports have blamed climate change for the crisis. With reduced resources for cattle to graze on, more herders are motivated to trespass the lands of farmers to feed their cattle, However, this is a very expedient look at things, as the food insecurity crisis seems too coordinated to just be left to mere climate change speculations.
The FG needs to investigate what motivates the herders to not only trespass on the property, but kill farmers, leading to land abandonment by the farmers., questions need to be asked if we are dealing with a coordinated effort to seize land by herders, how to compensate farmers who have lost months worth of production, and most importantly, what states and local governments can do to enforce even more protection from a constitutional perspective.
So, should we arm farmers?
Ikemesit Effiong, Head of Research at SBM intelligence says allowing farmers to arm themselves will only serve to escalate a situation that needs nothing other than de-escalation and a politically negotiated solution.
“Any solution outside of a framework that ensures that livelihoods are restored, security is guaranteed, badly needed land and economic reforms are enacted and perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice will do nothing substantial in addressing the current crisis,” he added.
Like every other structural policy issue in Nigeria, the farmer-herder crises requires pragmatic solutions, especially in the areas of renegotiating land and implementing economic and security reforms from a regional level to ensure that farmers are protected by the state as opposed to outsourcing their protection to them by arming them, a situation that could potentially worsen the problem of insecurity in the nation.