As Nigerians hit refuse dumps in search of food to survive, Save the Children International, SCI, Monday, raised the alarm following a relentless wave of attacks against farmers in Nigeria by armed groups, with over 128 farmers killed and 37 kidnapped in six months.
This was contained in a statement issued by SCI while we expressed deep concern over the deteriorated level of food production, accessibility and affordability across the country as farmers and off-takers have been displaced by armed groups.
According to SCI, activities of armed groups is hindering critical food supplies and threatening to push the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis in 2023.
Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country are leading to displacement, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023, according to the Nigerian Security Tracker. In June, 19 farmers were killed by non-state armed groups in Nigeria’s northern Borno State alone.
Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001 and has been responding to the humanitarian crisis in the northeast since 2014.
Save the Children is providing food, clean water, nutrition and protection services, sexual and reproductive health care, and education to families across Northeast Nigeria.
Save the Children is also providing technical support to the government on policy changes and reforms, especially in critical sectors such as health, education, and social protection among others.
Country Director Save the Children, Nigeria, Famari Barro said:
“These violent attacks against farmers in Nigeria are exacerbating the already dire hunger crisis in the country, especially in the north where millions of children do not know where their next meal will come from.
“Armed groups committing these ruthless acts are not only disrupting food production but also pushing children to the brink.
“Urgent action must prioritise the needs of children to stop this devastating trend and protect innocent lives. If not, armed groups will continue to carry out brutal attacks, drive food prices, and push more families to starvation.”
The statement quoted a farmer, simply called Bulama, who had been into farm work for 35 years in North East Nigeria, saying 2023 has been particularly difficult as armed men have kidnapped or killed most of the farmers e said he had worked with.
“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 killed and stolen our farm produce, leaving us helpless and with nothing to take home. The hunger and starvation most of us suffer in this community are because insurgents deprive us of accessing the farmlands, and even when we risk our lives in our fields, they steal everything and allow us to starve”, he said.
He added: “The lack of rain this year has worsened the current hunger crisis my family is facing. All our remaining crops are dried and dead. It has taken us back to starting fresh because most farmers are cutting down their dried crops to plant new ones. We have nothing to eat and nowhere to go. We can go days without eating a meal.”
He ( Bulama) further said despite farming activities now pose a threat to his life, if he stops, his children will die – a harrowing choice that is all too common for farmers in the Northern Nigeria.
It will be recalled in January, the UN estimated that over 25 million people in Nigeria could face food insecurity in 2023 –a 47 per cent increase from the 17 million people who were already at risk of going hungry–mainly due to the ongoing insecurity, protracted conflicts, and the projected rise in food prices.
“In addition, an estimated 2 million children under five across the northeastern Nigerian States of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe are likely to be pushed into acute malnutrition in 2023, with about 700,000 children on the brink of death.
“It is also likely that even more people will be pushed into hunger than earlier predicted due to extreme weather events that are getting more frequent and severe due to the climate crisis.
“Nigeria recently declared a state of emergency on food insecurity to help tackle food shortages, stabilise rising prices, and increase protection for farmers facing violence from armed groups.
“However, without also addressing the climate crisis, farmers like Bulama will still struggle to feed their children when it is safe for them to farm”, the statement added.