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How flooding across Nigeria caused problems for Nasarawa rice farming communities

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JAMES Onuh was still trying to figure out how to move some of his properties when he heard that the boat transporting his wife and two-year-old baby alongside other residents to the nearest village had capsized.

Onuh, unfortunately, lost the two-year-old child to the flood while the wife was saved. The situation became more frustrating when the child’s dead body couldn’t be recovered immediately. Onuh explained that it took him a few days to recover the baby.

The flood in Ijiwo village, one of the five villages surrounding Olam rice farm in Nasarawa state, lasted for about four weeks before they could relocate back to the village. Onuh had transported his wife and other children to a village of about 4 km away till the flooding disappeared.

James Onuh, one of the affected families who lost their loved ones to this year’s flooding.

Beyond the death of his child, the floods also washed his four hectares of farm away while also posing him and other family members to hunger.

The flooding across the country left many villages to greater loss. Thousands of people in these communities have been displaced, farmlands submerged while many also lost their lives due to this year’s torrent flood.

The ICIR also gathered that Rukubi, Angulu and few other communities surrounding the Olam rice farms were greatly affected by the flooding incident that happened on October 10, 2022. The villages are located in the Doma local area of Nasarawa state.

According to a World Health Organization report, 11 of the 13 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nasarawa state were affected and 11 health facilities previously serving a catchment population of 17,401 are either partially or completely flooded. 

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As of September, Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency (NASEMA), stated that no fewer than 361,000 persons have been displaced due to this year’s heavy rainfall.

According to the Executive Secretary NASEMA, Zachary Allumaga, the flood affected about 23 communities in seven local government areas of the state, while also noting that there is a high probability that more than one million people could be displaced by flood in the state before the end of the rainy season.

Known to be the worst flooding incident in the past 10 years, the climate disaster affected nearly all the states across the country, it has resulted in more than 600 deaths, and 2,776 persons have been injured.

Accordingly, over 123,000 houses have been damaged, and 181,600 houses were partially damaged as of October 31, 2021.

Olam rice farm – a casualty of the flood 

Affected part of Olam rice farm in Nasarawa state.

On October 10, 2022, the news of Olam rice farm in Doma LGA came to the light to have lost about 4000 hectares of land and a few other properties to flooding. 

Described as one of the biggest rice farms in the whole of West Africa, the farm produces thousands of tons of rice annually and employs more than 1000 persons from the neighbouring villages, making it an asset for the host communities.

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The farm has an integrated rice mill with a processing capacity of 70,000 tonnes, thus, reducing Nigeria’s rice imports. Nigeria has for years been a net importer of rice, a major staple food item it is capable of producing. This is consumed virtually in every household, resulting in a growing dependency of imports.

During a visit to the farm in November, The ICIR can confirm that part of the farmland, which spans over 10,000 hectares, went underwater resulting in an estimated $15 million loss, said Olam Rice Farm Business Head and Vice President Anil Nair in a statement released in October. 

Rice farm destroyed by the October 10 flood in Rukubi community, Doma LGA of Nasarawa state.

The statement said “Over $15 million worth of planted crops are under water as flood submerged 4500 hectares of Olam rice farmland in Nasarawa State”.

“The company recently upgraded its milling capacity from one hundred and twenty thousand (120) metric tonnes to two hundred and forty (240) metric tonnes annually as part of the company’s efforts to ensure food availability and security in Nigeria.”

Nair stressed that other damages due to the event includes dykes, canals and drainage worth $8 million.

The company’s Communication Manager, Elizabeth Nnoko, told The ICIR  that the excess water from the heavy rain season and run-offs from River Niger and Benue resulted in severe flooding in the farm.

She said, “Excess water from the heavy rain season and run-offs from rivers Niger and Benue has resulted in severe flooding in Nasarawa state, ravaging local communities and displacing thousands of people from their homes.

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“Flood waters have submerged farmland in the region, breaching 37km of dikes and drainage canals and submerging Olam Agric’s rice farm in Rukubi village, where 4,450 hectares were fully cultivated.”

Food price inflation looms

 Food insecurity is a serious and growing problem in Nigeria. It was gathered that 7 out of 10 Nigerians suffered from food inadequate in 2021.

The situation is worsened by the recent insecurity in the northwestern part of the country as many farmers and villagers have fled their farmland and houses due to the incessant attack on their lives.

However, this food price inflation has been worsened by annual flooding. Most parts of the country started experiencing flooding as of September 2022 due to the torrent rainfall, and as such the impact of these floods, according to a report, are set to surpass the events of 2012.

The rice harvest this year, which is mostly expected around November-December, will no longer be feasible for most farmers and thus, increase rice importation. Other food products cultivated were washed away.

Data from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development revealed that 176,852 hectares of farmlands were partially damaged and 392,399 hectares of farmlands totally damaged.

The ICIR did an in-depth report on the devastating flood crisis in Nigeria, which can be read here

Imam Hassan said he lost about six million naira to the flood.

Imam Hassan, 48, is one of the affected farmers in Doma LGA. His 12 hectares of rice farm was submerged, leading to a loss of about six million naira. Hassan had invested about a million naira in the first quarter of the year. 

“Now, a bag of rice is sold for 30,000 and I am expected to harvest 180-200 bags of rice before the end of october. If you calculate, you will get the total amount.

“I think the food price will go up a bit to cover for some of the losses even though I don’t have anything to harvest this year again, but hopefully, next year will be better.”

Experts who spoke with The ICIR, said floods in several sections of the country have exacerbated food insecurity, and the impact will be seen in the coming quarters.

In an investigation published by The ICIR, the Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, a professor, Chuks Okereke, described climate change as a big threat to Nigeria’s economy that could cost the country $460 billion by 2050.

According to him, about 25 million people are at risk of flooding in the country, which could be worse in terms of unemployment, loss of assets, etc.

“As Africans, if we do not act, we are doomed. If we act in a way that is rash and not well thought-out, we will also be doomed…,” he disclosed during his presentation at the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Climate Change Media Summit held in Abuja.

Also, a Flood Risk Consultant, Taiwo Ogunwumi, called for the need for the federal government to develop effective flood early warning mechanisms, especially through radio, farmer’s groups, and women groups.

He also advised the provision of river gauge and river discharge measurement instruments to keep the communities abreast of the changes in water levels.

Ijiwo community count losses, mourn relatives

Erisha Enogela (second by the right) with his siblings

Erisha Enogela, 31, is one of the people who lost their loved ones during the flooding. According to him, his mother died when they couldn’t provide her with routine treatment.

“My mother has been battling with diabetes since last year and we normally took her to hospital in the neighboring town for treatment.”

But on the day his mother died, Enogela and his siblings were trapped in the house due to the flood. The flood had taken over the whole community and made it difficult to take their mother to the hospital. Before the support team came to their rescue, Enogela had lost her mother.

“We transported her dead body to a Mortuary in one PHC centre. Until now, we haven’t buried her because the land is so wet. Hopefully, by next week, we will be able to do that.”

Ijiwo community is one of the most affected communities in Doma LGA of Nasarawa state as four children were reportedly drowned in flood, scores were displaced, many properties lost, and unverified hectares of farmland were destroyed.

According to the acting community head, Moses Oseh, the last time the community witnessed such an incident due to flooding was in 2012.

“All of us left our community for Rukubi village to stay for about five weeks. Some houses collapsed, we have children that died and our farmland was greatly affected.

“We cultivated maize and rice. For the maize, we were able to harvest small, but our entire rice farm was washed away by the river, we are now left with empty hands.

Ijiwo school affected by flooding. The incident has made the school shut down till further notice.

The ICIR also gathered that the only school for the community of over 1000 houses was destroyed by the flood, making it hard for students to resume. The school of about six classes has no chairs or tables.

Sources told The ICIR that there were tables and chairs before the flood that submerged their entire community.

Speaking further, Oseh hopes the government will look into their matter and provide them with funds to send their children back to school.

“We heard that ASUU has called off the strike, but we can’t send our children to school. All the farm products we relied on have been destroyed, and it will be hard to pay for their dues. 

“We can’t even do that because we hardly get something to eat. It has been hard since we came back from the primary school that we were camped in.”

Rukubi farmers battle loss, hope to get loans to restart life

Prior to the devastating floods that wrecked the farming part of the community in October, Edo Paul used to harvest about 50 bags of rice and earn millions of naira to feed and take care of his family. But, like many others in the Rukubi community, they were left with nothing to depend on due to the floods that washed away farmlands in Doma LGA of Nasarawa state. They now have to do menial jobs to at least prepare for next year’s rainy season farming.

Edoh Paul

Some of them who spoke to The ICIR said they will get a loan to cultivate and plant new varieties of crops.

The 32-years old Paul, said he has been depending on his farm since he graduated from Keffi state University in 2012. He had searched for a job to aid his farming business but got no positive response and had to forgo the hope of getting a government Job.

“As you can see, I graduated from Keffi University in 2012 but there’s nothing to show for it. Until a few years back, I had been hopeful of getting a job but there was no job anywhere. No one to assist us, we just have to work on our farmlands. Since then, I have been farming rice and maize to take care of my family.”

“But since October, I have been struggling to take care of my family because my farm was under water for weeks. The entire farm and the neighboring farms were affected.

The Rukubi community leader, Dan Suleiman Elamoseni, also bemoaned the unfortunate and devastating effect of the October flooding in the community. According to him, the houses were not affected but the places designed for farming were flooded.

Rukubi community’s leader, Dan Suleimon Elamoseni

Fifty-four-year-old Elamoseni added that his community members lost hundreds of bags of rice due to the flood.

“The last time my community witnessed this kind of situation was in 1975. That was the year the Lagdo dam in Cameroon was completed. That year’s flood was the only one comparable to this flood in my life.

“The whole farmland was covered by water and the neighbouring communities were greatly affected too. But with the help of Olam farm, some of the affected places were relocated to our Primary school . They were here for almost one month, and some even left last week.

“In Rukubu, we recorded no casualties, but Otiya village recorded about three deaths.”

Doma LGA chairman reacts to accusation of embezzlement 

The Chairman of the affected Local Government Area, Usman Seriki Abdullahi, has been accused of looting the relief fund and provision for the affected communities.

The allegation was raised by the Rukubi community head, Elamoseni who disclosed that a sum of four million naira which was given to them by the State Governor, Abdullahi Sule,  was nowhere to be found, despite the dying situation they found themselves in.

“Our state governor sent some cash with some other things for us here, but the LGA chairman stole the money. The Money is about four million.

“The money was offered to us as a relief fund when the governor came here but it was looted,” Elamoseni said.

When contacted, the LGA chairman, Abdullahi, said the money that was released to him by the state government is three million naira not four million naira as claimed by our source.

“The Governor in the first instance, didn’t give me four million to give to them. The governor paid a visit to the affected areas, and I was there as the chairman and before then we have made assessments-went around the communities. Normally when the governor pays a visit to any community, most times he gives directly to people but in this case, he made available three million naira and the community that was affected by the flood wasn’t just Rukubi. Rukubi is a town, and there’s what we call Rukubi ward, and we have Afanaja ward, and then we have Alaje ward.

Stating how the money was distributed, Abdullahi said: “The areas that were affected by flood Doma south constituency were Afanaja and Rukubi wards. In Doma north, the Alaje was also affected. In Rukubi and Afanaja wards, 18 communities were affected. In Alaje ward, 12 communities were affected. But the level of devastation in those communities was not equal. Some of the communities amongst the affected areas got N100,000; some got N50, 000 depending on the number of people we have there.

“I set up a committee to carry out the distribution, I didn’t do it myself. And the committee went there with the community representatives which were about five people per community-The disturbing head, village head, the chairman of the immediate community, youth’s leader and women leader of that community and the councillor of that ward was in the committee that went for the distribution.”

He also disclosed that the most affected area, which is Rukubi and Afanaja got “close to 1.6 million, and the committee had what we called the logistics-transport and security. While the other community, Alaje ward, also had its own- about 12 communities and they were given about N50,000 because the level of devastation in those communities wasn’t as much as the other ones.This is how the money was spent. And part of it, the traditional council there which is made up of district head and village head and whatever in those areas were also part of the sharing.”  

Author profile

Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: umustapha@icirnigeria.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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