Jigawa’s silent crisis: Farmers’ battle against hunger in the wake of devastating floods

BY Muhammad Abubakar TAHIR

In the aftermath of the 2022 floods in Jigawa state, the profound struggles faced by farming communities battling hunger and loss of livelihood underscore the urgent call for robust government intervention. In this report, Muhammad Abubakar Tahir writes on the pressing need to address the entwined issues of climate change and food security with a seriousness that matches the scale of the challenges.


In the wake of the United Nations’ grim 2022 prediction, which identified Nigeria as one of six nations facing an imminent and catastrophic hunger crisis due to unprecedented flooding, Jigawa state emerged as a focal point grappling with the devastating aftermath.

Long before experts sounded the alarm about the destructive impact of heavy rains across several Nigerian states, eight local government areas (LGAs) in Jigawa State – Kafin Hausa, Auyo, Kaugama, Hadejia, Kirikassam, Guru, Birniwa and Malamadori were already familiar with the anguish and uncertainty that the rainy season ushers in.

“Between July and September is the troublesome period; when we navigate through those months successfully, we are guaranteed of food throughout the year,” said Ibrahim Abdullahi, 28-year-old farmer from Auyo Local Government Area (LGA) whose aspirations of a bountiful harvest in 2022 was thwarted.

“I had anticipated a yield of 60 sacks of paddy rice, yet not a single sack was salvaged. The flood claimed everything I had worked for, leaving me with nothing. No government intervention has reached us, and hunger has been our constant companion since then,” he lamented.

The heartbreaking narratives of the affected farmers extend to Mamuda Maigari, a 65-year-old resident of Aimun Village in Kafin Hausa LGA, whose farmland fell victim to the floods in 2022.

“The scale of my losses is immeasurable. My household, accustomed to having ample food throughout the year, was left with nothing. The floodwaters swept away all our farmlands. I used to feed at least 70 people in my extended family house and had amassed at least 1,000 sacks of rice, sorghum, millet, and beans. I wonder when and how I will be able to get to that level again,” he said.

Halima Hassan from Ganuwar Kuka in Auyo LGA lays bare the stark connection between the recurring floods in Jigawa and the escalating impacts of climate change.

“My entire farmland and the expected produce have vanished, and we are left alone to bear the consequences of a changing climate we cannot explain,” she said.

Some of the affected Houses destroyed by flooding in Ganuwar Kuka. Photo credit: Muhammad A Taheer.
Some of the affected Houses were destroyed by flooding in Ganuwar Kuka. Photo credit: Muhammad A Taheer.

Sani Shafaatu, also from the same LGA, lost two hectares of her rice farm along with the anticipated 60 bags of paddy rice. Having invested over N100,000 on her farm, the financial strain makes it daunting for her to contemplate engaging in dry-season farming – an unfortunate reality shared by many small-scale farmers grappling with the uncertainty of the future.

Emotional and financial toll of the flooding

The residents of Aimun Village also share their stories of despair and loss after the devastating floods of mid-September 2022 that swept away their homes, farms, and dreams.

The floods, which struck at midnight, overcame their efforts to build embankments and forced them to flee in canoes to a nearby school.

“We felt defeated and had to hire 20 canoes from the neighbouring Haggo village to evacuate our families to Haggo Primary School,” said Garba Kailu, a resident of the area.

As Kailu lamented the loss, he expressed the profound change in his circumstances, transforming from a self-sufficient provider to a destitute resident reliant on aid at an IDP camp.

Mamuda Maigari 65 years Old From Aimun Village. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer
Mamuda Maigari 65 years Old From Aimun Village. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer

“I used to have adequate food to feed my family throughout the year, but the disaster has turned me to a beggar waiting for Garri and Sugar at the IDPs Camp,” he said.

Another resident, Aminu Sulaiman, shared the personal tragedy of his ruined investment in a rice farm. With dreams of a bountiful harvest, he had invested significantly, planning to use the proceeds for his marriage. However, the floodwaters swept away not only his crops but also his aspirations. The financial blow has left Sulaiman in a precarious position.

“I may not be able to go back to farming because I don’t have the capital for buying seeds, herbicides, fertilizer and other inputs and there is no hope anywhere,” he said.

Jigawa’s agricultural lifeline under vicious assault by climate’s wrath

As the lifeblood of Jigawa’s economy, agriculture paints a vivid picture of sustenance for the majority of the population residing in villages and towns like Hadejia. With major crops such as peanuts, sorghum, cotton, cowpeas, millet, rice, and wheat, Jigawa contributes significantly to Nigeria’s export, responsible for over 75 per cent of the nation’s shipped farm products, according to the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) in 2023.

However, this agricultural haven faces a formidable adversary – climate change – induced flooding.


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The floodwaters not only jeopardise significant agricultural investments but also wreak havoc on essential public infrastructure like roads, bidges, culverts, drainages, schools and health facilities in Jigawa State.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022 sounded the alarm, predicting widespread food insecurity and surging inflation due to the impact of flooding on agricultural production across Nigeria.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on the relationship between climate change and food insecurity in Africa in 2022, Mai Farid, expert at the Africa Department, IMF, emphasised the dire consequences citing disruptions in transportation networks that impede the flow of food, exacerbating an already precarious situation.

In 2023, UNICEF issued a stark warning projecting that 25 million Nigerians are at high risk of hunger. Continued conflict, inflation, rising food prices, and the relentless impact of climate change were identified as key drivers of this alarming trend.

“The food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning,” said Mr. Matthias Schmale, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

The impending crisis is clear — Jigawa, the country’s food bank and a major exporter of agricultural products, now faces the specter of food insecurity.

In an interview, the Chairman, Hadejia Rice Market, Abdullahi Rambo, lamented the setback on rice production, noting the ripple effect on food prices.

Muhammad Usman from Aimun voiced his concerns about the distribution of the relief items. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer
Muhammad Usman from Aimun voiced his concerns about the distribution of the relief items. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer

“As you are well aware, rice farmers bore the brunt of the flood, given that their crops are predominantly cultivated in low-lying areas. Other crops, such as sorghum, maize, millet, and beans, were also adversely affected. The flood disaster has significantly impacted our state’s economy, causing extensive damage to crops submerged in water. This has led to a decrease in agricultural productivity, substantial crop losses, and a decline in income within farming communities. Additionally, the floodwaters often carry pollutants and debris, contaminating crops and rendering them unfit for both the market and human consumption.”

Attributed to extreme rainfall and water released from the Lagdo Dam in neighbouring Cameroon, the floods, according to the state government, resulted in the loss of 138,442 hectares of farmland, displaced 176,882 farming communities and killed over 134 people across 22 LGAs of the state.

This, coupled with the ongoing effects of climate change, raises concerns about future extreme weather patterns that could further jeopardize food security.

Government response to the 2022 flood disaster and ongoing challenges

The Jigawa state governor, Umar Namadi, said his administration is doing all necessary to mitigate the annual flooding and its impact in some parts of the state.

The governor who spoke on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, said a flood assessments committee inaugurated almost a year ago has come up with the recommendations to reduce the impacts of flooding.

“As a government, we are constructing culverts and drainage in towns to enable the free flow of water. A technical committee set up has recommended more embarkment at flood-prone areas to ensure that the communities are protected; that is what we have been doing for a long, and we have covered about 85 kilometres of embarkment.

“The embarkment is not less than 2.5 metres high and less than four metres thick as recommended by the technical committee; we have covered 35 communities within eight local government areas and a distance of about 85 to 90 kilometres (doing the embarkment).

On the clearing of the waterways, Namadi said the total kilometres between the upstream area in Jigawa and the downstream area in Yobe State is about 418 kilometres and trimming projects of the World Bank has done some desilting of the river and clearing of the waterways in about 95 kilometres in 27 months.

Yahaya Yunusa, a 61-year-old farmer from Ganuwar Kuka, also shared the grim consequences of the 2022 disaster. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer
Yahaya Yunusa, a 61-year-old farmer from Ganuwar Kuka, also shared the grim consequences of the 2022 disaster. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer

“To serve the situation, the Jigawa State government have commenced the clearing up of grasses using the state-acquired excavator machines that have covered 36 kilometres within four months, and there are about 323 left; this is something that must be done.

Similarly, Jigawa State government flagged off the Committee on Flood Disaster Assessment, Fundraising, Palliative Distribution under the chairmanship of Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, which has raised over 1 billion naira fund to support the victims.

However, this is the same committee that some victims complained had done nothing for them, claiming they only heard of them on radio.

More than a year after the 2022 flood disaster, the victims are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) distributed relief materials to 22,000 households in September 2023 and also assisted victims in rebuilding their economy and livelihoods under the Special National Economy and Livelihood Emergency Intervention (SNELEI) which led to the distribution of items such as sewing and grinding machines, food, non-food items, and farm inputs.

Besides the support from the Federal Government through NEMA, an international organisation, ActionAid Nigeria, in collaboration with the Baba Azimi Foundation and supported by STARTFUND, also donated food and non-food items to 1,200 households that were severely devastated by the 2022 flood.

ActionAid allocated over N82 million to assist flood victims in Jigawa State. According to Logistics Adviser to ActionAid Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Omoh, this included the provision of food items, nets, blankets, cups, and a cash donation of N20,000 each to 158 beneficiaries.

However, findings by this reporter shows that the relief efforts were insufficient to address the challenges faced by the victims. Some victims received nothing, while others who lost their homes, farms, and dreams to the flood were not given any psychosocial support or grant to restart their lives.

Shockingly, some victims received no assistance at all, while those who saw their homes, farms, and aspirations submerged by the floodwaters were left without any psychosocial support or grants to help rebuild their shattered lives.

A farmer, Abdullahi Gariyo, who lost his crops in his extensive farm said, “We heard the state government estimated about a trillion-naira worth of properties were lost, but I don’t think they included mine.”

Expressing his frustration with the government’s intervention, he lamented, “We haven’t received a single kobo from them; we’re still waiting for our turn.”

Similarly, Muhammad Usman from Aimun voiced his concerns about the distribution of the relief items.

“We heard of the distribution of fertilizer, herbicides, and water pumps among neighboring communities.”

Highlighting the apparent irregularities in the distribution process, he added, “You are well aware that some of the beneficiaries who got the relief materials were not farmers. The distribution was politicised. You can ask people in communities for confirmation.”

The flood also exposed the government’s lack of knowledge and commitment to address climate change and its impact on agriculture and rural farmers. Mr. Audu Oseni, a climate change expert, highlighted the need for concrete actions beyond political pronouncements.

“Government must ensure a robust long-term plan to curtail the yearly flooding menace with priority given to things such as protective measures, relief material distribution amongst others. To effectively implement these measures, it is crucial to adopt policies and practices that are proactive in nature and involve a thorough assessment and emergency preparedness before the disaster occurs. This assessment helps identify potential risks for survivors and optimise response strategies.”

Furthermore, he emphasized that the government should establish a register of survivors and affected communities, creating a tangible system for tracking beneficiaries to prevent duplication of livelihood and rehabilitation support.

“Prioritising the distribution of relief items based on well-vetted individual and community needs is essential. Factors such as health condition, family size, and support for Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) should guide this process.”

An environmental consultant and founder of DunesGIS Tech Limited, Jibrin Gambo, acknowledged the government’s efforts to support the victims, but emphasised the need for verifying the actual victims to ensure the appropriate support reaches them.

“I strongly recommend that the government adopts a well-thought-out strategy for the distribution of relief materials to alleviate hunger and inflation through targeted interventions.

Implementing this approach could empower numerous farmers to sustain their farming businesses and ensure a stable supply of food for their livelihood,” said Gambo.

Victims seek urgent action, lament negligence by government

In the aftermath of the devastating floods that ravaged Jigawa state, the victims find themselves caught in a web of despair, seeking urgent action from the government and lamenting what they perceive as neglect in their time of need.

The spokesperson for the flood victims in Jigawa North Central Senatorial Zone, Abdul Usman Karnaya, expressed his frustrations with the prolonged wait for succour, stretching from the inception of the flood late 2022 to the present moment.

“We only heard from Freedom Radio that the Jigawa State Committee on Flood Disaster Assessment, Fundraising, and Palliative Distribution were disbursing money ranging from N1m to N3m, with some roofing sheets and cement, to a few affected communities with far less damages than ours.”

Yahaya Yunusa, a 61-year-old farmer from Ganuwar Kuka,also  shared the grim consequences of the 2022 disaster.

Ibrahim Ibrahim Abdullahi Ganuwar Kuka 28-year-old farmer clearing his farm for the dry season farm. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer
Ibrahim Ibrahim Abdullahi Ganuwar Kuka 28-year-old farmer clearing his farm for the dry season farm. Credit: Muhammad A Taheer

“I invested over N1m in my 10-hectare rice farm, but it has been washed away completely by the floodwater. As I speak, four of my children are in high school, two in university, two in College of Education; none of them are in school for now. I cannot pay for their registration fees. I may not be able to go back to farming because there is no hope that the same thing will not happen again and again,” he lamented.

The District Head of Ganuwar Kuka, Aminu Maigari, called on the government to urgently intervene in the aftermath of the devastating floods that ravaged Jigawa State.

“Our people lost their entire farmland, no home, no food to eat for over one year,” he said.

Maigari emphasised the need for preventative measures, including the dredging of the river Hadejia and the construction of embankments.

Senior Special Adviser on Flood Matters in Jigawa state, Abbas Auyo, provided insights into the government’s response to the flood crisis, highlighting proactive measures taken.

According to Auyo, the governor established committees that deployed two dredging machines for clearing River Hadejia’s waterways to each affected area. Despite these initiatives, he acknowledged the gravity of the disaster, stressing the urgent need for additional preventive measures.

“The disaster poses a significant setback to our agricultural land, resulting in unemployment among our youth who are directly reliant on farming and related activities,” he lamented.

Furthermore, Auyo underscored the severe consequences of the disaster, including the emergence of hunger in several affected villages.

Assessing the future implications and solutions

Global food insecurity has surged, driven significantly by climate phenomena. The influence of global warming on weather patterns, marked by heatwaves, heavy rainfall, and drought, contributes to this crisis. In regions already contending with water constraints, climate change exacerbates adverse effects on agricultural production.

Experts assert that diminished water supplies, heightened extreme events such as floods and storms, heat stress, and increased pest and disease prevalence further compound the challenges. With 25 million Nigerians facing a high risk of hunger, according to UNICEF, stimulating private investments in the agricultural sector becomes imperative for the Nigerian government. Crucial to this effort are incentives that apply to both primary and secondary food producers.

Tthe Director, School of Agriculture, Bilyaminu Usman College of Agriculture, Jigawa state, Sani Musa Shehu, provided crucial insights into the severe impact of continued flooding on agriculture and food security in the state.  He said the repercussions are widespread, ranging from crop damages and losses leading to a decline in agricultural productivity to increased tension between farmers and herders. This tension, according to Mr. Shehu, is exacerbated as floods displace livestock and force migrations into urban areas.

Shehu also highlighted the economic losses resulting from flooding, adding that it disproportionately affects small-scale farmers heavily reliant on agribusiness, creating a significant link between flooding, insecurity, and unemployment.

“The disruption of the food supply chain, exemplified by the 2022 flood, further underscores the importance of addressing this issue. The damages to transportation networks hinder the transport of food from production areas to markets, resulting in a lack of access to nutritional food.”

He proposed both short and long-term solutions to mitigate the impact of flooding.




     

     

    “Short-term measures include improving drainage systems to facilitate the flow of excess water into rivers, dams and canals. Emergency response planning, including coordinating local authorities and establishing evacuation routes, is crucial. Additionally, financial assistance from the government to affected communities can aid in recovery and rebuilding efforts.”

    For long-term solutions, he emphasized that the government should invest in research institutions to develop crops adapted to flood conditions., encourage the construction of barriers or embankments between rivers and adjacent villages to mitigate flooding risks.

    “Implementing sustainable watershed management practices such as reforestation and soil conservation is also essential for addressing the root causes of flooding,” he said.

    *This republished from BluePrint was done with support from the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR under the Promoting Democracy Governance Project (PDGP).

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