A major internal threat to Nigeria’s food security is the farmers-herdsmen clash which primarily stems from rising disputes over grazing areas for herdsmen cattle’s. From 2017 when the farmer-herdsmen clashes took to the wave, over 70% of farmers have been displaced from effectively carrying out farming activities to feed the nation. The rising competition turned conflict between the two agricultural land users has in recent times demonstrated a high potential to exacerbate the nation’s food survival security. Food security is a condition related to the supply of food and the individual’s access to it and the concerns over food security have existed throughout history. At the 1974 World Food Conference the term “Food Security” was defined with an emphasis on ‘Supply’ – Food security is the ‘availability at all times with adequate food supplies to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices’’ (United Nations 2013). Later definitions added demand and access issues and with the final report of the 1996 World Food Summit stating that food security “exists when all people at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for any active and healthy life’’ (United Nations 2015).
Crises are unavoidable as long as we live in a multi-lingual, cultural and religious community such as Nigeria. Violent conflicts and crises in Nigeria like other parts of the world has created a rift in human relations, caused serious threat to food security, among many other effects. Conflicts in most part of Nigeria especially the herdsmen and farmers clash have hindered farmers from peacefully carrying out farming activities. The fact that these conflicts create reduction in the quality and quantity of food production, simply indicates the high level of food insecurity in rural communities with its negative repercussion. Food insecurity negatively affects the growth rate of the nation’s economy as investors have become more rigid in making investments in affected areas due to the crisis; and this has increased food importation which reduces the value of the nation’s currency.
Nigeria, blessed with a large amount of arable agricultural farmlands in all the States of the federation is strongly affected by this threat as aside the loss of lives, the vast expanse of arable lands are left uncultivated due to the insecurity of the farmers. States like Benue (the Food Basket of the Nation), Taraba, Nassarawa, Kaduna, Delta, Edo, Jos, Ondo, Enugu, Oyo, Abuja traditionally known for farming and with abundance in food supply are faced with struggle to feed its own population and Nigeria. In the developing country of Nigeria, the Agricultural sector plays strategic role in economic development; making significant contributions to economic prosperity and providing basic raw materials for industries and household consumption. The sector employs approximately two-third of the total labour force and contributes over 40% of the GDP. About 7.1 million people faced with acute food insecurity require urgent lifesaving response and livelihood protection to reduce the possibility of famine in the affected areas across Nigeria. When Nigerian farmers cannot plant and harvest crops peacefully, the price of commodities in the markets will greatly increase and encourage importation to supply the shortages; further discouraging the participation of youths in agriculture.
Few weeks ago, an International Human Rights Lawyer, Emmannuel Ogebe spoke emphatically on Nigeria playing with its food survival given the large number of farmers displaced from their homes. He stated, “Nigeria is playing with its food security and food survival. It is our desire that our people be rehabilitated and allowed to go back home to their farming so that they can feed the nation’’.
Estimating how much that has been lost in terms of crops destroyed, farms abandoned and harvest left to rot away will shock the government. The ongoing conflict is costing Nigeria at least $14 billion on potential revenues annually (Report by Global Humanitarian Organisation; Mercy Corps), also 47% of the internally generated revenue in the affected states (The Guardian Newspaper 2017). The implications of food insecurity set the nations on a backward course. Open-grazing prohibition and cattle-ranching will provide solution to the persistent farmer-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria.
Nigeria must wake-up to ensure and enhance food security and encourage food surplus to feed the nation!