Floods And Food Shortages Threaten To Push Nigeria Into A Food Crisis

Nigeria is currently dealing with twin crises, record-breaking flooding, and a food shortage. According to Reuters, this is threatening to push Africa’s most populous country into a devastating food crisis. In 2020, Nigeria has dealt with destructive floods that have killed at least 40 and have displaced over 15,000 people. Recently, in September of 2020, intense flooding caused by heavy rainfall in northern Nigeria destroyed thousands of homes and wide areas of crops. As reported by Reuters, the flooding in northern Nigeria has destroyed 90% of the 2 million tons of rice that was expected to be harvested this Autumn. This loss is equivalent to 20% of the rice that Nigeria harvested last year.

Destruction of rice paddies is not the only food-related casualty of these floods. A shortage of maize has made it extremely difficult for chicken farmers to feed their flocks due to the price of chicken feed more than doubling. For Nigeria, rice is the staple grain, and chicken is a core protein. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many movement restrictions and financing difficulties that complicated the spring planting of many crops including maize. The combination of crop-destroying floods and an already existent maize shortage makes it look as if Nigeria is on the brink of a damaging food crisis. Arc Kabir Ibrahim, president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told Reuters that “there is a real fear of having food shortages. The effect on the food system is going to be colossal.”

Another effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is on fertilizer. After the virus’s outbreak caused a shutdown of Nigeria’s sole urea plant for two weeks, many farmers opted to skip using fertilizer on their crops, which has limited their crop yields.

Through all of this, the Nigerian government is still doing everything it can to promote domestic food production and local Nigerian farmers, but that may not be enough to sustain a country of nearly 200 million people through a looming food crisis. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that not one cent of the country’s central bank dollars would go towards food or fertilizer imports in an attempt to encourage local farmers and producers over imports. In August 2020, Nigeria took about 4,000 tons of millet and sorghum from the regional economic bloc’s strategic stocks (ECOWAS), released 30,000 tons of its own maize, and gave four companies special permission to import maize into the country, according to Reuters. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group has also called for “a complete overhaul” of agricultural policy.

In an interview with Reuters, Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister Muhammad Sabo Nanono said that “there is no question about it that there is an imminent problem with food insecurity, not only in Nigeria, but also in nations all over the world.” He is absolutely correct in that statement. According to a report released by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) called the Ecological Threat Register (ETR), food security is a major symptom of the ongoing climate crisis that is projected to worsen over the next several decades. By the ETR’s estimates, the global demand for food will increase by 50% by 2050. Approximately two billion people already experience moderate to severe food insecurity currently, and that number is expected to increase to 3.5 billion people by the year 2050. 822 million people currently experience undernutrition globally, leaving them at an extremely high risk of starvation. Additionally, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of food insecurity, at 52% of the population, and 18 of the 20 most food-insecure countries globally are located in the region.

What is happening in Nigeria should sound an alarm for the rest of the world. If the world continues on this trajectory, the climate crisis will only escalate in the coming years and decades. With that will come an increase in natural disasters, with flooding being the most common natural disaster to occur since 1990, according to the ETR. Flooding not only threatens people’s lives and property, but it also threatens the survival and harvestability of important crops, as seen with the current situation in Nigeria. Floods are also not the only natural disasters that will worsen with climate change, but wildfires and storm events like hurricanes will become more frequent and more damaging as well. All of these have the potential to threaten the food security of nations all over the globe. The ETR reports that 22% of countries will face catastrophic food insecurity by the year 2050, which would result in “substantial displacement of people or substantial increase in undernourishment.” That statistic shows that a food crisis like this will not be an event unique to Nigeria but could potentially threaten many other countries across the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been a catalyst in worsening food security for countries around the globe. The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) has warned that the number of people facing food insecurity could potentially double by the end of the pandemic. According to the Pullitzer Center, global shutdowns and border closures to curb the virus have caused tightened credit access to farmers, limited access to inputs for farmers, limited food transport services and food imports. Constraints like these have led to surges in food prices and limited many populations’ access to nutritious food. The effects of this can be seen in what is happening in Nigeria, and it has worsened food shortages that the country was already experiencing pre-pandemic.

The other countries of the world who have the means should take this opportunity to send humanitarian aid to Nigeria during this time in order to offset or prevent the looming food crisis. It would also be in the interest of the U.N. and other peacekeeping or human rights focused international organizations to aid Nigeria in any way that is possible so that the situation does not worsen into a debilitating crisis that could threaten millions of lives. The situation in Nigeria is of utmost urgency, so it is important that the international community acts with haste.

Furthermore, in order to take action towards preventing devastating food crises and worsening natural disasters in the future, the most important steps that nations can take is implementing aggressive climate change policies that curb emissions and aim to use cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. This is especially true for countries who are the world’s biggest emitters and polluters, including but not limited to the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Combatting climate change will require an immense collective effort and continued inaction will only lead to more human suffering in places like Nigeria where people are already seeing the harsh effects of the climate crisis.

The impending food crisis in Nigeria is demonstrative of many issues that the world is facing. Swift action should be taken not only to aid Nigeria in combatting a destructive food crisis, but in the long run, all nations of the world should be putting progressive climate policies into effect. Growing food insecurity is a major symptom of a worsening climate, and the action should be taken now to ensure global food insecurity does not reach frightening levels in the future.

Tess Gellert


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