President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s attempts to address the escalating food prices may face a significant setback unless his government can persuade Cameroon to exercise caution when releasing water from the Lagdo Dam,leadership reports.
On July 13, 2023, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security to combat rising prices. More recently, his administration distributed five truckloads of rice to each of the 36 states in an effort to mitigate the impact of removing subsidies on Petroleum Motor Spirit. The government also announced plans to allocate some savings from the fuel subsidy removal to the agricultural sector.
However, these efforts are now under threat due to the potential opening of the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon. Such an action could result in devastating floods that may destroy extensive farmlands across at least 13 Nigerian states. Many Nigerian farmers, especially those near the River Niger and River Benue, are faced with the dilemma of prematurely harvesting their crops to avoid losing them to floodwaters caused by the Lagdo Dam release.
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On August 21, 2023, the federal government informed the National Emergency Management Agency of Cameroon’s intention to open the Lagdo Dam, urging the agency to take precautionary measures in potentially affected states. The states at the greatest risk include Kogi, Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, and Bayelsa.
Cameroon had also opened the dam last year, compounding the hardships faced by Nigerians dealing with record rainfall. This resulted in significant economic losses, estimated at N700 billion in the agricultural sector alone. The losses included 8.4 million tonnes of various crops valued at N384.4 billion, with the fish and livestock sectors contributing to the loss of N100.2 billion and N93.04 billion, respectively. The impact on agricultural infrastructure and farmlands amounted to over N120 billion, affecting 863,648 hectares of land.
Farmers across affected communities are rushing to harvest their crops prematurely due to warnings from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET). This panic harvesting includes cassava, plantains, bananas, yams, and potatoes. Experts anticipate that thousands of hectares of farmland will be submerged, leading to significant income loss for farmers.
The floods also pose a risk to crops and livestock, potentially resulting in food shortages and increased food prices. In the previous year, nearly 110,000 hectares of farmland were completely destroyed by flooding in August.
The national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc Kabir Ibrahim, expressed concern over the situation. He emphasized the need for climate change mitigation techniques and water harvesting to address these recurring issues. He urged the government to consider constructing dams along the River Niger/Benue Basin to manage water levels more effectively.
Farmers in various states, including Delta, Kwara, and Bayelsa, are taking preventive measures such as constructing barriers and relocating their crops to higher ground. Despite the risks, many of them have no choice but to continue living and farming in these vulnerable areas, as their livelihoods depend on it.
The impending flood poses a severe threat to agriculture and food security in Nigeria, emphasizing the need for comprehensive disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies to protect both farmers and the nation’s food supply.