A woman named, Hannah Mgbede in a conversation with her husband seeks for his permission to take the first break of the day from threshing rice so that she can breastfeed their 18- month old baby girl who was fastened to her back during the fatiguing work.
Hannah’s husband, Ibrahim Mohammed, who is 45 years old used to harvest as many as 10 bags of rice from his farm. It dropped to just three bags after his house was burned down to the ground by attackers a few years ago. This happened because the violence between the farmers and herders mounted across the northwest and central part of Nigeria.
Because of this decreased yield, Mohammed was not able to make enough money to buy seedlings to grow yams, soybeans and guinea corn (sorghum).
Mohammed, who has three children of age five and younger, mentions that sometimes they manage to eat only once a day. It is only by the grace of God, since the crisis, they are feeding to remain alive.
In the Benue state of Nigeria, harvest of rice, soybeans and yams was so prolific that it was called the ‘’food basket of Nigeria.’’ Due to the waves of violence over the last several years, the production of crops has been reduced in the northcentral state of Africa’s most populous nation.
The officials said that more than one million farmers in the state have been displaced because of the intercommunal violence between herders and farmers competing for water and land.
According to the UN World Food Program, across northern Nigeria, at least 13 million are now facing hunger amid the welding period. Because of the violence, the roads are not safe to transport crops and marketplace are destroyed by the attackers which disrupted the sales of food.
Production of rice has dropped so much that its price has jumped over 60% in Benue state as well as in some other parts of the country.
A spokesperson of the UN agency said that there is a very high risk of famine both because of the conflict and Covid-19 which has made it harder to reach those who are most in need.
The government in the hope of resolving the conflict has now launched an initiative under the National Livestock Transformation Plan. The conflict has only been worsened by the proliferation of arms and the government’s failure to accuse past perpetrators from both groups.
Mtonga Iliamgee, a 43- year old lady, says that every day is a struggle for her to feed a family of 10. She is able to prepare only one meal a day for her family. She says that they only live for the day and are clueless for what tomorrow holds.
Felix Agune, the deputy head of the camp school, says that some children come crying to the class because they haven’t had their breakfast. While the NGOs are trying to fill the gap, Rex Elanu, a program director for the One to One Healthcare Initiative said that it is nothing compared to the massive hunger spread across Benue state.
Though, government officials insist that they are working to make farmlands safe for the people to return and work for their land, they are also trying to encourage nomadic herders to take up ranching so that they are at less odds with the farmers.
Nigerian farmers have been able to produce enough crops to keep the country self- sufficient in staples such as rice, yams and cassava, despite the violence. Theodore Ogaziechi of the agriculture ministry said that Nigeria survived with the produce generated by the smallholder farmers and the farmers are doing their best to feed the nation.
Ortom, the governor of Benue state warned that farmers are buoyant but also afraid because some who have attempted to go back to their farms have been killed. If there is security for these farmers, Benue state will continue to retain its position as the food basket of the nation.