Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terror in Nigeria's Food Basket

You may have noticed that onions, tomatoes, and yams have steadily become more expensive over the past two years. Prices have risen between 225% and 360% since 2013, well ahead of the official inflation rate. The brilliant folks at SBMorgen have dug deep into the situation, and released a report about ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt.

So far in 2015, 2000 people have reportedly been killed in the ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt, a number that rivals annual deaths due to the Boko Haram insurgency. Thousands of people have been displaced, and some farmers have not harvested their fields since 2006!!!
"The picture that our research painted is a grim one, of methodical violence by herdsmen against host communities, and steadily advancing southwards; and of herdsmen facing increasing violence from cattle-rustlers, coupled with a decline in grazing resources. Attitudes towards the Fulani are hardening, and there is evidence of a slow loss of confidence in the ability of the security forces to keep law and order. Both the host communities and the herdsmen have been neglected by the government and have been reduced to self-help." - SBMorgen.
"During a visit to the tomato depot in Ketu, we observed that the prices of tomatoes have increased by at least 225 per cent in the last two years, and in some cases, as high as 360 per cent. The variation in the prices during that time frame can only be described as shocking. A small basket of tomatoes roughly 3kg), which used to sell for between N5,000 and N6,000 in 2013, now sells for N18,000. The big basket (roughly 15kg), which was sold for N12,000 now costs between N26,000 and N27,000 depending on one's bargaining power." - SBMorgen.
The Middle Belt is the food basket of the nation, and food prices will continue to rise if the long-lived tussle between nomadic cattle herders and farmers is not addressed squarely and decisively. Beyond their status as the food basket, the government owes it to every Nigerian to keep them and their property safe - this in itself is the primary responsibility of a government. The large number of displaced people will continue to pose a humanitarian crisis, and provide a festering ground for future insurgencies; idle hands are often diverted to evil purposes.

You may follow the link to read SBMorgen's report on the incident. A 7-page summary of the report can be found here, and the full report (37 pages) here.

So far, the crisis in the North East has received disproportionate focus by the Federal Government. It is now time to shine a light in the direction of the Middle Belt and North Central areas. With concerted effort, Land Use reform, and an overhaul of the Agricultural Sector, we may yet turn this situation around.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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