Nigerian farmers abandon farms after attacks, sending food prices higher


Violent Attacks on Nigerian Farmers Escalate, Threatening Food Security

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ABUJA/MAIDUGURI, June 25 (Reuters) – Hassan Ya’u, a 42-year-old farmer in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state, was tending to his maize and sesame crops earlier this month when a group of armed men on motorcycles approached and opened fire.

Ya’u and fellow farmer Musa Nasidi managed to escape, but at least 50 people, mostly farmers, were killed in the broad daylight attack. An unknown number of people were abducted.

Ya’u and Nasidi believe the gunmen targeted their Kankara farming community because the farmers had not paid a levy imposed by the gang. These violent raids are driving many farmers from their fields, exacerbating food price inflation and contributing to Nigeria’s worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

“They set ablaze my produce and took away food worth about 4 million naira ($2,739.73),” said Ya’u, who has now taken refuge in Daura town, nearly 200 km (124 miles) from Kankara. “I don’t have access to my farm because bandits have taken control of the area. Everything has been ruined,” added Ya’u, a father of 13, now facing an uncertain future.

Armed gangs demand as much as three million naira per village, depending on the size, to allow farmers to work. “The farmers are even forming vigilante groups to make sure they are able to access the farms but it is still very difficult,” said Kabir Ibrahim, president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria, the country’s primary producer of staples like rice, yam, and maize, is also its most unstable region. Armed gangs in the northwest and Islamist militants in the northeast wreak havoc, severely disrupting farming activities.

Nasidi, 36, fled to near Katsina town after the attack on Kankara. He used to harvest about 400 bags of groundnuts, 80 bags of sesame seed, and 200 bags of maize. Now, part of his 8.5-hectare farm has been set ablaze, leaving him with a bleak future. “The situation is beyond our control and I was left with no choice other than to leave Kankara because our lives were in danger,” Nasidi told Reuters.

A World Food Programme report on global acute food insecurity identified Nigeria as one of the world’s “hunger hotspots,” a situation attributed to insecurity in farming areas and high costs of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, and diesel.

Lagos-based consultancy SBM Intelligence reported that 1,356 Nigerian farmers have been killed since 2020, with 137 deaths recorded this year alone. Farming is increasingly becoming a perilous occupation. “The risk is very grave,” said Confidence McHarry, SBM’s lead security analyst, adding that gunmen also attack farmers suspected of collaborating with the military.

Defence spokesperson Major General Edward Buba stated that with the rainy season underway, the military is prioritizing the security of farmers. “The farmers’ union is keying into the farm protection plan of the armed forces to make the best of the rainy season,” he said, without providing further details.

However, for 22-year-old farmer Abdulaziz Gora in Zamfara state, adjacent to Katsina, there is little hope of returning to his farm. After a violent attack on his village in May, he relocated to the state capital Gusau, abandoning his soybean and maize crops. “Anyone caught there risks being kidnapped or killed,” he said.

($1 = 1,460.0000 naira)

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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