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Worsening Food Crisis in Nigeria as Farmers Face Wave of Attacks and Kidnappings by Armed Groups

Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country are leading to displacement, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods

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ABUJA, Nigeria, August 7, 2023/ — A relentless wave of attacks against farmers in Nigeria by armed groups is hindering critical food supplies and threatening to push the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis this year, Save the Children said.

Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country are leading to displacement, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023, according to the Nigerian Security Tracker. In June, 19 farmers were killed by non-state armed groups in Nigeria’s northern Borno State alone.

As a farmer for 35 years in northeast Nigeria, Bulama is no stranger to insecurity; however, this year has been particularly difficult. Armed men have kidnapped or killed most of the farmers Bulama has worked with.

“On different occasions where we will be in the field farming, armed groups have attacked and kidnapped farmers who are our friends and brothers, requesting ransom — most times it’s an amount no villager can afford,” said Bulama.

They have killed and stolen our farm produce, leaving us helpless and with nothing to take home. The hunger and starvation most of us suffer in this community are because insurgents deprive us of accessing the farmlands, and even when we risk our lives in our fields, they steal everything and allow us to starve.”

Bulama explained that although farming poses a threat to his life, if he stops, his children will die — a harrowing choice that is all too common for farmers in the north.

In January, the UN estimated that more than 25 million people in Nigeria could face food insecurity this year–a 47% increase from the 17 million people who were already at risk of going hungry–mainly due to the ongoing insecurity, protracted conflicts, and the projected rise in food prices.

In addition, an estimated two million children under five across the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe are likely to be pushed into acute malnutrition in 2023, with about 700,000 children on the brink of death.

It is also likely that even more people will be pushed into hunger than earlier predicted due to extreme weather events that are getting more frequent and severe due to the climate crisis.

Bulama added: “The lack of rain this year has worsened the current hunger crisis my family is facing. All our remaining crops are dried and dead. It has taken us back to starting fresh because most farmers are cutting down their dried crops to plant new ones. We have nothing to eat and nowhere to go. We can go days without eating a meal.”

Nigeria recently declared a state of emergency on food insecurity to help tackle food shortages, stabilise rising prices, and increase protection for farmers facing violence from armed groups. However, without also addressing the climate crisis, farmers like Bulama will still struggle to feed their children when it is safe for them to farm.

Famari Barro, Save the Children’s Country Director for Nigeria, said:

“These violent attacks against farmers in Nigeria are exacerbating the already dire hunger crisis in the country, especially in the north where millions of children do not know where their next meal will come from. Armed groups committing these ruthless acts are not only disrupting food production but also pushing children to the brink.

“Urgent action must prioritise the needs of children to stop this devastating trend and protect innocent lives. If not, armed groups will continue to carry out brutal attacks, drive food prices, and push more families to starvation.”

Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001 and has been responding to the humanitarian crisis in the northeast since 2014. Save the Children is providing food, clean water, nutrition and protection services, sexual and reproductive health care, and education to families across Northeast Nigeria. Save the Children is also providing technical support to the government on policy changes and reforms, especially in critical sectors such as health, education, and social protection among others.

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