MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Farmers in northeastern Nigeria have lost 3 billion naira ($18.75 million) in food crops because of an Islamic uprising that has terrorized the region for the past three years, the chairman of a state farmers’ association said Monday.
Hundreds of farmers have been killed or forced to abandon rice and other crops ready for harvesting or just planted, Muhammed Namadi, the Borno State Farmers Association chairman said. He spoke in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and a former insurgent stronghold. Without immediate relief, farmers in Borno, who already live with abject poverty, insecurity and isolation, could also face widespread hunger.
“We have suffered a great deal as farmers in the last three years,” Namadi said, asking the state to provide farmers with money and equipment. “Many young and old farmers have been forced to leave their farms.”
Nearly 20,000 farmers have been driven from their land by both the insurgency and the military crackdown since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May declared a state of emergency in Borno and two other northeastern states, according to the Borno state agriculture commission. Entire villages have been cut off from their farmlands by military roadblocks and insurgents increasingly operate in the countryside.
The insurgents, known as Boko Haram, have killed hundreds in suicide bombs and other attacks on churches, mosques, schools, media houses, communications networks and the local U.N. headquarters. After six months of emergency rule in the northeast, security forces have pushed the militants out of major urban centres, but the violence continues to escalate. More than 250 deaths reported in the past two weeks, half of them suspected insurgents.
As early as June Borno State farmers reported losing access to fields in the north, saying crops were not being harvested, and families were growing hungry. That month, the Chad Basin Development Authority reported that 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of rice paddies had been abandoned at the peak of harvesting season.
Namadi said northeast Nigeria once led the country in the production of wheat, rice and maize. “But today,” he said. “The reverse seems to be the case.”