This is aggravated by annual floods. Towards the end of September 2022, Nigeria began to experience flooding. So far, more … than 600 people died and millions were displaced. The scale and impact of these floods are expected to exceed 2012 events – the most severe flood event recorded in Nigeria’s history.
I have worn our research which provides insight into how these floods are affecting food security in Nigeria. The concept of food security encompasses the availability, access, utilization and stability of food – the amount of food that is continuously available.
There is an urgent need to address food security issues in Nigeria, which is set to become the third most populous nation in the world by 2050. Despite the impact of floods on food security, they are not recognized as a threat by policy makers, as evidenced by the national agricultural plans who don’t even recognize the role of disasters on food security.
The food security situation was dire before, and the ongoing floods have made the situation worse. Here I describe four ways in which the floods have impacted food security. These can show decision makers how to make the connection and do something about it.
1. Food availability
The amount of food available depends on food production. Food production levels in Nigeria are already below demand. Nigeria depends on $10 billion in imports to fill its gaps in food and agricultural production (mainly wheat, rice, poultry and fish). This even if agriculture is the second most important economic activity after crude oil.
The floods make the situation worse. Flood degrades the environment and destroys crops, agricultural establishments, livestock and seed stores. This reduces the harvest and affects the next planting season, resulting in a food shortage crisis.
Livestock are killed or lose their pasture and flooded farmland is unsuitable for cultivation. Depending on the type of sediment deposited on agricultural land during floods, some cannot be cultivated for a long time, creating a food cycle scarcity and hunger.
2. Access to food
Floods impact access to food in several ways; food becomes more scarce, physically difficult to obtain and more expensive.
Smallholder farmers – who make up 88% Nigerian farmers – grow, process and eat directly from their farms. They are the most affected by the floods. As found in my research review, they lose their main source of income while lacking the resources to buy food in the market. It also triggers a cycle in which high costs prevent farmers from buying seeds or seedlings, which affects their ability to produce.
Floods can cause considerable damage to infrastructure, such as the collapse of bridges and roads in Nigeria, cutting off physical access. This has many ripple effects. For example, farmers lack access to necessary inputs (such as seeds or fertilizers) and markets for their products. In addition, there are supply chain disruptions, increased prices, destruction of agricultural produce and stored supplies.
3. Use of food
I believe that food utilization is the most important aspect of food security. It’s the nutritional value of food and the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs from food. A varied and healthy diet is necessary for this. However, even availability and access does not guarantee adequate food utilization if the necessary nutrition from food is lacking because there has been loss of nutrients and soil because of the floods. Degraded soil produces poor quality, low nutrient food. Damage to plant tissues can occur due to flooding, which promotes the development of bacterial and fungal diseases affecting crop quality. The consumption of micronutrients is affected if the nutritional composition of foods is changed. Proof of this after flooding was found in farmland in Nigeria.
In addition, the impact of flooding on flora and fauna in general reduces the availability of wild foods and game, which are rich sources of nutrients for Many people.
4. Food stability
Finally, floods affect food stability – ensuring that food is always available, accessible and nutritious.
A decline in agricultural productivity due to flooding affects food availability. Subsequent supply shortfalls increase food prices, making them inaccessible to a large part of the Nigerian population. This makes the country’s already vulnerable population even more so. High prices and unavailability of preferred food choices can force consumers to limit their intake and opt for less nutritious but more filling foods, impacting food utilization.
What needs to be done
Whatever the gains in the priority policy area of food production, a single flood can reverse them. The Nigerian government must pay more attention to disasters such as floods – ready to ride in the coming years due to climate change – in food security policies, and taking immediate action to control floods. A more comprehensive approach to addressing food insecurity is needed and must encompass flood prevention and mitigation.
Many food security programs and policies currently focus on food availability seeking to increase production while neglecting other areas. This is also the approach in Nigeria, where only production has been at the center of food policies. The lack of consideration of the role of floods in food insecurity is an important oversight that needs to be corrected.