Nigeria: Flood As Threat to Rice Production

Ugo Aliogo wonders if Nigeria achieve self-sufficiency in rice production especially with the huge damages caused by flood in Kebbi State

Flooding has remained a major environmental challenge to the country.

Despite the several interventions by the federal government, the issue remains a challenge, especially to food security. Although flooding is a fallout of the climate change crisis facing the globe, with concerted efforts government can mitigate the crisis, if there is sincerity of purpose on it part.

In 2020, Nigeria experienced one of the worst flooding in recent years especially the huge damage it has caused rice farms in Kebbi State.

President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier expressed concerns about the effects of the flooding in Kebbi state on rice harvests.

Buhari hinted: “Its a setback to our efforts to boost local rice production as part of measures to stop food importation. This bad news couldn’t have come at a worse time for our farmers and other Nigerians who looked forward to a bumper harvest this year in order to reduce the current astronomical rise in the costs of food items in the markets.”

The floods have washed away at least two million tons of rice in Nigeria, the second-largest importer of the grain. That is more than 25 per cent of the previously projected national output of eight million tons, according to estimates by a farmers’ organization, a report has stated.

This was disclosed by the Kebbi State Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mohammed Sahabi, in an interview with Bloomberg recently.

Sahabi remarked that 450,000 hectares of rice were flooded and written off, and other rice farmers in Kano, Enugu, Jigawa and Nasarawa also recorded losses.

“Heavy rainfall was predicted for the year. We didn’t expect that the damage will be of this magnitude. Our target at state level was 2.5 million tons this year, but now we are looking at only 500,000 tons of harvest,” he maintained.

NIHSA Role

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) has warned that the country still has many weeks of rainfall in the course of the year and more floods are still expected in the months of September and October.

The Director General of the agency, Mr. Clement Nze, said the current flood level sighted in Niamey, Niger Republic, poses a dangerous threat to Nigeria.

He explained that any release of excess water from the dams in countries upstream rivers Niger and Benue this year will have more negative impact on Nigeria which is located downstream of countries in the Niger Basin.

According to him, the highly vulnerable States are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.

Nze posited that the flood that ravaged Kebbi State, just about a week ago, left so much to be told, therefore the current flooding situation calls for vigilance on the part of all the stakeholders.

He advised states, local governments, multi-national companies and public-spirited individuals to put all hands on the deck to save the country from the consequences of a, “twin pandemic” (COVID-19 and flood) in the year 2020.

Nze said: “The rains are finally here, the volume of river flows on our river surge. River channels could no longer accommodate significant runoff as floodplains, which traditionally serve the alluvial plains and are rich in agricultural productivity, lost its retention capacity to give way to flooding of adjacent lands.

“Lives are being lost, property destroyed and humans are scampering for safety. Farmlands and crop yields are being lost to furry of floodwaters, livestock and ecosystem species are diminishing while hope for livelihood hang in balance due to monumental economic losses.

“As a matter of fact, all the states of the federation have suffered several degrees of flooding since June. The danger is not yet over. Information received from the regional Niger Basin Authority (NBA) by NIHSA has it that as at 7.30a.m today 10th September, the River Niger flood level in Niamey, Niger Republic, attained an unprecedented level of 7.02m (702cm).

“This is a far cry from the value of 6.60m which I reported in my last press briefing of 25, August. Noting that the red alert warning zone in Niamey is 6.20m and above, the current flood level sighted in Niamey poses a dangerous threat to the country, Nigeria, which is at the lower portion of Niger Basin within this month of September and October.

“Based on the report of the expected flood coming down from Niamey and the projected contributions by the inland rivers, both Kainji and Jebbo Dams built on River Niger have continued to spill water downstream. The Shiroro Dam on River Koduno, with reservoir level at 381.48m as at 9.00am today, has been maintaining a regulated spilling into the River Niger.

“The effect of all these is that the communities in the states adjoining River Niger will continue to be highly inundated by river flooding as is being witnessed in the recent time.

“The agency, in addition to monitoring the flow on the River Niger System, is also keeping close tab on the developments on River Benue sub-basin and has maintained close contact with the Cameroonian authorities with regards to flood scenarios in the upper catchment of the sub-basin.

Recent information received by the Agency from the Cameroon indicated that the Lagdo

Dam is still impounding water.

“Notwithstanding the early warning given by the Agency in its 2020 AFO and various media publications, urban and flash floods have continued to wreak havoc in many states of the federation, including the FCT. As at date, no less than 172 LGA in all states are counting their losses due to flood incidents.

“The non-existence of any dam structure within the Nigerian aportion of River Benue makes Nigeria vulnerable to excessive flooding in the event of sudden or unannounced release of water from the Lagdo Dam.”

He added that blocked drainages and gutters should be cleared, river channels dredged and structures within the waterways and floodplains and flood paths pulled down.

NEMA Report

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that nearly 50 people died in Nigerian floods this year as torrential rains caused two main rivers to overflow. The agency had warned that at least 28 of 36 States of West African countries were at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall. Other crops such as sorghum, millet and corn were also affected.

Project Implementation Summary

In its response to tackling the flood challenges, Actionaid Nigeria remarked that high rainfall, climate oscillation, poor dam management, poor preparedness culture, weak disaster management architecture and others are responsible to predictable flood disaster in Nigeria.

The Manager, Humanitarian and Resilience, Nigeria, Actionaid Nigeria (AAN), David Habba, said torrential rainfall between June and August caused flooding leading to displacement, death, destruction and disruption of livelihoods in Kebbi, Taraba and other States, “Kebbi was one of the worst hits.”

He stated that in response to the disaster in the state, AAN sent out a team of four to carry out rapid assessment on the extent of damages caused by the flood.

He explained that the findings from the assessment showed that the floods came with the displacements and disruption to livelihoods of communities as well as threats of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and acute watery diarrhea, which are easily spread through contaminated floodwater.

Habba posited that the assessment was conducted jointly by ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), Active Support for Rural People Initiative Kebbi (ASURPI) in conjunction with State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), women, youth and men in the affected communities.

He hinted that AAN provided emergency assistance to communities affected by the flood working in close coordination with the SEMA as well as the various humanitarian coordination sectors.

The Humanitarian manager maintained that AAN reached 350 households and 2881 individuals with food assistance through cash transfers value of 23,000 per person, while hygiene kits and dignity kits for women of reproductive health were also distributed to 200 women.

He added: “To support the project as well as build community structures to respond to future flooding, AAN facilitated the formation of a 15-member women community humanitarian committee due to this initiative, various success stories were recorded; and beneficiaries expressed their excitement and gratitude for the intervention.

“A media briefing was also organised as a way of drawing the attention of relevant duty bearers to take actions to improve welfare of persons affected by floods but more seek ways of preventing floods in future. AAN also worked with the Kebbi State Government who deployed a mobile health team to respond to the healthcare needs of the population alongside AAN.”

Beneficiary Selection Criteria and registration

He asserted that using the community targeting approach, clear inclusion and exclusion criteria was discussed with the community, noting that the presence of the community stakeholders provided some measure of security which aided in the smooth implementation of the project.

He remarked that some of the vulnerability criteria further used in selection included women headed HHs, widows, HHs with persons with disability, HHs with children U5, HHs with malnourished children, elderly.

Habba highlighted that 350 households were selected to benefit from the emergency assistance and the beneficiaries were registered using the kobo collect.

He added that using electronic means to register reduced the time for data processing and clean up as well as further made verification of beneficiaries on the distribution days easy as the photograph of the beneficiaries was captured during registration.

According to him, “The affected communities were part of the need’s assessment participating as key informants and providing key data and information on the impact of the disaster and the gaps in needs. The methods for needs assessment included key informant interviews and focus group discussion.

“The communities also supported in the organizing and mobilising of respondents for the rapid assessment as well as led the assessors round the community on physical observations. The affected communities participated in project design as they were keys in suggesting what will work for them and what will not. The component of the NFI kit was reviewed and approved by the beneficiaries before procurement and distribution.

“Also, the community volunteers who supported the project were members of the target communities. In addition to the volunteers, the community leaders assisted in raising awareness of the project assuring the people that the effort is genuine and not politically influenced. 350 households benefitted from the distribution of Nonfood Items with a cash value of worth N15, 000.

“350 Households benefitted from unconditional cash with value at N23,000. 99% of these households were women headed households. Cash modality was chosen as the preferred modality for this intervention based on the growing evidence that cash transfers give people choice and make humanitarian aid more accountable to crisis affected people.

“Cash also helps to make scarce resources go further and can leverage the opportunities created by the global expansion of financial service, including digital payments, and the growing number of social safety nets. For this intervention, a telecom company, airtel was contracted as the money agent.

“Four women led humanitarian committee were setup within the project communities to advocate on humanitarian issues that affect their communities. Some women whose farms were flooded, after receiving cash have decided to get raw materials from the market to continue with their livelihood.

“NFI/Hygiene kits distributed have reduced the impact of some of the materials destroyed or lost due the flood and improved the wellbeing of beneficiaries. The intervention was conducted a bit late, about 1 month plus after the flood and displacement had occurred. While this was not fault of AAN, we recognized that a timelier intervention reduces the distress of populations and increases the effectiveness as well as the appropriateness of aid assistance for person affected by disaster.

“Due to budget constraints, it was impossible to reach more people even though clearly there were many people who had needs and living in distress as result of the floods. Erratic telecom network in a few areas where beneficiaries were expected to cash out their entitlement resulted into delays.

“One of the identified needs of the beneficiaries was water, but the project was unable to support with water infrastructure such as boreholes because of the slim budget. The project could not also resort to water trucking as the distance would have reduced the effectiveness of the intervention.”

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