Nigeria: Hunger looms in northeastern Nigeria as farmers face Boko Haram (by Ibrahim Abdul’Aziz, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| February 3, 2014

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Umaru Musa lives in perpetual fear. His face shows his stress, and his voice is coloured with disenchantment. The farmer stands and points to the place where he was attacked by armed raiders.

He recalls, “I was on my way to work on the farm with my four children when I sighted five men. Their faces were covered with turbans, and they were wielding their AK-47 rifles.” Recognizing the gunmen as Boko Haram, Mr. Musa hurriedly got his children away before they were spotted.

Mr. Musa farms near the town of Konduga, about 40 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northeast Nigeria. Since 2009, a series of attacks by Boko Haram in this part of predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria has left thousands dead.

Mr. Musa worries about surviving this season. He says that killings of at least eight farmers have occurred at the peak of harvesting. The timing of the attacks could mean food shortages.

Mr. Musa was lucky enough to escape this attack. But another farmer was killed. Mr. Musa says, “They have killed one of our most prominent farmers, Zanna Apolo, who they said had been leaking information to security operatives.”

Many farmers live in fear. Boko Haram gunmen continue to attack them in their fields, so farmers are restricting their activities to areas where they feel safe.

One community leader, who wishes to remain anonymous, says, “The attackers imposed various levies and taxes on the villagers, ranging from one to three million naira ($6,000 to $18,000 US), according to the size of the village.”

Bulama Modu is a leader in this rice farming community. He says, “Boko Haram has prevented farmers from tilling their rice fields this year.”

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, or NEMA, warns of a possible famine. NEMA estimates that, during the last three years, 17,000 farmers in the area have migrated to southern Nigeria, fearing loss of life, property, farmland and livestock.

In some parts of Nigeria, the Boko Haram conflict is causing food prices to rise. Inusa Daudu sells yams at the Mile 12 Market in Lagos. He says that, since Boko Haram started attacking farmers and traders, prices of yams, beans and onions have jumped by up to 70 per cent.

Mr. Daudu adds, “Most of our traders are now afraid to go to the food markets up north. Transporters see it as [a] high risk going to such places as Maiduguri to carry farm produce.”

He continues, “The popular Baga fish market [in Borno State] was attacked one morning by Boko Haram gunmen. Food stores are locked and whatever is inside is perishing. It is not only the farmers that are running away, [but] the food sellers and transporters too.”

Despite a military offensive to stem violence in vulnerable regions, suspected Boko Haram rebels stormed the village of Kawuri, in Borno State, this week. According to the Reuters News Agency, eighty-five people were killed and some women were kidnapped. It may be some time before Mr. Musa finds the peace he desires.

For further reading, see Notes to broadcasters on the effect of conflict on farmers and other rural people (FRW #276, January 2014: More on the situation in northeastern Nigeria is available here: