The Borno State government has renewed calls on the international community and humanitarian organisations to help avert the looming food crisis in the state, following the devastation caused by Boko Haram terrorists.
The state government was reacting to the report by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Doctors without Borders, yesterday, which raised the alarm over the impeding food crisis in the state.
The report had expressed concerns over the low level of agricultural production, rising cost of food commodities and an increasing level of hunger as witnessed, particularly in the North East, where the Medecines Sans Frontiers (MSF)have released a Report indicating a risk of famine without urgent intervention
“The situation is a large-scale humanitarian disaster…. There is a vital need to have a food pipeline in place to save the population that can be saved. We are talking at least about pockets of what is close to a famine,” it said.
The MSF further noted that “severely malnourished children are dying in large numbers in northeast Nigeria, the former stronghold of Boko Haram militants where food supplies are close to running out.”
The Borno State commissioner for information, Dr Muhammad Bulama, while reacting to the report, said, “It is true that we are facing food crisis due to the devastation suffered because of years of attacks by the Boko Haram terrorists. This is in spite of the numerous efforts by the state government to address the situation.”
Bulama further confirmed that farming activities had not taken place in Borno for the past three years, as towns, villages and communities had been destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists.
“But it does not mean that the state is not doing anything, we are doing our best, you know that at the end of every month, government usually utilises its allocation of federal revenue on taking care of IDPs after paying workers’ salaries,” he stated.
While describing the situation in the state as grave, the commissioner said, “I want the world to understand that Nigeria has the third largest number of IDPs in the world after Iraq and Syria.
“But it is interesting to note that about 80 per cent of the IDPs in Nigeria are in Borno; that shows the scale of crisis in the state.
“The IDPs are not just staying in the camps. Presently, about 1.5 million IDPs are living with the host community in Maiduguri, the state government to a reasonable extent is also taking care of them as well.”
“Our resources are overstretched by this reality, we need help, we need assistance, we are calling on men of goodwill and countries, the international community to scale up the assistance,” Bulama emphasised.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday, the sole administrator of the Borno Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine and Agriculture (BOCCIMA), Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, said the Boko Haram insurgency had virtually crippled all agricultural and commercial activities in the state.
According to him, the state had lost its position as the second largest commercial city in the North since 2009.
He decried that the huge agricultural project worth billions of naira embarked on by the Lake Chad Basin Development Authority to boost farming in the state was abandoned and later destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists.
“There are great potentials from agriculture in Borno, we have the land, we have the human resources to contribute to Nigeria. Borno can feed the whole world.
“For example, go to any trade fair in the country, you will see some natural resources that are from Borno on display. The state can supply a great percentage of wheat to Nigeria from Marte, Yero. Abadam area also has great potential in the production of rice while in Biu, Hawul, Kwaya Kusar and some parts of Gwoza, you will find sorghum.
“Baga can also produce and supply fish that can feed the world. But unfortunately, apart from Biu, none of these places is accessible because of the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, which has created fear in the minds of people over impending food crisis in Borno,” Ashemi stated.
The BOCCIMA administrator, however, noted that the administration of Governor Kashim Shettima has been making concerted efforts to ensure that food is available for the masses through massive agricultural investments in the past one year.
Also speaking on the effect of insecurity on farming activities in Borno and environs as well as food production, the Borno State chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Musa Ali, reiterated that Boko Haram insurgency had virtually crippled farming activities in the state in the past five years.
He said that even this year, farming activities may not take place due to the current military operation across the state, pointing out that apart from the fact that most of the towns were not accessible and habitable, it was also very risky to venture out to the farms.
“Farming is almost impossible because most of the small-scale farmers who have fled their farming communities and are currently taking refuge as IDPs here in Maiduguri, the Borno capital, while many of them were killed by Boko Haram in separate attacks.
“Even if government wants to help them, it will be difficult because of the vulnerability of the area, though many farmers had benefitted from various loan schemes to enable them find alternative ways of surviving on their own.
“We are very optimistic that soon, all the villages and local government areas will be liberated and all our farmers will go back home and continue farming,” Ali added.
Speaking in the same vein, the Borno state Commissioner of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammad Dilli, said the state government had invested over N15billion in agriculture as part of efforts to revolutionise the sector.
He said that Governor Shettima had laid a foundation for smooth take off of all relevant state agricultural products and that the state government had imported about 500 rice mills from Thailand as part of its efforts to boost rice production in the state.
According to the commissioner, the mills would be distributed to farmers’ cooperative associations to improve the quality of local rice production in the state as soon as the insurgency is over.
Dilli further explained that the state government had also purchased about 1,000 tractors that would be distributed to peasant farmers across the 27 local government areas of the state.
“Plans are underway to provide appropriate infrastructure to enhance fish production in the state. The state government has embarked on construction of about 40 artificial dams in 50 communities across the 27 local government areas to boost fishing activities.
“We are geared towards promoting sustainable food production and providing technical and social support to the farming communities in order to improve their living standards. Some of the communities to benefit include Bama, Baga, Damboa, Kwaya Kusar, Minor, Minoc, Benishaik, Jakana, Magumeri, Auno and Kala Balge, among others.
“Our farmers in Magumeri and Damboa are also good producers of groundnuts. We already have about 550 hectares of farmland on which to grow crops in view of the relative peace in the state now,” the Commissioner explained.
Also speaking on the issue of food crisis in Borno state, the chairman of the Borno Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Fishermen and Sea Food Dealers (NUFAS), Alhaji Muhammad Gamandi, said fish farming had also become impossible because of the Boko Haram insurgency. He said local fish farmers before the crisis, were producing about 1.5 million metric tons of fish per annum, but lack of access roads to Lake Chad, Alau Dam and Marama Dam in Biu, the major challenges before the fish farmers, had compelled them to depend on local fish ponds and hatchery in their homes, thus reducing yield.
He added that the union had successfully registered over 1 million members which include fish dealers, fishermen, fish farmers, sellers and processors across the 27 local government areas of the state.
The NUFAS chairman further said that the union, under the programme, had received fish farming implement, among them 200 units of charcoal oven for fish smoking, fish drying trays and isothermal containers for storage of fresh fish among others.
Gamandi also explained that the federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, had donated about 1000 fishing nets and boats to boost the fishing business of the union.
“The Ministry also, through the department of fishery, had promised to provide our members with 500 fingerlings, ice box for fresh fish storage and fish feeds to our members,” he added. LEADERSHIP Friday’s checks in Adamawa State also showed that the state government had ordered for 109 tractors from China out of which 50 were delivered.
The tractors, according to the state commissioner of agriculture, Ahmadu Waziri, were for the 21 local government areas of the state.
He explained that the gesture of the state government was meant to strengthen agricultural production in order to augment the shortfall the state recorded in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency that discouraged farmers from farming.