By Dipo Olowookere
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has warned that repeated attacks against farmers risk aggravating the food crisis in Northeast Nigeria.
In a statement issued today, the council said farmers must be protected so they can cultivate their lands and return to their families alive.
NRC noted that it was horrified by the killing of at least 12 farmers in Kalle village, Borno State, Northeast Nigeria over the weekend.
“The level of violence registered lately in Northeast Nigeria is alarming. Farmers have been easy targets. These attacks risk making people too afraid to cultivate their land and may worsen the existing food crisis,” said Anja Riiser, area manager for NRC in Maiduguri.
“Farmers should be able to cultivate their land and return to their families alive,” she added.
The latest attacks against farmers underscore the vulnerability of rural communities, even as the authorities are encouraging displaced people to return home to rebuild their lives.
“We were on the farms when about 15 armed men surrounded us,” Haruna, who escaped the attack, told NRC staff. “They took the men to a tree and started slaughtering them like animals. They repeatedly said they will not allow any of us to harvest the crops we cultivated this year,” he added.
At least 1300 people are reported to have fled after the attacks and many have taken refuge at a displacement camp in Maiduguri. Families and friends of the slain farmers said they are too scared to return to their farms.
“My children and I stood by as they killed my husband. I cried and pleaded for their mercy, but they didn’t listen. I will never return to the farm again,” said Indagiju, who fled the village.
The attacks on farmers risk worsening the existing food crisis in Northeast Nigeria. It is estimated that 2.9 million people are facing acute food insecurity in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno where violence has been on the rise. Crops have been destroyed and food stores looted, while farmers have either been killed or forced to flee their fields.
Large parts of Borno state may experience emergency levels of food insecurity in the coming months, according to the latest forecast by Famine Early Warning Systems Network, with elevated risk of famine in several areas.
“There is an urgent need for measures to protect farmers against attacks and looting, so they can safely cultivate their lands and feed their families,” said Riiser. “However, these measures to protect farmers should not translate into a restriction of their movements.”
It is believed that an estimated 7.7 million people in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe now depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival and conflict will restrict the otherwise favourable main season production prospects, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
NRC is currently providing life-saving assistance including food and livelihood support to help stabilize the living conditions of over 130,000 families displaced from their homes in northeast Nigeria.
In 2018, NRC distributed seeds and farming implement to over 4,000 households in several farming communities in Borno Stateto help them rebuild their lives as farmers.
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