One of the greatest threats to Nigeria reaching her desired level of food security and self-sufficiency is flooding. Crops get damaged due to water-logged soil and livestock are lost in the process, leading to delayed harvest and food shortages. This ultimately results in increase of food prices as supply cannot meet demand, and this may then result in relying on imports to meet potential food shortages. According to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), in 2019, the one-day rainfall of more than 160mm in places such as Bauchi, Abakaliki, Calabar, Awka, Benin, Gusau, Ondo and Warri between May and September resulted into flooding which submerged hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland and destroyed crops leading to huge losses. As a result, the crop production level for this season was greatly affected.
In September 2020, available reports reveal that farmers in Kebbi lost produce worth about N5 Billion, with more than 450,000 hectares of rice plantation submerged in the lowlands, and over 50,000 hectares of millet, sorghum, maize and sugarcane also destroyed in the highlands. The farmers most affected by this are rice farmers; although rice required a great deal of water to grow, extreme flooding can damage the crops rather than help the crops grow. This is important especially as there are high tariffs on rice imports, with the view of reaching self-sufficiency in rice production. With the high risk of flooding in some of these areas, if there is no solution provided, it will be difficult for Nigeria to reach her goal.
Although NIMET has predicted ‘near normal’ rainfall this year, there is always a possibility of flooding, and although there are organizations that provide relief such as the National Emergency Management Agency, there isn’t much to be said for preparation in the event of a flood.
However, there are ways to use the flood as an advantage in rice cultivation, taking a cue from the Vietnamese, the Malaysians and Coscharis farms as well according to Jude Elile, CEO, Earnwise Development Company Limited. In the lowland areas, the soil can be used to create ridges or trenches with soil in the middle for planting. When the floods come into those areas, the water goes around the crops, however, inlets are created to allow in the floods if needed before closing it, and when the water is not needed any longer the inlets are closed up again. The same principle applies in mechanized farming however; this method requires a huge amount of capital.
There is, however, another method of managing floods and that is to leave the lowland areas and move to the upland areas using irrigation farming. When you set up in the upland regions, if there is flooding, it doesn’t get there, but the rice will still need to be fed with water. The same method can be used in the upland areas, creating bulwarks and bringing in water to fill them up, thereby creating your own system. The water is needed in the first few weeks of planting, not just to provide nutrients, but to also choke up the weeds that may grow with the rice crops and choke the seeds. It is therefore important to have an in-depth understanding of the type of rice that is to be cultivated so as to know how best to utilize floods.