Destroyed cassava plants in Kogi state following floods in 2012. Photo: Nigerian Red Cross
Last summer, Nigeria suffered its worst flooding in 50 years. Four months on, small farmers in Kogi state, the worst affected zone in the centre of the country, are struggling to rebuild a normal life after their harvest was destroyed. Our Observer reports on the alarming state of the agricultural sector there.
According to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, 1.2 million metric tonnes of foodstuff were destroyed and 40 million hectares of farmland were flooded. Several farmers have asked the government for new seeds and machines in order to recover their losses.
At the end of November, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated around 30 million euros’ worth of humanitarian aid is needed following the floods, and expressed food insecurity issues in several areas. The country was flooded during the rainy season that began in July – the downpours lasted until September. 363 people died and more than two million people have been displaced.
In Nigeria, the most populated African country with 162 million people, the agricultural sector employs 70% of the population and contributes to 33% of GDP. Crops most affected by the floods were cassava, plantain, yam, maize and papaya.

Kogi, a large agricultural region, under water. Photo taken in November. Flickr ShelterBox (Ian Neal)

"They have to start from scratch"

Steve Crabtree is a volunteer for ShelterBox, a disaster relief charity that has, since the end of October, constructed temporary shelters and helped flood victims rebuild their homes. He went on his third mission on January 2.
At the moment I’m in Kogi State, in the small village of Eroko where, almost four months after the disaster, the situation is still very worrying for villagers and fishermen. Most of them have lost everything, not only their harvest but also their homes. Some don’t even have grains to plant. Since they have to start from scratch, they are forced to ask for help from the authorities.
I met six families of farmers in this village who had their homes completely destroyed. Parts of their harvest that they had stocked away in attics were found in the middle of the rubble, and were thus irretrievable. The rest, along with livestock, were washed away by the floodwaters.
Since September, farmers have lost their harvest and have not been able to rebuild their homes. Photos sent by Steve Crabtree on his arrival at the village of Eroko, in Kogi State, Nigeria.
"It will take up to 18 months for certain crops to produce again"

Most of the villagers haven’t had time to rebuild their homes. Their priority is to work the fields in order to feed their families and friends. Before we arrived, some of them slept outside, others were packed into shared dwellings. By providing them temporary shelter, we allow them to concentrate fully on their fields, and try to give them back some dignity.

But it’s impossible to help everyone. Their machines have been broken or washed away, and they need to do everything by hand. Some crops will take up to 18 months before they produce again. On the scale of disasters, I'd say it's massive
Four months after the floods, some residents haven’t been able to rebuild their homes and are sleeping in temporary shelters. Photo by Ian Nea, Flickr ShelterBox.
 “A lot of the villagers lost everything because they were not informed”
The organisation Kowen [editor’s note: founded by the wife of the governor of Kogi state] has done all it can to help us in terms of logistics and getting us to isolated zones. A lot of villagers lost everything because they had not been informed about what was going to happen, and didn’t have enough time to put away and store their harvests. One idea to develop is to use modern technologies to give them warnings [editor’s note: the government plans to distribute 10,000 mobile phones to send future flood warnings to villagers by SMS].