In the final of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke looks at the devastating impact of the 2022 flooding on households across communities in Anambra State and how the state government is failing to prioritise flood management in the state.

Benjamin Nweke clearly remembers the 2022 flooding in his Ossomala community in Ogbaru, one of the local governments in Anambra State.  It is a traumatic experience he prefers not to relive.

It all began one night in September.

He and his family were asleep when he noticed water entering his house. Gradually, he started moving some of his property to an upstairs apartment owned by his landlord, hoping that the water would dry up.

But as days passed, the water level kept increasing and he moved his wife and three children upstairs. He could not carry everything, and soon, the entire house was submerged. Some foodstuffs and other household items were swept away by the flood.

Umundeze Anam Community of Anambra west

“Me and my family stayed in our landlord’s apartment for two months” he recalled.  Within that period, it was difficult for us to feed, we had to depend on help from friends and family members to survive. “Our local market had been destroyed by the flood too,”.

Apart from submerging his apartment, the flood also destroyed his four hectares of farmland where he had planted over 1,200 Yam Tubers, Maize and Cassava, hoping to harvest bountifully. Every night, he woke up, thinking of how to rebuild his life.

His family is only one out of several households in Ogbaru who could not harvest their crops following last year’s flooding that destroyed lives, houses and farmlands.

The body of 70-year-old Sunday Mesiobi, was found dead after his house apartment was submerged by the flood in 2022. Mesiobi, who is said to be the uncle of Arinzechukwu Awogu, the immediate past Chairman of Ogbaru Council Area was a native of Ogbe-Akpoma, Atani community.

A vulnerable people

Flooding in Anambra State is usually caused by overflow of water from major rivers and worsened by climate change with increased and irregular rainfall. While the River Niger affects Ogbaru-which lies along the coastal area, Onitsha South and Onitsha North LGAs, Omambala River affects Anambra West and Anambra East LGAs.

Data from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) showed that Anambra state had the highest number of affected people with 729,046 out of which 526,215 were displaced, with Ogbaru LGA having the largest number of displaced people (204,339) people in the state. In all, more than 2.8 million people in 36 states in Nigeria were affected by the floods.

The proximity of these areas to the River Niger makes them susceptible to flood especially when the rivers overflow their banks, and there have been several incidents of flooding in the areas over the years – with its accompanying devastation of farmlands, buildings, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and churches.

Due to a combination of the flooding and erosion menace, bridges on the Onitsha-Atani Road, Ossomala-Ogwuikpele-Ase Azaga-Ndoni road, especially the Ossomala bridge at Umunnakwo community, have collapsed, forcing residents to depend on boats for inter-community travels.

Umunankwo-Ossamala-Obeagwe-Ogwuikpele Road in Ogbaru local government

Further findings by this reporter showed that the central road connecting Ogbaru, a major food-producing area that hosts the eight viable oil wells in Anambra State, to Onitsha – Atani – Ossomala – Ogwuikpele – Ase Azaga – Ndoni road is in total collapse, making it extremely difficult to move our cash crops from the farms to the hinterland.

With over 600 people said to have lost their lives, 1.3 million people displaced, more than 200,000 houses either partially or fully damaged and more than 440,000 hectares of farmland partially or totally damaged, leading to a catastrophic loss of food access and livelihoods, the 2022 flooding was the worse flooding Nigeria has seen in more than a decade.

Failed promises, no commitment

After the flood wreaked havoc across communities in Anambra state, the state Charles Soludo promised to help flood-affected communities by providing them with relief materials. During his visit to Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Umuoba-Anam and Umueri, the governor was quoted as saying that he would also evacuate households and provide health services for the people.

Sadly, till now, many residents say they did not receive any help from the government as promised. Nwekeagu Shadrach,  Project officer of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) Onitsha, which helped to provide succour to flood victims said that there was no swift response from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), during the flooding.

“They always say they were waiting for the state government to give approval and only responded after the International Organization for Migration (IMO) came into the state to distribute food items to victims., “he said.  “Their response was limited to those who were in IDP camps where they shared Beans, Rice and Garri.

IDPs sleep on mats at Umueri Unity Hall, Anambra East

He explained that In Anambra West and Ogbaru where a large population of the people remained in their communities, there was no help from the government. No medical intervention and no food.

Out of N1.3 billion (1,319,500,000.00) budgeted for Erosion and flood Control in 2022, N97 Million (97,018,967.74) was released In the first quarter,  a paltry N22,000  in the second quarter. By the third quarter, the original budget was revised to N595 million (595,500,000.00) and another paltry N59,000 was released, taking the total to 97,099,967.74, which is 16.3%.

Out of over N1 billion (1,182,280,454.00) budgeted for Erosion and flood Control in 2023, only N157 million (157,222,192.96) has been released In the first and second quarter, with the payment only coming in the second quarter, that is 13.3% of the total budget.  Available reports also show that between 2021 and 2022, the state government received N1.971 billion as its share of the ecological fund. Yet, there are concerns over its utilization in the state.

This August, the member representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Anambra state, Hon. Afam Victor Ogene, blamed the devastating flood and its impact in Ogbaru on the government’s dismal preparedness in addressing the root causes.

Displaced persons from Anambra West

Ogene, who is the Chairman, of the House Committee on Renewable Energy, said that despite seasonal climate predictions and annual flood outlook released by NiMet and NIHSA, both the federal and subnational governments are not showing any commitment to dealing with the challenge.

Last year, $700 million was given to the Nigerian government by the World Bank to help at least 3.4 million people adapt to the changing climate; develop 20 watershed management plans; and prioritise investments that can slow desertification, among others.

However, questions have been raised regarding how exactly the money has been utilized as flooding remains a major challenge, especially across rural communities in the country.

250,000 poultry birds destroyed

Patrick Ugboma owns the automated Matucci Farms located at Agbobo Umuoga Ossomala where he rears birds. As the flood raged, they ravaged his farm, killing about 250,000 poultry birds. The situation forced him to shut down the farm, with about 400 workers losing their jobs.

Dead chickens

This August, Ugboma sent a Save Our Soul (SOS) message on behalf of communities in Ogbru, calling on the federal government to expedite action towards tackling the perennial flooding in the area.

In the message, he said that agriculture, which was the mainstay of the people’s economic life has suffered unduly by the neglect of the community by successive state and Federal governments.

“These perennial floods have badly affected farming activities and further impoverished the people, “he said.  “Most of the communities have become inaccessible due to the decrepit state of the only road leading into all the communities,”.

Deaths and more deaths

In October 2022, more than 70 people died after a boat carrying at least 80 people, capsized in the Ogbaru. According to Chukudifu Mercy, a woman leader in Ossomala, one of the communities in the area, most of the victims were women and children, trying to reach safety after communities had been inundated by floodwater.

Umunankwo Community as the road to their community is flooded

Mercy recounted how she almost joined the boat on the day the incident happened.

“I had already prepared to escape with my family, but when we got to the location where the boat was waiting, I discovered that there were too many people on it and decided to go back home,” she said.

No sooner had she left the location than she got a call that the boat had capsized, killing scores of people on board. 60-year-old Benard Achonu, a resident of one of the communities in Ogbaru lost his wife and all three of his children, aged between two and six.

“I was devastated and did not know what to do, “said Mercy who took in over 15 households to live in her upstairs apartment as the flood raged. Sometimes, they contributed money to buy foodstuffs.

Mercy also recalled how she and other households ate without oil because the community markets were washed away by the flood and it usually took 30 minutes on a normal boat and 15 minutes on a speed boat to get to the nearest market which opens every four days.

“We were paying between N500 and 1000 to get there, people were sleeping, cooking and also selling inside the boat, “Some households lost both the seedlings they stored in their houses, hoping to replant and those they are yet to harvest were destroyed, “she said.

Mercy said that she harvested her Cassava, albeit prematurely before the flood came and prepared it for any eventualities.

Advisory shows hopelessness in tackling root cause

Both the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) have that predicted 32 states, including Anambra will experience severe flooding again in 2023.

Bridge impacted by flood in Anambra

Back home, the Anambra State government, in what it described as flood mitigation measures, asked residents to plan ahead to get their families as well as the aged, the sick, pregnant women, infants and children evacuated well on time to safety nets (IDP camps provided by the state government ) to avoid preventable loss of lives as “timely evacuation is key”.

In an advisory-which the state Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu said was from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), residents were also asked to make concrete plans to secure their household properties and essential belongings as much as possible before the flood actually set in.

Also, they were also asked to make concrete plans for timely harvesting and evacuation of their farm produce and livestock to avoid losses. Nwosu listed high-risk areas to include, Ogbaru, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Awka North, Idemili South, Ekwusigo and Ihiala LGA.

But findings by this reporter showed that the living conditions across most of the camps for displaced persons where the government wants flood victims to relocate to in the event of flooding are poor.  After the 2022 flooding, most households who escaped to these camps were sleeping on the floor and on mattresses with wrappers. They were overcrowded and It was also alleged that the government failed to provide foams in some locations as promised.

Some camps in the state include; Crowder Camp in Onitsha, Unity Hall Umueri, Umuorba Primary School, Father Joe, Umundeze Primary School Ibite Ogwari Central School and Ugbuenne Central School.

Displaced residents of Ogbaru living along the road following their collapsed buildings.

Gboyega Olorunfemi, Principal Consultant, EnviromaxGlobal Resources Limited, Ibadan said that the statement government should focus on flood enlightenment and advocacy, letting people know about disaster kits and providing early warning signal tools/apparatus.

He however said that more focus should be on finding a lasting solution to the perennial challenge of flooding across communities in the state, rather than asking residents to plan to escape to IDP camps.

Daniel Nwabueze, a community leader in Atani, said that it was worrying that despite being a major food-producing area, Ogbaru had suffered years of neglect and abandonment by both the state and federal governments.

He urged the federal government to quickly dredge the River Niger which remains the only way out of incessant flooding in the state while also calling on the Anambra State government to supply yam seedlings and other farming implements to farmers in the area to boost agricultural production.

Meanwhile, back in Ossomala, Nweke is still struggling to get back on his feet again, after the devastating flood.


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In the second of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke was in communities most impacted by the 2022 flooding in Delta State to document the pains and losses of the people and how they are struggling to survive.  He also looks at how the state government is failing to provide a solution to the challenge.

Ebimode Ebowm was in his family house in Odoburu, a community in Patani Local government in Delta State when the flood began exactly a year ago (in August 2022). But because he could not walk, he stayed indoors, on top of his bed and watched as the water level increased.

Soon, the water found its way into the house, a one-room thatched building, constructed with mud and held together by bamboo. The room was gradually being covered; his bed was soaked in water. Still, he remained indoors.

“I was helpless and cried every night for over two months, “recalled Ebowm. “Me and my family could not move to the roadside like others were doing,”.

Ebowm caught a fever because of exposure to cold. He was vomiting, peeing and pooping in the same spot. He could not visit any hospital and had to depend on herbs to get back to normal.

Ebimode Ebowm could not run when the flood came

New Year, Ebowm’s father said that the flood went away with household items and also destroyed foodstuffs. He said it destroyed his Cassava, Pepper and Potato farmlands which were completely submerged.

“We started begging for foodstuff from neighbours who still had some to spare, the water level got to my waist,” said New Year. I stayed in my room with my seven children till the water dried up,”.

His wife, Finere had to go fishing to fend for the family.

Ebowm’s family is only one out of hundreds of households in Odoburu whose livelihoods were destroyed, following the 2022 flooding in Delta state.  According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 78,640 individuals in 12,070 households in Delta State, were affected In the aftermath of the flooding seven local governments accessed.

Ebimode’s family house after the flooding

Since 2012, flooding has been a usual occurrence in Odoburu and other lowland communities which lie on the bank of the river Niger, making it easy for farmlands and houses to be completely submerged.  Before 2012, it was not common but as the intensity of water increased, it became easy for the houses to be submerged.

Worse in a decade

The 2022 flooding was the worst in a decade, with 662 people reported to have lost their lives while over 2 million were displaced. A report by the World Weather Attribution showed that it occurred as a consequence of above-average rainfall throughout the 2022 rainy season exacerbated by shorter spikes of very heavy rain leading to flash floods as well as riverine floods and the release of the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.

New Year, Ebowm’s father

“The devastating impacts were further exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, infrastructure (homes, buildings, bridges), and agricultural land to flood plains, underlying vulnerabilities driven by high poverty rates and socioeconomic factors (e.g., gender, age, income, and education), and ongoing political and economic instability,” the report found.

Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk said that the country lost between US$3.79 billion to US$9.12 billion in economic damage due to the flooding.

Sleeping by the roadside became the only option.

Ebiere Bunu lost her Cassava, Pepper and Plantain farm to the flood which also affected her house. She, her husband and five children constructed a makeshift tent covered with mosquito nets by the roadside where they spent the whole of September and October.

“When it started coming in at first, we raised our beds and other household items. But it soon became serious and crossed window level and we escaped to the main road. My big foam spoilt and we had to squeeze ourselves into one,”.

For Bunu’s family, feeding was not much of a problem at the time because she brought out some Cassava before the water completely took over her house. But her clothes and other property in the house were all gone.

Ebiere Bunu lost her entire farmland to the flooding

Apart from Odoburu, communities in Bomadi, another local government were also submerged by the flooding. Sadly, in the entire period the flood lasted, there was no form of intervention by the government, whether state or federal.

A resident of Bomadi, Fufeyin Zachariah said that In the entire LG for instance, only three bags of Rice came in as palliative from the government. In Kpakiama community, individuals contributed about 7 bags of Rice which were shared and households got 3 cups each.

“It was a mockery on the people who had lost everything they had to flood, “he said. “Apart from the main town, other communities in the LG were submerged by the floods,”. Most of the houses constructed are with mud and thatch and that makes it easy for the rains to wash them away.

He explained that the challenge of flooding in Odoburu and other flood-prone communities is partly a structural issue because most houses are built under the road level and that makes it easy for water to flow into people’s homes.

The flooding surpased the window level at Bunu’s house

“But these days, people are beginning to raise the levels and it requires a lot of sand filling to get the level where water cannot penetrate, “he said.

Massive hunger

As soon as Lucky Rachael, a resident of Kpakiama Community noticed the rain entering her house gradually, she packed some of her things and went to a secondary school in her community.

The flood destroyed the farmland where she planted Cassava and over 500 Yam tubers and plantain. It destroyed her house too. At the school, where other residents of the community found refuge, Rachael said they always saw snakes.

“Yet, some households were managing till it was submerged too,”.  “I escaped to my grandmother’s house with my husband and children,”.

Where Bunu and her family slept while the flood lasted

During that entire period, Rachael and her husband always stayed up at night, thinking of how to start rebuilding her life again. They barely fed daily because there was nothing to eat. Now, she sells Rice in her community while her husband moulds blocks so they can feed. They are rebuilding their house again.

All the farms in Kpakiama and Odorubu communities were swallowed up by the floods and that meant that farmers had to buy food items- like Garri and Rice-which more than doubled in price. As a result, there was widespread hunger because many households could not afford the amounts. Some of them went for days without food, except when NGOs came around to distribute packs.

The traditional ruler of Kpakiama community, HRH. Bunu Abakederimo said that the 2022 flooding cost his people a lot of their fortune. He said that most households are still trying to recover from the devastating impact of the incident.

Traditional ruler of Odoburu, Bunu Abakederimo

He regretted that till now, residents of the community have yet to receive any form of help from the government to help cushion the effect of the flooding on them. This is even after the release of billions of naira by the federal government.

“We only heard on the radio that the government was bringing relief items, but we have not seen anything,” said Abakederimo. “Now, we are beginning to experience the rains again and we don’t know what will become of our houses and farmlands,”.

A review of the 2022 budget for Delta shows that the state government spent more than its budget for flood and erosion control, yet, it was a major challenge in the state.  Out of N307 million (307,700,000.0) budgeted, the government spent N1.7 billion (1,724,583,173.16) in the first quarter, N22 million (22,798,277) in the second quarter, no amount for the third quarter and N958 million (958,445,569.15) in the fourth quarter, taking the total amount spent to 2,705,827,019.81 and surpassing the original budget with N2.3 billion (2,398,127,019.81).

Between 2021 and 2022, the state government received a total of N1.4 billion as its share of the ecological fund. In January 2023, it was given another N123.2 million. Yet, floods wreaked havoc across communities.  Out of N305 million (305,700,000) budgeted for flood and erosion control in 2023, N177.9 million (177,935,075) has already been released in the first quarter.

Disease outbreaks

While there is no data on the number of deaths following the flood, residents say sicknesses such as Cholera, malaria Typhoid and other water-born diseases increased. The rivers were contaminated, yet the people drank from them as they had no other option.

“They bathe and poo inside the same water they drink, said Zachariah. “What is most worrying is that our hospitals are bad, with no workers. In the health centres, there are no drugs and so, many people had to rely on local herbs throughout the duration of the flood,”.

Both the International Rescue Committee IRC and UNICEF reported that cases of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infection and skin diseases rose, following the 2022 flooding.

UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) launched in August 2021 showed that Nigeria ranked second out of 163 countries considered at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of climate change.

Lucky Rachael escaped to her mother’s house following the flooding

The CCRI is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective which ranks countries based on children’s exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks combined with high levels of underlying child vulnerability, due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education.

Titled the Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index, the report found that Nigerian children are highly exposed to air pollution and coastal floods.

It however suggested that investments in social services, particularly child health, nutrition and education can make a significant difference in our ability to safeguard their futures from the impacts of climate change.

Extinction just by the corner

Catholic Bishop of Bomadi, Most Rev. Hyacinth Egbebo said that communities in Bomadi and other locations that are prone to flooding will go into extinction if nothing is done to deal with the perennial flooding issue.

“People will be forced to migrate because it has become a yearly occurrence, he said. “It makes life difficult because water bodies are polluted, even the gas that is being emitted by oil companies comes down as acid rain and with no other option residents drink all kinds of contaminated water,”.

Catholic Bishop of Bomadi says extinction just by the corner

He explained that Bomadi town is usually not badly affected because there are roads which stand against the water finding its way into people’s homes, adding that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which should provide some of the roads across communities is non-existent.

According to him, the way out will be for the government to expedite action in the construction of a dam that will receive water each time it is released from Cameroon and also dredge the river Niger which usually overflows its banks.

In Kpakiama and other communities, residents are already bracing up for another flooding season. They are harvesting their Potato, Cassava and other crops prematurely for fear that they might be destroyed by flooding. Usually, it takes six months after planting before harvesting starts, but in May, the fifth month of this year, the rains came down and crops were being affected, hence the decision to start harvesting early. They planted early too.

The National Emergency Management Agency has already warned residents in flood-prone areas/ states, including Delta to relocate, following the expected release of the dam. Even the state government has warned residents in low-land and flood-prone areas to relocate to higher planes due to expected floods from the release of water from Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam into the Rivers Niger and Benue.

“The Delta State Government will provide support to those displaced from their homes by the rising water level occasioned by the overflow of the River Benue and River Niger,” the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Festus Ahon was quoted as saying in a statement.

In a letter dated August 21, 2023, the High Commission of Cameroon wrote to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs as regards the opening of the dam. However, the Director-General of the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Clement Nze, noted that the dam had been releasing water even before the letter was sent to Nigeria by Cameroon.

With no alternative residents of Odoburu and Kpakiama still drink from the conterminated river

“I got in contact with the manager of the dam and he confirmed that they opened the dam on August 14, 2023, at 10.10 a.m., Nze said. “He said they had been spilling water at the rate of 200 cubic metres per second, which is about 20 million cubic meters per day,”.

Way forward

Flood risk expert, Taiwo Ogunwumi said that the government needs to develop a sustainable drainage system and also improve flood early warning communication by adopting all media outlets including Radio, community campaigns, schools, farmers’ groups, women’s groups and TV.

He also said that the government needs to initiate a mangrove restoration program, most especially the planting of trees along the shoreline of the major cities (Delta, Lagos and Kogi State) and other riverine communities as mangrove has the capability to retain water.

“Cameroon will continue to release water from the Lagdo Dam, hence The Nigeria government must expedite efforts in completing the dam project and work towards building more to save the country from riverine flood disaster,”.





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In this report, Arinze Chijioke takes a look at the devastating impacts of the 2022 flooding in Kogi State and how the state government is not showing a clear commitment to forestalling a recurrence.  This is the first of a three-part series on the 2022 flooding in Kogi, Delta and Anambra States.

Iko Sunday and his family were harvesting Rice on their farmland in Onyedega, one of the communities in Ibaji local government in Kogi State when the flood came last September. He had planted eight basins, hoping for a bountiful harvest.

“We managed to harvest only one basin before the flood took over our farmland, destroying everything, “recalled Sunday.  “Me and my family and four children- could not return home because everywhere had been submerged,”.

From their farm, they escaped to a mountain close to the community where he constructed a makeshift tent with bamboo and palm trees. There, they spent over two months, other households also ran up to the mountain. It was a safe haven.

Iko Sunday escaped to the mountains with his family

While most parts of his Onyedega remained submerged, Sunday always came in with a Canoe to borrow money and buy food which he took back to the mountain.  The flood also submerged his house and most of his property-cloths and household items were gone.  Only a few houses were spared.

A source in the community said that at least six persons died following the flooding.

Sunday’s family is only one out of hundreds of households whose livelihoods were destroyed, following the massive flooding in Ibaji, a littoral local government area in Kogi state, located along the banks of the rivers Niger and Benue, and their tributaries. Till now, several houses across the communities still lay in ruins. Schools and other public buildings were destroyed.

Communities at the mercy of floods

At the start of each harvest season, the rivers overflow their banks, flooding farmlands and houses in Ibaji.  Farmers are put in a precarious situation where they have to begin premature harvest while seeking food and emergency shelters for their families.

Bordered to the east by Enugu and Anambra states and to the South by Edo state, Ibaji- the southernmost part of Kogi is made up of over 100 communities, with more than 90 per cent of the population predominantly farmers.

Usually, the farming communities are cut off from other parts of the state because the floods destroy the major roads leading to the area. This makes the movement of people and farm products hectic and sometimes, nearly impossible, with no intervention from the government.

Road destroyed by flooding

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 19,439 persons across 3504 households were affected by the floods while 13,636 were displaced across eight local governments.  Climate variability and the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in northern Cameroon are said to have worsened the flood situation, resulting in widespread displacements across the country.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimates that 662 people lost their lives while over 2 million people were displaced across 34 of the 36 states in the country.

When the flood reduced in November and he returned home, Sunday borrowed N100,000 and used it to plant Beans.  He said he has harvested some of it and that is what his family has been surviving on.

Before the flood, Sunday was a commercial motorcyclist. Now, he has resumed work but with the only access road to his community damaged, residents prefer to trek long distances to their farms than pay for a ride. He said he had fallen severely while trying to navigate the bad sections of the road.

Another road completely cut off by flooding

Most parts of the over 10 km road leading to Onyedega, Iyano and Echeno, three of the communities that make up Ibaji LGA have been chopped off, making it difficult for cars to ply on them.  Ibaji has muddy soil that retains water.

It is common to see motorcycle riders navigating through the bushes to find their way into the communities. Onyedega is the headquarters of Ibaji.

“Even the price of transport has gone up because of the bad road and the people are finding it difficult to pay, “he said.  “It used to be N1500 to Idah, the closest LG to Ibaji, now, it is N2500,”.

A resilient people, trading by barter to survive

As the flood persisted, most residents of Onyedega switched over to fishing with their Canoes which they often took to Elushi, a local market in Edo State for trade by barter as a means of survival. They were exchanging Fish for Rice, Beans and other food items.

Motorcyclists trying to navigate through the bushes

While some residents escaped to communities in Idah, another local government, others stayed back and made rafters of three fits at the beginning of the flood which they increased as the flood rose.

“On top of the rafter, they prepared a place where they poured sand, put mud so that as it increased, they had a place to prepare their meals and put their bed,” Traditional Ruler of Ibaji, John Egwemi recalled.

He said that some people borrowed money on interest to be able to return the farm. Some collected 1 bag of Rice and promised to pay back with three at the end of the planting season.

Four hectares of farmland destroyed

As soon as Benjamin Offor heard his fence fall around 2 a.m. in September 2022, he and his family- his wife and seven children- started packing their property into a Catholic church where they stayed till November.

Standing in front of his new farm, Offor told this reporter that he could not harvest a single tuber of Yam out of the 800 he planted and five measures of groundnut. His Cassava farm planted across four hectares of land- was destroyed too. As a result, it became difficult for his family to feed.

Benjamin Offor lost four hectares of farmland to the flooding

“Oftentimes, my wife borrowed to buy Cassava Flakes (Garri) and Fish which she sold in our local market, whatever profit she made was what we used to eat, “he said. Sometimes, we went days without food,”.

To be able to plant this year, Offor borrowed money from people he will pay back with interest after he has harvested his crops. He regrets that during the flooding period, the government did not help the community.

“I hope that the flood will not come again so that I can harvest and pay back my loan and cater for his family,”. I am also monitoring to see when my Rice farm and yam tubers and other crops will be ready because we are harvesting earlier than normal in case the floods come again,”.

Govt lacks commitment to deal with flooding

The Kogi State government has severally said it is committed to dealing with the flooding challenge in the state. However, a review of its budget performance over the years shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the government.

For instance, the budget performance report for Q1 2023 showed that out of N101m budgeted for erosion and flood control, N36.9m budgeted for post-flood housing estates and social amenities and N53.8m for procurement of emergency tender for flood-related disasters, no money has been released, according to a Dataphyte report.

Farmers try to push their Tricycle through the road

In 2021, N105.480 was budgeted for the same purpose but only N26.908 million was spent, according to the state’s budget performance report. In 2022, the state government budgeted N106.3 million for flood and erosion control But only N4 million was spent.

What is most worrying is that the state has also failed to utilise its share of the ecological fund. Between 2021 and 2022, the state received a total of N1.3 billion from the fund- N634.67 million and N667.38 million respectively. However, it only spent N30 million on flood and erosion control. In 2023, another 134.1 million was given to the state.

Dredging of River Niger, way out

Egwemi said that over the years, the government’s flood intervention often comes too little too late and only after NGOs have stepped in to provide succour for the people. He said that the people of Ibaji are the real victims of the flood in Kogi state.

“But what you mostly see in the media are reports from Lokoja, we have been largely neglected by the government, “he regretted.  “The first point of call should be to provide boats that will convey the people to highlands after which they settle them in camps and supply relief materials for them,” but you don’t find the government doing this, instead, they bring flat matrasses and food items that are hardly enough for the people,”.

House completely raised by flooding

He explained that Ibaji has never had to wait for the government’s intervention during flooding because they do not care about the welfare of the people and always associate their delays with bureaucratic bottlenecks.

According to him, while the government often claims that it is providing aid to those affected with huge funding from donor agencies, the money hardly gets to these victims.

“Not even one boat was sent by the state government to rescue residents, “he claimed. “Many lives would have been lost during the 2022 flooding had the church not intervened and accommodated everyone, regardless of religion,”.

The traditional ruler also said that he had severally written to the Federal government to properly dredge the River Niger and make it deeper and more difficult for water to overflow and get into communities.

Community members try to construct roads with woods

“It is beyond just throwing sands by the banks of the river because when it rains, it will wash them into the river again, “he said. “After Cameroon built their years ago, they told our government to build one so that when they release water, it will flow into our own dam and gradually released downstream,”.

The traditional ruler said that failing to construct a dam to take in water from Cameroon shows that the government is insensitive to the plight of the people, adding that when constructed, the water from the dam can be released gradually during the dry season for irrigation farming and when the rivers begin to dry for people to travel.

Egwemi has also proposed to the government to build houses on the few highlands in Ibaji so that people don’t have to relocate to Idah or Edo State due to flooding.

Flood risk expert, Taiwo Ogunwumi said that a lot also remains to be done in the aspect of capacity building on the flood preparedness process and quick response for state emergency management staff.

“We must also transition to the use of renewable energy and drastically minimise the emission of fossil which also contribute to the changing climate especially increasing rainfall, “he said.

John Egwemi says dredging of River Niger remains only solution

In Onyedega, some farmers are yet to recover from the losses of last year’s flooding. But the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have already warned that the floods might be more devastating this year. Residents in flood-prone areas in Kogi state have also been asked to relocate as the Lagdo dam is gradually being released.

“Many of them are harvesting their crops early enough to avoid losing them to flooding, said Fr. Leo Idama who resumed In September, exactly when the floods came. He had to escape to the Minor Seminary in Idah where he stayed through November because the floods entered his parish house.

“I had packed my property inside the church which was spared and used the speed boat to escape, “he recalled. Since then, I have not driven my car out of the community because the roads are bad,”.




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On June 11, a Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria Limited burst open, spilling crude oil into the environment in Aleto, a community in Eleme Local government in Rivers State. The spill also contaminated Okulu River, the only source of drinking water for five communities, threatening residents’ health and affected farms. Arinze Chijioke was in Aleto to capture the level of impact. 

A typical day in Aleto and other surrounding communities in Eleme, which occupies the Western end of Ogoniland land in Rivers state, begins with residents working on their farmlands and young men casting their nets into the Okulu River.

Farming and fishing have been the predominant sources of livelihood for residents of these communities for decades. The river-which extends to over five communities, is always a beehive of activities.

Families living along its banks always come out to relax in the evening hours. Apart from fishing, residents of the communities also drink from the river.

But that was just before a Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria Limited, operator of the NNPC/SPDC/Total Energies/NAOC Joint Venture burst open, spilling oil into the environment and the Okulu River.

The point from where the spill started

Now, nobody gets close to the river; it is almost like a ghost town. Many households living close to the river are relocating to avoid the health risks arising from inhaling crude. Some residents have fallen sick as a result. Fishermen have lost their livelihoods. Crops damaged.

In 1993, Shell ceased active exploration and production in the areas covered by Oil Mining License 11, following the unresolved issues between the government and the host communities of Ogoni, which fuelled resistance and restiveness among the people. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by environmental rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa organised protests of around 300,000 Ogoni people against the company.

However, pipelines are still active, including the Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP), which traverses Ogoniland and is used to transport crude from oil fields in other areas through the communities to export terminals.

As it happened

It was on a Sunday morning in June, Gomba Oluka, a resident, recalled. He had woken up and perceived the smell of crude, and when he came out, he saw that the river was gradually being covered by oil sheens, dead fishes, and other sea creatures mired in sticky crude.

“I could not draw close because of the heat. My eyes started hurting me,” he said. “I returned home and thought we could manage, but it became worse, and my wife and children could not breath well”.

Oluka says the spill impacted on his farmland

The next day, Oluka and his family escaped to Aleto town, where they spent three weeks

“By the time we returned, my sources of livelihood were gone because I fish and feed from the river, “a distraught Oluka said. “My cassava and plantain farms close to the river have also been damaged as a result of the spill, even the economic trees”.  

At least five communities through which the river runs, including Aleto, Ogale, Agbonchia, Onne and Akpajo have been impacted as a result of the spill and more than a month (since June) after the incident occurred, the acrid smell of crude is still fresh in the air, the water surfaces still covered by oil sheens.

Till now, the volume of oil spills has not been determined. Communities’ members say this is not the first time Aleto is experiencing an oil spill. However, it is the biggest in terms of impact.  

An environmentalist whose non-profit, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, (YEAC Nigeria), monitors spills in the Delta region,  Fyneface Dumnamene described it as the worse in Ogoniland in the last 16 years after the 2007 crude oil spill in Bodo community.

“Nobody from the company has come to find out how we are surviving following the spill,” Oluka the fisherman said. “I now buy bags of water because our water source is gone, and our boreholes are not even working due to years of exploration. I also buy Fish, all of these things we used to have,”.

Nobody has accepted responsibility for the latest spill. But community members say its equipment failure as the pipeline is hardly maintained or renewed by the company. Every year, several hundred oil spills are recorded in Nigeria, causing significant harm to the environment and putting human lives at risk, but oil companies operating in the region often blame pipeline vandalism by oil thieves or aggrieved young people in affected communities for spills, which could allow the companies to avoid liability.

While there are currently no legally binding regulatory penalties or fines for oil spills in Nigeria, the oil company whose facilities have been compromised are always responsible for the clean-up, regardless of the cause.  The company is also required (by law) to close off/stop the spill within 24 hours of being notified of an oil spill in its jurisdiction.

Working to prevent spills?

On its website, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) claims that it demonstrates a commitment to improving the quality of life for all those who live and work in the Niger Delta by listening and responding to issues and concerns of host communities of the joint venture operations and facilities and cleaning up all spills from its facilities, irrespective of the cause

It also claims that it continues to undertake initiatives to prevent and minimise spills caused by theft and sabotage of its facilities in the Niger Delta. In 2017, it reported sustained on-ground surveillance efforts on SPDC JV’s areas of operations, including its pipeline network, to prevent incidences of third-party interference and ensure that spills are detected and responded to as quickly as possible.

“We continue to sustain our regime of daily over-flights of the pipeline network areas to identify any new spill incidents or activities,” it said. “We have also installed state-of-the-art high-definition cameras to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets and have implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure”.

But an environmental activist, Johnson Frank, told The ICIR  that while the company tried to stop the spill days after it occurred, no clean-up has been undertaken so far.  

“We are really angry because the spill has cost the community a lot, and the environment has been damaged,”.

Shell spokesperson Michael Adande said that the Joint Venture and other stakeholders have commenced an investigation to unravel the cause of the incident.

However, Frank does not think any ongoing investigation or negotiation is yielding results because the spills are still visible more than a month later. He says it shows a high level of irresponsibility and disregard for the people and their environment by the company.

“What is most worrying is that the company has not provided water for the people, and they are destroying the one we are using to survive, “he said. “They are only exploiting us and do not have regard for our wellbeing.”.

Health threatened

Martha Egbe, a resident of the community, has been stooling and vomiting ever since she ate a fish she bought from the local market to prepare soup for her family.

“After using it to cook, I felt crude in the soup and had to pour everything away, “But it had already got into my system and destabilised me, “she recalled. “Now, I am taking some drugs so I can regain my health”.

Egbe, who also suffered shortness of breath, lost her Cassava farm as a result of the spill.  She said that the community has recorded several illnesses and even deaths in the past due to oil spills.  

“When I dig the ground, I discover that my Cassava tubers are rotten. It is the same thing for households who have farmlands close to the river”, said Egbe, who was part of those who protested, demanding immediate action from the company.

Crude on debris from the river

She spoke of how she noticed the spill that Sunday morning on her way to Port Harcourt for a meeting and quickly called some young men in the community who mobilised to the location where the pipeline burst open.

“Now, our young men are without jobs because their source of livelihood, which is fishing, has been destroyed.

 “We cannot even go to our farms again because there is nothing to harvest” she explained. 

Joy Sunday owns mini provisions store close to the river, and her customers are usually those who come to relax and others who used to sell fish caught from the river.

“That is what I have been using to survive and train my children. But the spill has sent many of them away from the community, and that is affecting my income. Some days, I don’t make sales” Sunday told The ICIR.

Ogoni, a land still waiting for clean up

Since 2010, there have been 11,309 documented oil spills in the Niger Delta Region.  Out of this number, 2619 have been recorded within Shell’s jurisdiction, according to data from the website of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). 

In 2022, the agency recorded a total of 596 oil spills, resulting in 18,855 barrels spewing into the environment. Shell alone had 160 spills and 1186 barrels.

In 2006, the Nigerian government commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct an environmental assessment of Ogoniland, the epicentre of spills with over 261 communities. Its report released in 2011 criticised Shell and the Nigerian government for 50 years of pollution, recommending the creation of a USD 1 billion Environmental Restoration Fund for clean-up.

The government announced a clean-up in 2016 after the relaunch of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP).  But activists like Morris Alagoa, head of field operations, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), say that both clean-up and remediation have been very slow.

In 2020, an international coalition of civil society organisations (CSO) consisting of Amnesty International, ERA/FoEN Europe and Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands released a report detailing the extent to which the government and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant have implemented UNEP’s recommendations.

Titled No Clean-Up, No Justice: An Evaluation of the Implementation of UNEP’s environmental assessment of Ogoniland, nine years on, the report also confirmed that progress has been slow, lacking transparency and accountability as HYPREP has only focused on a fraction of the total area-67 sites, covering a surface area of 943 hectares-identified by UNEP as needing clean-up and remediation, with only a few sites appearing to follow the required remediation procedures.

This is even when the Ogoni Trust Fund received the first payment of US$10 million from the oil industry in 2017 and further payments in 2018 and 2019, bringing the total to US$360 million.

Alagoa adds that the community entry issues and stakeholders’ disagreements also affect the pace of work in Ogoni. He said there were distrust and misunderstanding regarding the scope of work and what needed to be done.

“Some community stakeholders were seeking explanations, especially as to how it affected their communities,” he said. “They were either trying to ensure they were not shortchanged or for their benefits as per the entire project”.

The programme manager, Portharcourt Office of ERA/FoEN, Kentebe Ebiaridor says that the latest spill has a significant impact on the ongoing clean-up efforts in Ogoniland because there ought to be a decommissioning which is the strategic approach to deactivating a project or facility from service as required by the UNEP report while the clean-up is ongoing.

“Sadly, they have boycotted that process, and that is why we have spill almost every week in the region, which continues to increase the poverty rate of the people and reduce the economy of the communities and also threaten their health”.

Ebiaridor said that the Nigerian government must start thinking about alternative sources of income and energy outside of oil which should remain in the soil, especially since it has impacted lands, water, air and livelihoods.

NOSDRA accused of deliberately delaying report of the spill

Members of the affected communities and environmental activists are accusing the NOSDRA of deliberately refusing to conclude and release its Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) report from the community more than a month ago.

On its website, the agency states that a JIV must (by law) be carried out as soon as possible after a spill has been identified and containment measures are taken. The JIV involves oil company representatives, community representatives, and appropriate government agencies visiting the oil spill site to agree on the spill’s cause, impact and scale.

After the visit, the resulting JIV document is signed by all parties present and forms the basis of any legal proceedings or compensation claims. But it has been more than a month since the spill was reported. Yet, NOSDRA has not concluded its JIV.

The Trans-Niger Pipeline

When contacted, Zonal Director of NOSDRA, Ime Ekanem said, “We are yet to conclude the JIV, as at Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15, what we were doing was the delineation and mapping of the impact areas”.

Reacting, Fyneface of the YEAC said that NOSDRA’s prolonged silence on the oil spill calls to question the agency’s capacity to still be trusted with the responsibility of oil spill detecting and response.

“It is worrisome and unacceptable that till now, NOSDRA has not been able to synergise with community people, Shell and other stakeholders and agree on the cause of the devastating crude oil spill in Eleme,” he told The ICIR.

He also said that the Eleme spill portends what is to come for host communities in the Niger Delta because obsolete pipelines would continue to burst and spill crude into the environment. This, according to him, is despite the coming into force of the Petroleum Industry Act (2021).

“The Indigenous companies buying the divested facilities of the International Oil Companies are inheriting liabilities with meagre resources, technology and manpower to manage the facilities and address incidences of oil spills when they occur,” he said.  

Shell refuses to react to spill

In order to get Shell to respond to questions regarding the spill, this reporter contacted three workers at the company, including Osilaollor Dabor, Sunny Abuede and Babalola Akinpelumi. But all of them refused to speak on the matter, insisting that they were not in the position to respond.

However, Shell’s spokesperson, Adande was quoted as saying that they were working closely with a multi-stakeholder Joint Investigation Visit team led by NOSDRA, in collaboration with Rivers State Ministry of Environment and community representatives, as the investigation into the cause and impact of the incident progresses.


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In the final of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke, Elijah Akoji and Ekemini Simon look at how State and Federal government-prioritized spending on Child Nutrition can turn around the sad tales of child Malnutrition in Northern Nigeria and thus contribute to helping Nigeria achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 of Good Health and Well-being.

The United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF dietary diversity project aimed at addressing infant malnutrition in select states in Northern Nigeria came to an end in 2021 even as the United Nations said that US$396 million is urgently needed to prevent a widespread hunger and malnutrition crisis and scale up humanitarian action in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.

Experts opine that if the prevalence of Malnourished Children must be addressed in Yobe and Kano States, the government must not allow it in the hands of international partners alone but must prioritise child nutrition funding.

“For Yobe State, the key reason for the prevalence of Malnourished Children is insurgency which results in the massive displacement of people and their source of livelihood,” said Edem Edem, the National Coordinator and Founder of Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE), a Non-Governmental Organisation that works on humanitarian responses, especially in Northern Nigeria. “Even in Kano State, the government must not allow issues of child nutrition in the hands of international partners alone. There is a need for prioritized funding,”.

Edem noted that most projects of international partners are time bound hence their effort to address the challenge of child malnutrition may be thwarted if the government fails to follow through with adequate funding.

“Analysis of budgets by these States and the Federal Government shows that impressive budgetary provisions are being made for Child Nutrition, however, there is no adequate release of funds needed to enhance the support international partners give which can turn around the prevalence of child malnutrition in Nigeria”.

Analysis of funding of child nutrition by the government of the two mentioned states and the federal government reveals effort yet gaps that must be improved upon.

Yobe State Zero Funding on Child Nutrition

Analysis of policy documents, budget and audited financial statements of Yobe State revealed that the State has only made little effort to address the nutritional concerns of children in the State.

The State currently does not have a policy on food and nutrition. Besides, its budgetary plans only end in the books. For instance, analysis of the approved budget for 2019 through 2023 reveals that it was only in 2020 that the State made budgetary provisions for Child Nutrition.

The government provided “Foodstuff/catering materials supplies for Nutrition for under 5 Children/ Lactating mothers at N55m. Yet, checks into the audited financial statements for the fiscal year revealed that the money was not released.

In subsequent years in 2022 and 2023, Yobe State’s budget that came close to the need was “Grants to Communities/ Vulnerable/Private – Support for Nutrition Activities. 2022 was N80m while N365.3m was appropriated in 2023. The financial statements for these fiscal years are yet to be published thus unknown whether funds were disbursed for the programme.

Analysis of State government spending to address the challenge of drought which could have checked the obstacle experienced by the UNICEF home-gardening project reveals where the government needs to improve.

Although the Yobe State Government budgeted N443.2m in 2021 and N540m in 2022 for a project tagged “Boreholes and other water facilities for irrigation activities (Climate Change) Lava Irrigation scheme”, checks to the financial statements of the State show that no amount was ever released. The state however spent N108.3m for other water projects in 2020. Other years from 2019 through 2022 had no releases.

Kano Impressive Plan but Zero Funding 

The government of Kano State over the years has made splendid plans to address the problem of child nutrition, but most of the government contribution is on paper.

First, in April 2016, the State government established the Kano State High-Level Committee on Food and Nutrition chaired by the Secretary to the State Government.

As a result of the UNICEF dietary diversity project, there was a buy-in by the State Government. This led to the development of the Kano State Multisectoral Strategic Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (KN-MSPAN) 2019- 2023.

According to the immediate past Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, in his foreword of the Plan, the KN-MSPAN is designed to address the problem of malnutrition, which has been most devastating among young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Beyond the policy, nutrition has been prioritized in the budget of Kano State between 2019 and 2022. However, only N64 million was appropriated specifically for child nutrition and this was in 2021 and 2022.

The few budgetary appropriations on child nutrition are; Active case findings of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and provision of treatment of which N2m each was budgeted for 2021 and 2022.

There was also the ” Provision and Distribution of Supplementary Food to Children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM). N20m was budgeted in 2021 and N40m in 2022.

Yet, checks into the audited financial statements of Kano State show that funds were not released for the projects.

FG spends 0.27 Percent of Budgeted Funds on Child Nutrition

The federal government in the last five years of 2019 through 2023 budgeted a total of N41.63bn for child nutrition through the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, checks into the Appropriation Acts of the years under review have revealed.

Data obtained from the Open Treasury Portal, a Federal Government portal that provides public access to collated data on government spending at the federal level and for Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) reveals that only one item received funding among the seven budgeted programmes.

The project, “Empowerment of Vulnerable Group (Youth and Women) in Selected Livestock Production Value Chain in Pastoralist Communities in the North-East, North-West North Central Zones livelihood improvement, Food Nutrition and Security” received N56.5m disbursement of funds for the project only in 2021 and 2022.

This project, supervised by the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science was reportedly executed by a General Merchant and Trading Company, Promex Multi-services Limited and

Besides the expenditure, although the federal government did not budget for Consultancy for Child Intensive Nutrition in 2022, the federal government through the National Social Investment Office made an 80% Payment of the Contract for the project to Splash Visions Limited in March 2022 at N57.08m.

The federal government spending on the two projects of Child nutrition amounts to N113.58m. This will imply that the federal government only released 0.27 per cent of the funds it budgeted for child nutrition within the period under review.

Experts’ View on UNICEF’s Nutritional Projects 

A lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Imo State Polytechnic, Owerri, Patrick Ogbonna has recommended solutions to some of the challenges experienced by the dietary diversity project in Kano State and the home-gardening project in Yobe State.

Ogbonna who is also the Assistant National General Secretary of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria recommends that the use of modern technology in food preservation and processing of dietary food is the key to wriggling out of the challenge of accessibility to water or drought.

He said ” Since inaccessibility to water sources and sometimes drought has been the key challenge to the two projects, what is needed is that these communities need to have modern methods of food preservation using modern technology. Now, we have the solar system. They need food storage facilities powered by solar. So, during their bumper season, they collect the recommended food and preserve it.

“Another is processing the products to a form that can last longer than the usual supply.  Recently, we have micronutrient powder. They can be stored for a longer period than their natural fresh state.

“We can have what we call nutrients concentrate. These recommended foods can be processed and made concentrated and they now add them into the usual meal that the children consume.”

The Nutritionist who noted that it would be foolhardy to expect support from international partners to solve the menace of child nutrition called on the government to own initiatives geared at addressing child nutritional concerns and most importantly provide adequate funding against child malnutrition.

He said the government at all levels should provide credit facilities to the locals for the acquisition of some of the food processing machines which will help with preservation. Beyond that, he asked that the government in the area mostly affected provide solar storage facilities and also put mechanisms in place to ensure food that will address child nutritional concerns are prioritised.

What is more, Ogbonna stressed that the government must make a conscious effort to address the problem of insurgency in the Northern region of Nigeria noting that when people continue to be displaced, child malnutrition will continue to rise. He called on the government to improve its security on organisations that volunteer to help in the combat against child malnutrition.

This story was produced with the support of Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.



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In the second of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke, Elijah Akoji and Simon Ekemini look at how the home-gardening, driven by men is tackling malnutrition in Yobe State and the challenges of the project.

It is 10 am in Kalifadi, a community in Nguru Local Government Area (LGA) of Yobe State, Northeast Nigeria.  Usman Bello is attending to his vegetable farm where he planted his Spinach and Lettuce together with Harun, one of his sons behind their house.  While he weeds the farm, his son plugs some vegetables.

When he is not hanging out with friends, Bello is nurturing his backyard vegetable garden. He often carries his three children along and as they work, he tells them the importance of vegetables in maintaining good health.

Four years ago, in 2019, Bello lost one of his children to malnutrition- an imbalance in dietary intake-after he could not afford the money to provide an adequate diet.  At five months, his wife had already stopped feeding Yahaya with breast milk and resorted to grounded Wheat missed with water.

Usman bello in his Spinach farm

“Because we did not have the money to afford milk, meat, egg, fruits and vegetables, her body lacked enough energy, protein and nutrients, likewise my son, when he was six, “said Bello.

In 2017, the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations reported that Yobe in Nigeria’s northeast, had the highest number of malnutrition cases in Nigeria. Between 2017 and July 2021, at least 10,165 children died from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the state.

This year, the United Nations said that US$396 million is urgently needed to prevent a widespread hunger and malnutrition crisis and scale up humanitarian action in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.  The UN estimates that 2 million children below five in these three states are likely to face wasting this year, the most immediate and life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Having a low income affects the production of milk and the act of breastfeeding which requires more energy from the body. If a mother eats little or less in a day, the quantity and quality of her milk are not affected.

That is the case for many women in Yobe State who often end breastfeeding even before the six months period recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that all babies be exclusively breastfed after which they should start eating a diversity of solid foods.

Three years after his son’s death, Bello was trained in home-based farming and introduced to residents of Kalifadi and Bubari, two communities in Nguru LGA to help combat the issue of malnutrition and provide a health start-up for infants by the UNICEF.

They planted vegetable seedlings and also learned how to practice poultry to help improve the dietary intake of their children. Nutrient-rich vegetables are part of a variety of foods recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to enable children to grow as they should. These vegetables were always lacking from the diets of Bello’s children.

Anike Alli-Hakeem, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria said that home-based farming is intended to help prevent and reduce cases of malnutrition in the state and help households have access to a more diverse diet for their children and the mother.

Bello’s son working with his father in their home garden

For a mother to breastfeed exclusively, she needs all the support that she can get, “she said.  “Beyond home gardening, the men also help with other house chores so their wives can rest and eat well to be able to produce milk. They are referred to as breastfeeding males,”.

Bello said that taking part in backyard farming remains one of the best decisions he has ever taken and the best support he has ever got because it has helped improve the health of his family, especially, his children.

“They are stronger now because I ensure that most of our meals have vegetables, “he said. “My hens have reproduced and that means more eggs for our meals,”.  It has also been helpful to my wife who is currently breastfeeding our last child,”.

Apart from feeding his family, Bello also sells vegetables and eggs at the local market in his community and with what money he earns, he takes care of other needs in the family.

Children’s health improved

Like Bello, Idris Aliyu does home gardening in his Bubari community. Before he started, his two daughters Hajara and Faiza suffered malnutrition severely.

“At the primary healthcare centre in Bubari, doctors told me and my wife that we were badly feeding our children and that we needed to improve their diet, “he recalled.

Sadly, with no money to afford the appropriate diets, Aliyu kept feeding his children with corn and millet which were staple diets. He thought he was going to lose them.

With the introduction of the home-gardening practice, Aliyu regularly feeds his wife and children with vegetables and eggs from the hen he got, all of which used to be scarce commodities for his family.

Drought challenges project impact

Despite its success so far, both Bello and Aliyu say that drought- which occurs when there is a significant rainfall deficit that causes hydrological imbalances- remains a major challenge confronting the project in Yobe State which is characterized by a single long dry season followed by a shorter wet season.

Idris Aliyu in his Vegetable farm

Agricultural production in the state, like other states in the North, is mainly rain-fed and naturally prone to vagaries of rainfall variability. The State is located in the Sudano-Sahelian vegetation zone, which is characterized by a hot and dry climate for most of the year.

During years of abundant rainfall, households experience bumper livestock production. However, during the years with rainfall deficit, crops die.

“Our major problem is during the dry season, “Bello said. “The vegetables behind my house are green now but once the rain goes, they begin to die because we cannot access water and there is also the challenge of heat”.

This story was produced with the support of Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.



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In the first of a three-part series, Arinze Chijioke, Elijah Akoji, and Simon Ekemini examine the success of UNICEF’s Dietary Diversity Project in Kano State, Nigeria. The project, which aims to improve the nutritional status of children under five by increasing the diversity of their diets, has shown promising results.

In 2018, Hadiza Garba, a resident of Bichi local government in Kano State, discovered that her son, Haruna, was not growing or putting on weight at the expected rate. He was unusually irritable and always had slow energy levels and tired more easily than other children.

Haruna was eventually diagnosed with malnutrition at Rasheed Shekoni General Hospital in Dutse, Jigawa State. Malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients, or impaired nutrient utilization.

The doctors determined that Haruna had been fed a diet that was too low in protein. Between six and eight months of age, he should have started eating a variety of foods, including milk, meat, egg, other proteins, fruits, and vegetables. However, he was already being fed tuwo, a category of solid meals made from rice, corn, or millet flour with a range of soups, often without any protein.

Some goats belonging to Habiba Abdulrahaman

Hadiza Garba was unaware of the importance of a balanced diet for her son’s health. Her story is not unique. Far too many children are not fed at the right time or with the right frequency and dietary diversity needed to grow and develop to their full potential.

The burden of food poverty

In low- and middle-income countries, two-thirds of children under five, or 478 million, experience food poverty. This means that they are not fed the bare minimum number of food groups they need in early childhood.

In Nigeria, one in three children is stunted and one in ten is wasted. This means that they are not growing and developing as they should. Close to 19.8 million Nigerian children are undernourished, giving Nigeria the highest burden of stunting in Africa and the second highest in the world.

A 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey report found that Kano State had the highest number of malnourished children in Nigeria. This was attributed to poor infant feeding practices, such as low dietary diversity and minimum meal frequency. The report also found that children in Bichi and Sumail local government areas were the most affected.

Garba could not afford the Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD) or treatment for her son, Haruna. She brought him home and resorted to self-help. The MAD is a binary indicator of infant and young child feeding practice that assesses the quality and sufficiency of a child’s diet between the ages of 6 and 23 months, apart from breast milk.

“The lack of money always caused quarrels between me and my husband at home,” she said. “Sometimes, we even went without food in the house. I did not have any job.”

Solution at last

Garba was helpless and had to borrow sometimes to buy eggs and other diets for her son till 2019 when UNICEF implemented the Dietary Diversity Project to address malnutrition in children aged 6-23 months in Kano State.

While it was inaugurated on October 23rd 2018 by the former governor of Kano state, Abdullahi Ganduje, the Dietary Diversity project started in September 2019 and was implemented through a partnership with the government, traditional institutions, and local NGOs (Kano Emirate Council Committee on Health and Human Development (KECCoHHD) and Society for Women Development and Empowerment of Nigeria (SWODEN)).

Habiba Abdulrahaman

Elhadji Diop, Nutrition Manager, UNICEF Field Office Kano, said that the objective of the project was to improve Infant and Young Child Nutrition which is a primary factor in under-5 malnutrition through the promotion of dietary diversity among children aged 6 to 23 months in the targeted LGAs of Kano state from 28% to 50% by 2020 which would contribute in the long-term to the reduction of malnutrition.

Under the project, 1,080 caregivers of children aged 6-23 months of age received three chickens each for poultry farming to improve access to animal-source foods. In total, 3,240 chickens were distributed to 1,080 caregivers.

Additionally, three goats were also distributed to each of the 72 community support groups women chosen by the communities and created in the two LGAs. Each group had 12-15 caregivers. A total of 216 goats were therefore distributed.

As she received her share, Garba constructed a Goat Pen and a Poultry where she kept them for reproduction. As her hens laid eggs, she boiled some and gave Haruna and her other children. She also sold some of the eggs and took care of other family needs.

“As the goats reproduced, it increased the milk available which I used to also feed my children and also help other women whose children grew without enough breast milk,” she said. “I also sell them in the market and earn more money,”.

Caregivers also received seeds to grow vegetables such as spinach, and tomatoes and agricultural extension workers visited weekly to teach them how to take care of their livestock and vegetable farms.

“A total of 4,320 vegetables and fruits seedlings were also distributed to the 1,080 caregivers of children aged 6-23 months across the two LGAs at 4 seedlings per caregiver,” Diop explained.

Overall, the intervention has helped to ensure that Garba’s children had a more varied and nutritious diet. Now, she is on good terms with my husband because we eat well and there is money for other household needs.

Extending the goodwill

As soon as Habiba Abdulrahaman, a resident of Kofar Kudu received her male and female goats and chicks to enable them to reproduce, she gave them to her daughter who had given birth to a set of twins at the time and that helped her in providing the necessary diets for them after she (the daughter) stopped giving them breast milk.

Hadiza Garba in her goat Pen

“I also made sure that she fed them with meals that had Vegetables as they grew older and that has helped them maintain the acceptable Diet,” she said. “I am happy to have benefitted from the project,”.

Like Garba, Unmi Musa’s daughter was diagnosed with Malnutrition when she was two. After it was managed at the Sumaila General Hospital, with support from friends who bought food for her daughter, Unmi returned home, worried about how she will get the necessary diet her unborn children will need to survive.

Thankfully, she was selected and benefited from the dietary project. Her goats and chickens have reproduced and she ensures that she feeds her children with at least 5 eggs whenever the chicks lay ten and diversifies their meals after six months.

“I also eat the egg and we have not had any case of malnutrition again,” Musa, who is also a resident of Kofar Kudu said.  “I sell the goat and earn more money for the family,”.

Project setbacks

Among the challenges that were experienced during the project were access to water-especially during the dry season- which is the main challenge in sustaining home gardening. To mitigate that, Diop said that community gardens were planted close to water sources.

To deal with the challenge of disease outbreaks in chickens and goats, the project linked the communities with veterinary services to sustain animal husbandry practices.

Unmi Musa, one of the beneficiaries

“Leveraging on the influential role of the institutionalized Emirate Council has been key to mobilizing communities and fostering buy-in on home gardening and animal husbandry practices,” said Diop.

Overall, Diop said that there is an improved consumption of animal-source foods amongst children aged 6-23 months state and communities have started buy-in to sustain homestead food production.

“The project’s midline assessment, conducted in 2022, indicated improved availability of diverse food within households, including animal source foods, “he said. “Evidence-informed advocacy has led to buy-in at the state level as cost estimates from this project have been used to inform the development of Costed State Government 5-year Multi-sectoral Plan of Action on Food and Nutrition,”.

This story was produced with the support of Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.







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The UNICEF estimates that at least 729,000 people were affected and 526,000 displaced in Anambra State, following last year’s flooding.  In Anambra West and Ogbaru towns where farmlands and houses were completely submerged, the Latter-day Saint Charities–an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, partnered with the Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency to provide relief for poor and vulnerable households.

Onyia Benjamin, a farmer in the Umudora Anam community in Anambra West, was the first victim. The flood started from his four hectares of farmland and destroyed over 1,200 Yam Tubers, Maize and Cassava.

“It was in September 2022, I could not recover anything,” he said. “Back at his home, water entered into my living room forcing me to move some property to an upstairs apartment owned by my landlord,”.

“Some foodstuffs and other properties that I could not move quickly were swept away by the gushing floods,” Benjamin further explained.  “Me and my family stayed in our landlord’s apartment for two months until the flood receded,”.

Validation of Selected Beneficiaries in Anambra West. (Credit: Christianaedith Oyahagha)

The Nigerian Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said that last year’s flooding cost Nigeria between $3.79 billion to $9.12 billion in total direct economic damages.

Anambra West and Ogbaru are along the banks of the river Niger. While Anambra West is surrounded by both River Niger and the Omambala River, Ogbaru is located along the banks of the River Niger and each time these Rivers overflow their banks, they are emptied into the communities, leading to the destruction of livelihoods.

The Nigerian government claims it approved national emergency flood preparedness and response plans to mitigate and reduce the impact of floods, with relief materials reaching at least 315,000 displaced persons across the country. However, Benjamin and other community residents say they did not benefit from it.

“Sometimes, me and my family went without food and had to depend on help from friends and family members to survive,” he said. “I stayed up some nights, thinking of all that I had lost and how to recover,”.

“This February, I was in my house, after the flood had receded when a group of people from the Justice Development and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Onitsha came and said they wanted to register me for a project that is intended to reduce the impact of flooding on impoverished and vulnerable communities,”. I did not pay attention to them because I have written my name severally for help and nothing happened,”.

Funded by Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS Charities), an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ efforts to provide succour for families of all nationalities and religions and offer hope for millions of people around the world, the project involved a two-tranche unrestricted cash transfer and a one-time non-food item (NFI)assistance.

JDPC Project officer, Nwekeagu Shadrach addressing at IDPs Ogbaru LGA Secretariat

The implementation was led by CRS, the nonprofit does not work directly with communities, but partners with nonprofit organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need. Anselm Nwoke, the organization’s partnership and capacity-strengthening coordinator in Nigeria, said that the assistance came after the Archdiocese of Onitsha requested support to respond to the flood victims in Anambra.

In the state, 4 communities in Anambra West and Ogbaru were selected to benefit from the project, including Umudora and Umuikwu Anam, Ossomala and Umunankwo respectively. While about 700 households were captured during the registration, 350 were selected, including Benjamin’s family.

“After they convinced me, I gave my details and they took my picture and two weeks later, I was told that I had been selected to receive the financial support, “Benjamin said. “I went and saw my name and could not believe it because I thought it was one of the numerous scams,”.

An account was opened for Benjamin and two weeks later, he received the first tranche of payment and subsequently, received the remaining two tranches. “With the money and bought food for my family, buckets and other households’ items that the flood had washed away,” he said.

To select the beneficiaries, Anselm said that the NGO worked with the communities and church partners, to develop vulnerability criteria, including female-headed households, pregnant and lactating mothers and very elderly people among others.

Okoye Emeka, a staff of JDPC who worked as an enumerator for the project said that the registration process involved house-to-house visits where data was collected after which final selections were made, noting that many community members were repulsive because they thought it was one of those government scams.

He explained that flooding was particularly worrying because it further worsened the situation of many households who were still recovering from the flooding of 2012. At least 76 people who were trying to escape from the flooding died after their boat capsized in Ogbaru.

“After 2012, we have consistently experienced flooding that only impacts farmlands but not houses,”. Sadly, the government hardly comes to the rescue of affected households, they always come to collect names but never come back,”. “Even the roads that were destroyed, it was the villagers who came together to fix them,”.

A proof that the church cares

Director of JDPC at the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Rev. Fr. Edwin Udoye said that the flood assistance project gave the Catholic church a facelift by changing the perception that the church was only concerned about asking for money and not the welfare of the people.

“The church shared in their pains, there was no segregation in the selection process, both traditionalists and members of other denominations benefitted,”. “They felt the presence of the church in their midst”.

Director of JDPC at the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Rev. Fr. Edwin Udoye

He noted that the CRS had provided initial funding support to the Archdiocese for immediate intervention during the flooding, part of which was used to procure food items for victims and Cassava stems to enable the people to go back to their farms.

“Some of those whose houses were destroyed fixed them with the money, some of them also invested it back into their small businesses. “An estimated 4019 individuals from the 350 households have been touched through the emergency assistance project,”.

Hunger reduced

As the flood worsened, the woman leader of Ossomala community, Chukudifu Mercy took in over 15 households who lived in her upstairs apartment. Sometimes, they contributed money to buy foodstuffs.

“Severally, we ate without oil because the community markets were washed away by the floods and it takes 30 minutes on a normal boat and 15 minutes on a speed boat to get to the nearest market which usually opens every four days,” she explained.

“We were paying between N500 and 1000 to get there, people were sleeping, cooking and also selling inside the boat, “said Mercy who harvested her Cassava, albeit prematurely before the floods came and prepared it for any eventualities.

She however said that most members of her community cannot contain their joy as the assistance has given them reasons to live again and return to their farms. She said it grossly reduced hunger as households bought food that will sustain them before they start harvesting this year.

“Some households lost both the seedlings they stored in their houses, hoping to replant and those they are yet to harvest were destroyed, “she said. “They were not anticipating the flood”.

Project officer for JDPC Onitsha Archdiocese, Nwekeagu Shadrach said that the flood assistance project came when the people needed it the most and brought back lost hope.

Stakeholders’ engagement at Umuikwu and Umudora Anam Community in Anambra West

“The flooding and its attendant consequences had psychological effects on the people who wondered how they would survive and where the next meal will come from,” he said. “It did not look like help was coming from anywhere,”.

A community leader in Umuikwu Anam, Alfred Edozuno said that he had never seen such a promise made and kept since he was born, adding that it came at a time when members of his community had given up hope of receiving help from anywhere.

“The assistance has further proven to him that God exists and that he cares for his children through the church,” he said. “It has also shown me that the church does not only preach love but also practice it,” They wiped away the tears from our eyes because what happened to my community was indescribable,”.

“I lost my farmland and house to the floods and could not also harvest my Cassava and Yam Tubers, they became food for fishes in the water,” he explained. “When the JDPC team came, I did not want to attend to them because several people have come to my community to collect names of residents with promises to provide relief materials,”.

Edozuno said that the money helped to put food on his table because it was difficult to feed his family after the flood. With the money he received, he bought buckets and other household property that were carried away. He is also back on the farm again, having used part of the money to buy Cassava and Potatoes for replanting.


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In 2022, Nigeria faced devastating floods, it was the most destructive the country has experienced in a decade. Infrastructures, crops, and houses were damaged, leading to decimated livelihoods and the displacement of several households. This report examines how humanitarian initiatives helped victims rebuild their lives in Kogi State.

Friday Egwuma, a resident of Onyedega, one of the communities of Ibaji town in Kogi State and his family had gone to bed when he noticed water gradually flowing through the main entrance door, into his living room. It was past 9 PM on September 15th 2022.

“Quickly, I came out and started removing some of my property,” he recalled. “That night, I and my wife arranged chairs and placed a mattress on top of it, so our children could sleep,”. “I stayed awake till dawn,”.

“The next morning, the water increased and my house became uninhabitable,”. “I took some of my things to an upstairs apartment belonging to the traditional ruler of the community and begged him to allow me to pack them there and also stay with my family, he agreed,”.

An Enumerator, Hope Akwu registering a beneficiary at Onyedega

Other members of the community were also accommodated in the apartment.

In the aftermath of the flooding, Friday lost his Rice and Yam cultivation to the flood disaster. He had planted 12 basins of Rice and 3000 Tubers of Yam, hoping for a bountiful harvest.

“Soon, it became difficult for me to feed my family, we spent two months living outside our own house, “he said. “Although the community leader brought food, it was hard enough because of the crowd,”.

“As days passed and help did not come from anywhere, including the government that promised to support families affected by the floods, I gave up hope and resigned to fate, sometimes, we slept without eating, “Egwuma further explained.

Onyedema was one of the worst-hit Nigerian communities after the river Niger overflowed its banks, flooding houses and farmlands last year. Climate variability and the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in northern Cameroon are said to have worsened the flood situation.

Experts say that the 2022 flooding was the worse in a decade, with 662 people reported to have lost their lives while over 2 million were displaced. Even Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk said that the country lost between US$3.79 billion to US$9.12 billion in economic damage due to the flooding.

In August last year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency sounded the alarm, urging state and national emergency management agencies to intensify response mechanisms as massive flooding was expected in 19 states of the country between August and October.  Sadly, there were no efforts to evacuate residents in Onyedega and surrounding communities that are most vulnerable to flooding.

Traditional Ruler of Ibaji, Dr. John Egwemi says his people are full of praise for the the LDSC and the CRS for the project

While available reports suggest that over 50,000 people in Ibaji–a coastal town were displaced and three persons killed by the flooding, residents say the casualty figure was more.

Hope restored

“Sometime this February, as I sat in front of my house, a team from the Justice Development and Peace Commission of Idah Diocese came and said that they wanted to register me for a flood assistance project, “said Egwuma. “I had doubts but I gave them my details and they left,”.

The project, known as the Emergency Assistance for People Affected by the Flood in Nigeria’, was implemented by Catholic Relief Services, an agency of the U.S Bishops with funding from the Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS Charities).

After two weeks, beneficiaries were selected, including Egwuma and bank accounts were opened in their names. Each of them received money in three batches to be used in the purchase of food and non-food items.

“I thought I was dreaming when I received the first transfer and then, the second and third ones came, “he said. “I was able to provide food for my family with the money, I also bought some rice seedlings and chemicals for my rice farm, including jerricans for water, and other household items that were washed away by the floods,”.

Anselm Nwoke, CRS’s partnership and capacity-strengthening coordinator in Nigeria explained that the flood assistance project was funded by Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS Charities), following a request from the Dioceses of Idah, which the NGO had been working with, to support them to respond to the flood.

“The main focus of the project was to enable people to recover from the effects of the flooding and it is part of our emergency response at the CRS,” he said. “But first, we responded with our private resources before we started seeking further assistance.”

Catholic Bishop of Idah Diocese, Most Rev Anthony Adaji says the project has restored lost hopes in Ibaji

CRS worked with community heads and church partners to select the most affected people, some of which includes female-headed households, pregnant and lactating mothers and very elderly people among others.

Like Egwuma, Ujah Japheth and her children escaped to Idah between October and November 2022, following the flood in her community which destroyed her house and the farmland where she cultivated 15 basins of Rice and 1600 Yam Tubers.

“It started gradually in August and I endured, but in October, it became serious and I ran to my sister’s house,”. She was helping to feed me because I could not do anything else,”.

Now, Ujah has gone back to her farm after she was selected and received flood assistance. With the money, she bought 400 Tubers of Yam and Four basins of Rice seedlings, Chemicals, water cans and cooking Utensils which the floods took away.

“I have also paid back some of the loans I took for my family’s upkeep while the flood lasted, I am happy I was part of the beneficiaries because I did not know how to get money after I lost everything,”.

Director of JDPC in Idah, Fr. Cyril Adama said that the benefitting households were chosen out of over 540 that were registered across three communities in Ibaji, including Onyedega, Iyano and Echeno in Odeke.

He said that they were selected using a participatory process, including clear targeting criteria and a scoring system based on the households’ vulnerability status index, after which the electronic platform, CommCare was used to facilitate the selection process.

Ogala Joseph is back to his Rice farm, thanks to the money he got from the flood assistance project

Community mobiliser/enumerator at JDPC, Ogwu Ibrahim said that at least 1500 individuals were positively affected. 

Catholic Bishop of Idah Diocese, Most Rev Anthony Adaji said that the project has restored lost hopes in Onyedega which has experienced recurrent flooding without government intervention. He said that it shows how much the church cares about the welfare of the people.

Preparing for the floods

Ogala Joseph’s Rice had already started to germinate when the floods came and destroyed everything. He had planted 10 basins and 2000 Tubers of yam, hoping for a bountiful harvest.

“My house was submerged and almost everything inside it was destroyed, I only managed to take out my bed with which my family slept on the main road for two months,”.

“Within that period, life was difficult for me and my family because we did not have money to feed, “he said. “Severally, my children fell sick due to cold but I could not afford to treat them,”.

After the JDPC team took his data, he kept hope alive that he will be selected. And thankfully, he was. “When the money came in, I rushed and bought a Canoe for N50,000 to be able to access my farm and other areas in case the floods come again,” Joseph said. “I also used the money to buy food items and chemicals for my Rice farm,”.

A lifesaver

Ceceilia Ukwo started working on people’s farms with her seven children after the floods destroyed everything she had. Sometimes, they gave her food and money. But it was not enough to keep her family going.

She had lost her husband years ago and so, the bulk of the responsibility of taking care of the home rested on her shoulders.  Three of her children were attending the Holy Angel Nursery and Primary School. She borrowed to pay their fees.

Ceceilia Ukwo used part of the assistance to buy chemicals for her Rice farm and clear her debts

One day, as she worked on her farmland, she received an alert but she did not know what it was. When she returned home and showed one of her neighbours who told her she had been credited by the JPDC under the flood relief fund project–she had been selected as a beneficiary.

“With the money, I paid back the loan hanging on my neck, “she said. “I also used it to buy Jerricans for fetching water for the house and Chemicals for my farm,”.  “I am really happy because I did not know where to get the money”.

Traditional Ruler of Ibaji, Dr John Egwemi described the project as giving his people a sense of belonging and hope to live again after the destructive floods. He said that each time he returns home, his people ask him to thank the CRS and the LDSC for bringing back their joy.

“They have continued to express their appreciation to the non-profits for robbing smiles on their faces”. “Most of them are investing the money back into their farms with the hope of making profits, “he said.



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In Nigeria, many women suffer ailments resulting from the use of firewood and data from the World Health Organization estimates that over 98,000 of these women die annually as a result.  Some of these women-especially those who are into palm kernel processing-are aware of the implications. But with no support to adopt more energy-efficient methods, they risk their health to earn a living. Arinze Chijioke reports. 

Inside an open space roofed with corrugated zinc sheets in the Garki area of Enugu State, Southeast Nigeria, smoke constantly goes up and disappears into the horizon. Metal drum containers are holding water and Palm kernel Sludge, the residue obtained from oil palm mills after the extraction of oil from palm nuts.

Nwani Catherine stands with her hands firmly holding a long, wooden stick which she uses to stir the metal drum containers, one at a time. At intervals, she uses her drenched shirt to wipe the beads of sweat on her face.

Catherine pours water into one of her drums

The heat from the three-stoned open cooking fire is unbearable and leaves her wheezing badly from firewood smoke, tears welling up in her eyes. But she has to stir for hours to get oil from the Sludge which companies come to buy and further process into detergent, soap, perfume, cream and other products.

This has been her routine since 2017, two years after her husband died and left her with the burden of catering for their four children.

Before she was introduced to the business by a friend, Catherine sold foodstuffs inside Ogbete, one of Enugu’s main markets. But it was not profitable. Sometimes, she made a profit of N200 after each day’s sale.

“I felt I needed another business to be able to take care of my children, “she said.  It is what money I earn from here that I pay their fees and our rent”.

Initially, when she started the business, she was buying the Palm Kernel sludge directly from artisanal and small-scale oil palm mills and processing it further to get other products. But with time, she could not afford to buy directly. Now, she works for a group of women who own the business.

Every day, at 6:30 am, Catherine leaves her house to ensure that she gets to the location before 7 am. Sometimes, she treks. Most of the time, she boards a bus. At the location, she separates the Sludge which often comes in different bags into 12 drums after which she sets fire to them and begins to stir.

“The Sludge is usually hard when poured into the drums, “she said. “I have to go round and stir each drum for hours to get the liquid content and also ensure that it does not burn”.

At intervals, she ambles to the stream close to the location where she gets water used in the processing.  After processing, the oil stays at the top of the drum while palm kernel cake- another by-product stays at the bottom.

The next morning, she begins her day by scraping the drums for the Cake which can be used as feed for swine and also serves as manure routinely used by smallholder farmers. It is also used to replace up to 66 per cent of chemical fertilizers in palm plantations.

She and other women who are in the processing business arrange the cakes into different bags and help load them into vehicles, earning N50 per bag. For each drum processed, the women earn N250. That is N3000 for 12 drums and N1500 for six.

Palm kernel cake used as feed for for swine and fertilizer for crop production

Whenever there is a scarcity of Palm kernels, the women go for two weeks and sometimes more without working and that affects their income. They leave the location between 5-6 pm daily.

Catherine often feels weakness in her bones and pain in her chest whenever she returns home after each day’s work. The smoke from the fire disturbs her eyes. But she rarely takes medication.

“I don’t want to get used to it and always spend my money on drugs, “she said.  “I have allowed my body to get used to the process. For my eyes, I buy Yeast and eat enough vegetables. I also drink soda water whenever it blocks my breathing”.

Africa is hardest hit

The use of open fires and solid fuels for cooking remains one of the world’s most pressing health and environmental problems, directly impacting nearly half of the world’s population- more than 3 billion- and causing nearly four million premature deaths each year, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, some 950 million people- about 81 per cent of the population- are said to rely on wood and charcoal for cooking, a number which is estimated to grow to 1.67 billion by 2050.

Research also indicates that the highest death rates from cooking fuel pollution occur in poorer African countries, with smoke inhalation from indoor and outdoor cooking causing between 1.6 million and 3 million deaths of children in the continent yearly.

Among the health issues arising from smoke inhalation In developing countries, including Nigeria include respiratory infections, eye damage, heart and lung disease and lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and bronchitis which are significant causes of death in both children under five and women.

Of the 4 million global deaths recorded annually, 27% are due to pneumonia, 18% from stroke, 27% from ischaemic heart disease, 20% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 8% are from lung cancer, according to data from WHO data.

Kelo Uchendu, Policy Lead of YOUNGO, the UN Framework Convention on climate change, (UNFCCC) Children and youth constituency, said that apart from being one of the drivers of death, especially in Africa, open fire cooking remains one of the major causes of unsustainable tree harvest and is responsible for about 20% of black carbon emission.

The training process

Before Duru started the business in 2020, she was trained for two months on how to pour the chaff into the drums and what quantity to ensure that it does not waste as you turn. She was also trained on how to add fire to the product and what quantity of water to add and how to stir.

“If you pour too much water, for instance, it becomes hard for you to stir, “she said. “Some people learn everything about the business in one month while some catch up in three months,”.

When she resumed, she worked for one week and stopped because she could not bear the hit from the drums and the stress that comes with the processing. But she came back again, determined this time to work and earn money for herself and her family.

Duru stirs her drums of palm kernel chaff

The mother of five had worked as a caregiver in a private nursery school in Enugu where she was earning a meagre N5000 as salary every month.  But It was hard enough to meet her needs.

“Sometimes, I was not paid my salary in full and sometimes, they often withheld it, “she recalled.  “And it always resulted in quarrels. “I could not save up or invest in anything”.

But in her current job, she gets paid daily and earns more than three times her salary at her former school.  Depending on her strength, Duru earns between N1500 and N3000 daily. She also gets N500 as money for feeding daily.

“With the money I make, I am able to support my husband who is a commercial bus driver in taking care of the family, “she said.

Since she started the job, Duru has not fallen sick because she has become used to the business. She takes Sodar water because of the smoke she inhales Sometimes, I spend almost the entire day here.

Duru comes out here as early as 7 am to be able to meet up with her daily target. On arrival, she begins by scrapping the drums for Palm Kernel cake which she arranges in small bags.

Where the women fetch water used for production

Usually, when she returns home, exhausted, she lays down on a cement floor to be able to regain her strength. She said that several women had also stopped working after some time because they could not cope with the stress that comes with it.

Like Duru, Ngozi Godwin got into the processing business in 2020. Before then, she was into petty foodstuff trading inside Ogbete, Enugu’s Main Market. But the money she makes was hardly enough for her to pay bills back home.

A mother of five, she also worked as a cleaner as a government officer. But her monthly salary of N20,000 was often delayed. She always transported herself to the office, spending the little she had.  Sometimes, before she gets paid, she spends everything on household needs.

“It was hard for me to save, “she said. “All of that frustrated me and I had to find an alternative, especially as someone who had children,”. My sister who had been in the business for more than 20 years now introduced me to it.

Godwin pours water into the drum

She explained that although the processing business is stressful, it is more profitable and she can support her husband who is a commercial bus driver in taking care of the family. It also allows her more time to do other things for herself.

“I am often exhausted whenever I return home, but I must come the next day to work because I have to make money,” Now, I can save from the N3000 I earn daily”.

No efforts to invest in sustainable approaches

At the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26), African countries, including Nigeria renewed their commitment to transitioning from polluting cooking fuels. They were also determined in their call for an affordable energy transition.

However, Uchendu said that the Nigerian government often looks at the bigger picture without realistic timelines when talking about energy transition, and climate policies on strategies.

“The government is failing to understand the different small scale grass root innovations and how local women-especially those into Palm Kernel processing- can be supported with more sustainable approaches to business, thereby increasing their income, “he said. “Their activities are hardly recognised”.

He noted that these women often resort to fuelwood at the expense of their health and the environment because they lack the funds to adopt more energy-efficient methods in their processing activities.

“Energy transition has to be a coordinated effort, from the bottom to the top and this means supporting women with cleaner and healthier alternatives which will cut down the time and resources used, that is lesser input and more output, “he said.  Private entities can also come in to invest in these women and boost productivity,”.

Catherine and other women remain hopeful that more energy-efficient methods will be introduced to make their work a lot easier and less harmful to their health.


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