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Fighting in Sudan leaves farmers struggling to get crops planted

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A war between military factions in Sudan is putting at risk the production of staple crops this year, farmers in several states say, threatening to drive the African nation deeper into hunger and poverty.

Reuters spoke to more than a dozen people including farmers, experts, and aid workers who reported delays in planting crops such as sorghum and millet, partly due to a lack of credit from banks and the high prices of key inputs such as fertiliser, seeds, and fuel.

Four of the farmers Reuters spoke to said they may not be able to plant at all before heavy rains expected this month, the traditional window for planting.

The worsening conditions for farmers suggest a looming hunger crisis could be even worse than the UN and aid workers have forecast.

In May, the United Nations said it estimated that the number of people going hungry in Sudan would rise to 19.1 million by August from 16.2 million prior to the conflict, which started in April.

Shortages of key staples — exacerbated by the looting of warehouses in cities like the capital Khartoum — would further worsen a hunger crisis that has been steadily building in recent years.

It could also cripple livelihoods and deprive Sudan of foreign currency needed to import basic commodities, as cash crops such as sesame and peanuts accounted for $1.6 billion in export revenues in 2022, according to central bank figures.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 65% of Sudan’s population of 49 million is engaged in the agricultural sector.

While U.N. experts say it’s too early to officially declare a famine in Sudan, four farmers told Reuters they believe the situation is already heading in that direction.

“Peanuts should have been sowed. People should have started to grow sorghum. Until now, our preparation is zero,” said Abdelraouf Omer, a farmer and union leader in Al Gezira state, a key agricultural region in central Sudan that hasn’t seen fighting. “We think we’re threatened with a famine.”

FAO said last week it had started emergency distribution of sorghum, millet, groundnut, and sesame seeds, and hoped to navigate “complex security and logistical challenges” to deliver enough to cover the needs of 13-19 million people.

The U.N. World Food Program said it would continue to analyse the situation over the next six months and after the planting and harvest season.

Omer said he feared it might now be too late to plant, a view echoed by three other farmers.

Although fighting had not directly affected their farms, a central problem was a lack of financing and unfulfilled promises for credit or in-kind support from banks, Omer added.

As fighting between Sudan’s army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a large paramilitary faction, that broke out on April 15 tore through the capital Khartoum, banks were looted and had to limit operations.

Though most agricultural areas of Sudan are relatively calm, supply chains centred on the capital have been widely disrupted.

Some warehouses for inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides have been plundered, according to eyewitnesses.

In El Gezira, farmers have been struggling financially for years as Sudan has sunk deeper into an economic crisis.

They now face challenges paying back loans in order to get new funding, said farming cooperative leader Mohamed Balla, adding that just a small proportion of land had been prepared for planting.

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NASENI lauds Gov. Idris for allocating land for Agric. Institute construction

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The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, (NASENI), has commended Gov. Nasir Idris of Kebbi for donating 10 hectares of land to the agency for the construction of an Agricultural Machinery Development Institute in the state.
The Director of Procurement of the Agency, Dr Muhammad Aliyu, gave the commendation after formal allocation of the land to  NASENI by officials of state government on Sunday in Birnin Kebbi.
Aliyu, who thanked Idris for providing the land at a choice area, explained that the  project would commence within the next two weeks.
H e assured that all engineering, architectural, civil and electrical designs had been completed.
”We have the bill of quantity ready and every approval needed from the government for the project has been obtained,” he said.
The director affirmed that funding for the project had been captured in the 2024 appropriation bill already assented to by  President Bola Tinubu.
”We will start with what we can accommodate this year and we will continue next year.
“We have funds to begin the basic infrastructural construction,” he assured.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Alhaji Dahiru Zaki, who led other state government officials to hand over the 10 hectares of land to NASENI, explained that the land was earmarked for the agency in 2022 for the construction of the agricultural machinery center.
”The machinery center is to serve as a Regional Office for the production of agricultural equipment and we are happy that today, we have handed over the land to NASENI.
“I believe that Kebbi was selected in the North-West region because of its huge potentials in agriculture, particularly rice production and other crops,” he said.
Zaki expressed appreciation for the governor’s  kind gesture to the agency, tailored to provide job opportunities to youths and further bolster agricultural production in the state.
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Lassa Fever outbreak at Army Hospital sparks response 

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The recent outbreak of Lassa fever at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, prompted a collaborative response with Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) and Federal Ministry of Health.

Prof. Reuben Eifediyi, Chief Medical Director, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, and lead of the response team, said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), confirmed that Lassa Fever was responsible for the death of three health workers and one patient at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, (44 NARHK).

Four of the six blood samples from suspected cases at the hospital sent to the Bayero University Teaching Hospital, Kano, were confirmed for Lassa Fever.

While 25 close contacts of all the cases were being monitored and were placed on prophylactics (preventive medication). 

Eifediyi said that the outbreak resulted in the deployment of a specialised emergency response team, which was made up of experts in Lassa fever management and infection prevention.

He said that though there were initial challenges, including inadequate resources and staffing, the response team successfully contained the outbreak through real-time laboratory testing, isolation, and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Real-time PCR testing was conducted, leading to the identification and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Three confirmed cases were successfully treated and discharged, with no further fatalities, “ he said.

He said that the incident underscored the importance of effective partnerships and rapid mobilisation of expertise in addressing public health emergencies.

He said that health workers at the hospital went through training on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), measures.

He recommended structural improvement, staffing, training, equipment provision, and hygienic measures.

He also made recommendations for capacity building and the establishment of a biosafety molecular laboratory at the hospital.

 Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents or contaminated persons.

Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, chest pain.

In severe case, there are unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and other body openings.

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Why some airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace – NAMA

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Many airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace because of difficulties encountered in communication with air traffic controllers, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) confirmed on Sunday in Lagos.

Its Managing Director, Mr Farouk Umar, told newsmen at Ikeja that the agency was consequently eyeing more investments to rejuvenate the communication systems to match emerging air traffic trends.

He explained that there was the need to improve the weak communication system, which had been demand-saturated as the industry grew and more routes were opened.

He said huge investments were required of the Federal Government as more routes opened needing more stations to have signals to cover the entire country.

He added that the presidency recently budgeted N40 billion to address some of the issues at the airports, but the money had not been accessed.

Umar assured that as soon as money was made available, the agency would tackle critical safety challenges at the various airports.

“The entire communication network has been re-designed to ensure that every blind spot is covered because if one system fails today, air traffic controllers would not notice.

“We realised also that our radios are working well and well-positioned and we have addressed the challenges we met on ground, but then, we are still having issues.

“The issues have nothing to do with our radios, but with electricity supply which had been a national challenge that government had been working assiduously to fix.

“We have decided to deploy solar energy to some of our facilities to complement electricity supply from the national grid and from generators so that they can function well,’’ he said.

Umar noted that the International Civil Aviation Organisation frowned at even a second’s blackout at any airport and Nigeria could not afford to flout the regulation.

“For an average electronic system, the lifespan is about 10 years. Most of the communications electronics at the airports have been working for the past 15 years to 20 years. Their performance would be below standard, expectedly.

“We are replacing some of the equipment and we have done almost 80 per cent. The contractors are still working, however,’’ he assured.

Umar also told newsmen that Terminal Control Centres (TRACON) were still having challenges because since 2014, there had not been enough spare parts to fix the obsolete equipment there.

“The Federal Government has approved the modernisation of the TRACON system. 15 per cent of the fund has been paid and we are hopeful that more installations will start soon.

“We are also hopeful that at the end of it all, the system will go back to optimal performance,’’ he said.

Umar lamented that NAMA had been charging airlines N11,000 as navigation fee per flight since 2008 when fares for local flights were N16,000, whereas airfares had risen to N150,000.

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