By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Last year, Nigeria witnessed one of its worst floods after a similar occurrence a decade earlier. The flooding wreaked havoc on farmlands and destroyed the livelihoods of many smallholder farmers.

Just when victims are feeling like all hope to restart their lives is lost, a Nigerian agritech startup, Isidore, is brightening their spirits.

According to the founder of Isidore, Ms Karen Adie, smallholder farmers are very critical to Nigeria and its food security, and they must not be left alone because it would affect the nation.

Isidore, a member of the Founders Factory Africa startup portfolio, provides access to capital, market linkages, and value-add tools to smallholder farmers. This is so that smallholder farmers can maximise income from their labour. Many of their customers are in the states worst affected by this year’s flooding.

With smallholder farmers making up 85 per cent of Nigeria’s farming community, floods like the ones experienced in Northern Nigeria in 2022 highlight the delicate balance these farmers maintain in providing for their families and themselves while feeding their surrounding communities.

“For farmers in low-lying areas like Argungu in Kebbi state, the floods were a terrible jeopardy. Many have lost their livelihood and their homes. Suddenly, we were faced with a  COVID-level humanitarian crisis,” Ms Adie stated.

“The daily realities of these communities, which are usually impoverished, are real. Yet, they are facing the brunt of climate change, which has created an uncertainty they live with daily.

“Without smallholder farmers, hunger would skyrocket in northern Nigeria. These farmers are our partners. As Isidore, we had to do something,” she added.

She stated that her firm has come up with an initiative, Habitats for Hope Program, to bring succour to smallholder farmers in the country.

Run out of Isidore’s Lagos head office, the Habitats for Hope Program was founded to provide welfare support to grain farmers in rural agrarian communities, with farmers able to join the program by registering on Isidore’s Jinja platform.

“To join the program, you need to be a grain farmer, a member of a farming community or association, and be willing to use the Jinja platform. The platform allows us to directly interact with program beneficiaries quickly, with its existing infrastructure allowing us to scale the program at speed,” Adie explains.

“In terms of what we’ve achieved so far, we identified a total of 44 homes that need to be rebuilt – we split this into 3 phases; we’re currently in phase 1, working on the homes of 6 farmers.

“So far, since the program’s inception in October 2022, we’ve identified 44 homes that need to be rebuilt. The building program has been split into three phases. We are currently in phase 1, working on six homes destroyed by the flooding in Kebbi state. We have 40 local volunteers helping us and our beneficiaries rebuild their homes, and by extension, their communities, as quickly as possible,” she disclosed.

Ms Adie hopes that from these seeds, the program can work with over 200 farming communities in Nigeria by December 2024. Beyond flood assistance, the Habitats For Hope Program focuses more broadly on housing and living conditions, education and skills development, and healthcare and disease prevention.

“We could not just limit the program to housing and living conditions. If a farmer gets sick and cannot tend to their land, it directly impacts that farmer’s ability to feed themselves, their family, and the surrounding community that relies on them. Worse, it directly impacts that farmer’s livelihood, with the sale of excess crops being their primary source of income.

“Coupled with this, education can play a vital role in allowing farmers to increase crop yield and use new ways to farm their lands. A larger yield means greater food security and can make a tangible difference in farmers’ lives through the money they make selling their produce,” she stated.

With the program in its infancy, Ms Adie and the Isidore team are searching for partners to enlarge the program’s impact. Partners could contribute financially to procure materials and extend the program’s ability to develop affected communities.

The provision of volunteers, building materials, equipment, farming inputs, and healthcare is just as critical. Furthermore, access to training, skills development and other service contributions are being sought.

Business Post recalled that between August and October 2022, floods ravaged thousands of homes across northern Nigeria, with the states of Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano and Sokoto significantly affected.

It is believed that at least 30 people died due to the flooding, with survivors now having to pick up the pieces.

Beyond the destruction of homes and loss of life, the flooding represents a mortal threat to the livelihoods and food security of farmers and people living in flooded areas, with vital farmlands ruined and critical roads and bridges washed away.