Nigeria Flood Ruins Crops As Food Remains Scarce

GUDINCHIN, Nigeria — After water nearly overtook his village in northern Nigeria, Ali Gudinchin jumped into the rushing flood with a knife, cutting away ears of corn from stalks barely rising above the muddy surface. He ended up with only three sacks worth of food, compared to the 50-odd bags of grains and vegetables he typically grows during the arid region's brief fertile season. "The insects were biting me as I cut," said Gudinchin, a 50-year-old man who uses his village's name as his surname, which is customary. "It was pain in addition to the pain of losing the crop." Flood waters that rushed through his home in rural Jigawa state now cover about 34 square miles (55 square kilometers) of farmland there. As the bright sun begins to slowly dry the fields, all the farmers have are ruined stalks and dying plants — the latest strain on food in a region where other nearby countries face serious shortages. The floods have come at the worst possible time — just before harvest — when it is too late for farmers to replant their fields of millet, sorghum and cowpea, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In northern Nigeria, unusually heavy seasonal rains sent water surging through overflowing rivers. A dam failed in the northern state of Sokoto, flooding out rural pasturelands there and killing about 40 people, according to local media reports. In Jigawa, local officials blame the inundation on officials opening two dams at reservoirs in neighboring Kano state. Typically, the water released yearly from the dams flows into farm fields across the region known as the Sahel, a band of semi-arid land stretching across Africa south of the Sahara. The waters irrigated the crops of Jigawa, a state home to more than 4 million people. This time, a huge wave of water from the reservoirs raced through already saturated stream and creek beds, quickly topping over Jigawa state's simple earthen levees, said Umar Kyari, a spokesman for Gov. Sule