FAO boosts skills through farmer field schools as farmers return to their fields in northeastern Nigeria

FAO boosts skills through farmer field schools as farmers return to their fields in northeastern Nigeria

30/05/2018

As the security situation improves in northeastern Nigeria, more farmers and livestock owners return to their villages. To address their critical need for local agricultural extension services, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is training farmer field school (FFS) facilitators who will support conflict-affected communities in the implementation of good agricultural practices to boost incomes.

An initial batch of 25 agricultural extension officers from state organizations such as the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) and local NGOs were trained as facilitators from 7 to 26 May 2018. The activity was carried out in the framework of a project funded by the Government of Norway to strengthen the resilience of farming and agro-pastoral households in northeastern Nigeria’s three most affected states − Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

FFSs are an interactive and participatory learning by doing approach involving groups of 20-25 farmers or pastoralists and a trained facilitator. During the process, group members experiment with best practices and conventional methods while discussing challenges and solutions to farming or pastoral issues.

Impact on female farmers

During her graduation speech as a facilitator on 26 May 2018, Hadiza Jiddah – member of one of the small but active groups of female agro-extension officers at the Borno ADP − said that she plans to set up 2 to 3 FFS within her constituency. Responsible for the Monguno Local Government Area, she has only recently returned to the district after four years, as people have started to go back to their village and resume farming. Jiddah works with Monguno’s female farmers − some widowed by the Boko Haram insurgency − to boost the production and marketing of staple crops, pulses and vegetables.

According to Jiddah, female farmers are among the most severely affected due to limited access to inputs and capital. Land preparation in the form of harrowing and ploughing may set farmers back anywhere from NGN 15 000.00 to NGN 45 000.00 (USD 41.00 to USD 100.00) for just 1 ha, a steep sum for the most vulnerable. High costs of fertilizers and products for pest and disease management make production and post-harvest management challenging for many.

Supporting extension services

At the graduation ceremony for the FFS in Maiduguri, Abdul-Dala Ahmed, director of engineering and infrastructure services at the Borno State ADP, explained that the expansion of the FFS programme would help to enhance extension services within his agency. “We’ve recognized that there were some gaps in our extension outreach. Our previous system did not integrate smallholders properly in the policy formulation process. The FFS approach is helping us to put farmers in the driver’s seat”, he shared.

Newly trained facilitator, Hasuruna Amos of the Modibbo Adamawa University of Technology in Yola, Adamawa State, said that the approach would help to enhance the quality of extension work in Adamawa. “We clearly see the difference between our previous approach, its assumptions and this approach. With the FFS, the facilitator is a guide”, he said. Through his non-profit Agro-ecological Sustainable Technology Initiative, based in Adamawa’s capital Yola, Amos is working with FAO to establish a number of FFSs in the weeks ahead.

An entry point for development services

FFSs have long been described as an entry point for the provision of an array of development services to affected communities, acting as a useful platform for other partners, including government, to sensitize communities on issues such as health and education. FAO aims, by the end of 2018, to establish a minimum of 100 active and fully engaged FFS across northeastern Nigeria.

For Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria, the expansion of schools is essential to FAO’s recovery and resilience-building activities in the region. “FFS will promote co-learning between institutions offering extension services and agriculture-based communities so that both groups have the necessary skills and knowledge to support the region’s productivity and ensure lasting food security”.

From January to April 2018, FAO reached 117 000 families under its dry season programme and provided 18 600 small ruminants to 4 650 female-headed households. During the rainy season, FAO aims to provide 1 million people with livelihood-saving inputs such as seed and fertilizer.

During the 2018 lean season (June to August), the number of people critically food insecure is expected to rise from 2.3 to 2.9 million, according to the Cadre Harmonisé. For 2018, FAO is appealing for USD 31.5 million to meet the needs of farmers and agro-pastoral households that are displaced and affected by the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. Of the total funding required, USD 8.8 million has been mobilised thus far.