Returning to cropping brings great rewards in northeastern Nigeria

Returning to cropping brings great rewards in northeastern Nigeria

22/12/2016

In the vast agricultural spread of northeastern Nigeria, violence and disruption has put the food security and livelihoods of millions of people at high risk. In order to prevent a further deterioration of the situation, FAO is working with the Government of Nigeria to provide immediate and durable assistance to protect and rebuild the lives and livelihoods of those affected. And it is fast growing, highly nutritious seeds like millet, sorghum and cowpea that are making the difference to 100 000 people who would otherwise rely on food assistance handouts.

Bukar used to own a small shop in a village near Wassaram, Borno State. Boko Haram continually invaded the store – taking all the stock and money, issuing threats and then bolting back into the bush. The continuous armed holdups left Bukar terrified and destitute.

Three years ago, he brought his family to settle in the Kasesa Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Yobe State, on the outskirts of Damaturu. Casual laboring in nearby villages was the only work he could get. His wife and mother were reduced to begging by the roadside to get some money to feed their family of 17 members, which includes Bukar’s sister-in-law and her children, because his younger brother was murdered by insurgents.

Food remains the number one concern of the millions of displaced people across the northeastern part of the country. While emergency food assistance is vital, so too is the long-term goals of aiding this resilient, largely agricultural population to return to planting and harvesting their own food.

During the 2016 rainy season, FAO provided early maturing, highly nutritious millet, sorghum and cowpea seeds and fertilizer to 12 400 IDPs and their host communities in the northeast. Almost 100 000 people in the states of Borno and Yobe benefited from that assistance for food production that could cover their families’ food needs for up to six months.

Bukar embraced the chance to move back to food production. “I am happy now”, he said. “With this millet, we can cook two meals per day. And for the first time since we settled here, I have my own reserve of food which will last for at least three months”. While Bukar feeds his large family, others can harvest their crops and sell excess at local markets for valuable income.

“Agriculture being the lifeblood of rural communities in northeastern Nigeria, insecurity has had a devastating impact on food production in the past three years. Our emergency agriculture response helps improve food security and rebuild the livelihoods of the affected communities in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States”, said Nourou Macki Tall, acting FAO Representative in Nigeria. “Our ability to improve the food security situation of IDPs, returnees and vulnerable host communities depends on fostering their agricultural skills to produce food while ensuring a sustainable management of the natural resources they rely on.” he added.

“Prolonged suffering from food insecurity also requires long-lasting solutions over the medium and longer term. It means helping those who are fleeing violence and helping those who give them a safe shelter,” he further elaborated. Kasesa IDP camp is such a place for Bukar and his large family. They have been taken in by a host community. Across the vast stretch of the northeast, communities have welcomed and helped fleeing people by sharing their land and meagre resources with them.

But challenges for FAO remain high. A large majority of food-insecure people are still in isolated parts of the state – out of reach from humanitarian aid.  In towns and villages in those remote areas of Nigeria, communities are trapped in a spiral of continued loss.

In the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Nigeria, FAO is appealing for USD 62 million to improve food production and access, rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and promote alternative livelihoods, including women-headed households, and vulnerable youth in northeastern Nigeria.

To address food security and livelihoods-related needs on a larger scale and timeframe, FAO is also developing a regional strategy to enhance the resilience of livelihoods in the Lake Chad Basin. This strategy will combine FAO emergency responses with medium-term livelihoods promotion and diversification, vulnerability and risk reduction, as well as conflict mitigation and prevention, to contribute to sustainable development and peace-building.