The road back home

FAO’s seed distributions help Nigerian villagers recover their livelihoods.

Key Facts

In the Lake Chad Basin - specifically, Cameroon, Chad and the Niger - insecurity has severely disrupted the availability of and access to food and have put extreme pressure on livelihoods. Conflict has driven millions from their homes and hampered access to agricultural lands, only increasing food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation.

By August 2017, the Lake Chad Basin crisis had resulted in nearly 2.3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and returnees, making it the second largest displacement crisis in the world (after the Syria crisis) and the most rapidly growing one. Most of the displaced are in Nigeria’s northeastern states, but Cameroon, Chad and the Niger are also hosting many displaced persons.

To respond to the food and livelihoods crisis, FAO has implemented an extensive programme to reach IDPs, returnees and host communities through the provision of quality agricultural inputs (seeds and fertilizers), which will allow them to take full advantage of the 2017 planting season. As of June 2017, FAO has supported more than one million people in Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. 

Mallam Bauwa Mala, a retired Civil Servant formerly with the Veterinary and Livestock Department in the Yobe State Ministry of Agriculture, has also been a farmer all his life. He lives with his wife and 23 children – including those from previous marriages.

He drops a few seeds into the small pit atop the ridge in his farm. Using his foot to push some soil to cover it, he looks up and points to a narrow road, less than 100 meters away, made smooth by passing carts drawn by bulls. He reflects, “That is the road the Boko Haram insurgents use to attack our village. On more than three occasions, they came on this same road to invade the village. The entire village was ransacked. We ran for our lives, everyone.”

Mala, like most of the inhabitants of Danmagun village in the Yobe state of northeast Nigeria, ran away to safer places. He took his family and fled 160 kilometres to the neighbouring Jigawa state, where he lived for nearly eight years before he returned to his own village.

Since 2009, when Boko Haram raided his village, until this year, he has not farmed. Following the Nigerian military’s dislodgement of Boko Haram and the liberation of some communities, people are returning in droves to pick up the pieces of their lives, once shattered by the insurgents. Mala returned less than three months before FAO’s distribution began. He confessed that for lack of inputs, his land has been laying fallow.

As part of its response to this crisis, FAO distributed 2 070 tons of cereal, pulse and vegetable seeds and 3 525 tons of fertilizer. This emergency seed and fertilizer distribution has reached 33 000 households in Yobe state and Mala’s is one of them. While away, he used the stipends he collected as pension to feed his family, but now, cash-strapped and coming back to his village of birth, Mala feels uncertain about his future.

Speaking about FAO’s timely seed and fertilizer distribution coinciding with his return, Mala expresses, “It is divine. Most of the people in the community, before now, did not have seeds to plant. The land is vast, but most people returned to the community with nothing. The whole community was burnt down. So we are rebuilding and FAO has come with this intervention; it can only be divine.”

FAO is providing fast-maturing, nutrient-rich cereal and pulse seeds and fertilizer to more than one million displaced people, host communities and returnees to help restore their livelihoods.  This emergency support is essential to avoid yet another lost harvest. Emergency distributions help to respond to immediate needs, while acting as a starting point for longer-term activities that strengthen farmers’ resilience. FAO is also assisting farmers and villages in seed multiplication, post-harvest storage, vegetable and fruit production, food processing and rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure.

Mala reflects, “In the past, we used organic fertilizer from cattle dung, but with the invasion of our community by Boko Haram, it has become very scarce as animals were also stolen. But FAO has brought fertilizer; we have not seen this in years. Coupled with improved seeds, my family and I will have enough to eat.” 

Rebuilding resilient livelihoods

FAO’s Lake Chad Basin Response Strategy is designed to address the far-reaching impacts of the crisis and build resilient livelihoods. FAO’s response covers a wide range of solutions such as helping to rehabilitate infrastructure, providing feed and vaccines to livestock, promoting alternative types of livelihoods and supporting food security analyses. These interventions help to make livelihoods more resilient to shocks and to support people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families.

Agriculture is the main source of employment and income for over 80 percent of the population in the Lake Chad Basin. This sector has the potential of generating new opportunities for all, including youth entering the labour market. Creating the conditions for sustainable social, economic and environmental recovery can in turn help mitigate some root causes of conflict and migration. Addressing these underlying causes is key to helping people to stay on their land when they feel safe to do so and to creating the necessary conditions for displaced people to return.


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