FAO emergencies and resilience

Scaling up emergency agricultural assistance to fight food crises in Nigeria

Visiting FAO emergency and resilience project sites in Borno state

Mr Rein Paulsen, FAO OER Director, exchanging with project participants in Mainari.

©FAO/Giulia AnichiniViollet


In late November 2023, the Director and Deputy Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO’s) Office of Emergencies and Resilience (OER) undertook a mission to Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis in northeastern Nigeria.

Their first visit was to the largest camp of internally displaced people in Bama, which hosts about 105 000 people since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency over ten years ago - including more single female-headed households than men, who carry a higher dependency burden, and children who were born there making that the only reality they know. The delegation* heard from displaced community leaders who stressed the difference that the support received from FAO makes in their lives, given that most of the people living in the camp are farmers and herders. However, rising camp population demands for increased aid for families to maintain dignity while benefiting from improved security conditions to farm outside of the camp.

In Bama, the delegation also visited an FAO distribution site of Tom Brown – a nutritious food supplement made from fish powder mixed with locally sourced grains and spices that is prepared as porridge – highly valued by pregnant and breastfeeding women for its positive impact on children’s nutrition.  

Displaced women in Bama IDP camp receive Tom Brown, a nutritious locally produced food supplement. ©FAO/Giulia AnichiniViollet.

In Old Maiduguri, the delegation observed FAO’s vital response in action funded by Canada, Norway and the Central Emergency Response Fund, where both host and displaced families work on integrated aquaculture and microgardening, as well as women engaging in Tom Brown processing.

The delegation visits FAO project sites in Old Maiduguri, focusing on integrated aquaculture and microgardening as well as Tom Brown processing centre. ©FAO/Giulia AnichiniViollet.

The mission underscored the urgency of implementing humanitarian agricultural assistance and durable solutions against food insecurity in Nigeria and the need for greater coordination. Despite appreciated support, discussions with partners revealed funding gaps and challenges. “FAO aims to strengthen  collaboration with the government, focusing on the most food insecure people who we know typically live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their survival. This is FAO’s expertise and mandate. FAO is committed to tackle food crises across the country and increase people’s self-reliance by scaling up emergency agricultural interventions”, said Mr Paulsen, FAO OER Director, during a local press conference at a ceremony with farmers showcasing samples of their poultry as well as the vegetable and cash crops they were able to harvest thanks to support from FAO.

 Farmers showcasing samples of their poultry and items produced thanks to support from FAO at the suboffice in Maiduguri. ©FAO/Giulia AnichiniViollet.

Worsening food insecurity

About half of the number of people acutely food insecure in the Sahel live in Nigeria.

Results of the latest Cadre Harmonisé (November 2023) indicate that 26.5 million people are projected to be in high acute food insecurity across 26 states analysed in Nigeria and in the Federal Capital Territory, including 4.38 million in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, during next year’s lean season, if appropriate assistance is not provided.

Protracted armed conflict, climate shocks such as floods and dry spells, record high food and agricultural input prices, impact of fuel subsidy removal and the devaluation of the local currency are the main drivers of persistent food insecurity and malnutrition in northeastern Nigeria. The situation is particularly dire in Borno state, where 1 in 3 people are acutely food insecure.

Declining funding for emergency agriculture assistance exacerbated high levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. Fortunately, the slight improvement in security conditions is granting increased access to farmland in specific local government areas. We have a window of opportunity to provide life-saving emergency agricultural support. Most crisis-affected families in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe are smallholder farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Providing them with essential inputs enables families to produce food for themselves and the wider community.

*Along with the FAO OER Director and Deputy Director, the FAO Representative ad interim, FAO's Head of Suboffice in Maiduguri, and other FAO colleagues, the delegation was joined by the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, the Deputy Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Maiduguri, the Head of Office of the World Food Programme in Maiduguri and the Director of Nutrition and Food Safety from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.