As IDP returnees in the North East troop back to their communities, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has commenced the process of helping them to build back their lost livelihood, JOHN OBA, reports
It is no news that Agriculture is the backbone of the North East where over 80 per cent of those that live in that region are small holder farmers. This underpins the socio-economic life style of the people.
The outbreak of insurgency brought the regions’ economy almost to a standstill causing humanitarian crisis that took the interventions of Civil Society Organisations, international organisations, donor agencies especially United Nations agencies, the World Bank, African Development Bank, Central Emergency and Relief Fund of the UN (CERF), ECHO, with Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, OFDA, SIDA and Switzerland among many others to bring the region back on its feet.
One of such UN agencies is the FAO that is working in conjunction with other humanitarians organisations to ensure that inhabitants of the region who have been driven from their farms get back their agriculture based livelihoods.
In its effort to reestablish the economic capacity of North East and promote dry season farming and all round food production, FAO under it 2017/2018 intervention programme flagged-off the distribution of inputs for the dry season farming and livestock distribution for the pastoralists who are mostly IDPs returnees.
Latest Cadre Harmonise
According to the FAO in its October Cadre Harmonise (CH) analysis of Food and Nutrition Insecurity carried out across 17 states of Northern Nigeria including Borno state in October 2017 say the situation is very encouraging as the government response along with the national and international response in the region has shown a drop from 5.2 million to 2.6 million food insecure people in the next 6-8 months.
Speaking during the flag off ceremony of the distribution of dry season farming support inputs/animals at Katarko community in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe state, last week, FAO country representative, Dr. Suffyan Koroma, who was represented by the deputy country representative, Dr. Nourou Mackitall, said his organisation reached 138, 801 households during the rainy season in 2017. This consist of an estimated 971 607 people in the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe with seeds and fertilizers which contributed to the improvement along with food assistance.
“In Borno alone, 64,801 households estimated 421,206 people were reached with improved seeds of household staple crops including Millet, Maize, Cowpea and Sorghum. In addition, women headed households received seeds of vegetables kits which included Okra, Sorel, Roselle, and Amaranthus. Each beneficiary household also received one 25kg bag of NPK fertilizer. This intervention has considerably boosted the household food security of multiple types of populations: the IDP, returnee and host communities in Borno state and also facilitated livelihood generation by helping them process and sale their products to increase their household income levels.
“However, the Cadre Harmonise analysis has also projected that food insecurity is expected to deteriorate from July to August 2018 due to the typical lean season with an indicated increase to 3.6m towards the 2018 lean season. This will likely bring acute food insecurity in the North-east region. This will mean more humanitarian intervention is needed to save lives and protect livelihoods as well as reduce food consumption deficit to populations expected to be most affected and those that are most vulnerable,” he said.
Aims and Objectives
On the 2017/2018 inputs Mackitall said the programme aims at developing relevant responses to the food and livelihood crisis that have been evident since 2014, by supporting the crisis affected population with improved agricultural inputs and livelihood assets such as early maturing crop varieties, good quality fertilizer, irrigation and micro gardening equipment and food processing assets.
He added that the overall objective of the programme is to contribute to the improvement of the food security and nutrition of people affected by the conflict in the north-eastern states by restoring their agricultural livelihood.
According to him FAO is supporting more that 1.5 million people, IDPs, returnees and host communities, in the three States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe under in 2017.
“For the dry season, the programme is planned to assist 711,750 people consisting of 109,500 households, in the States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, including IDPs in formal and informal camps, returnees and host communities in the LGAs in emergency and crisis phases.
“In Borno State, the target is 270,920 persons, with 41,680 households distributed in 16 LGAs, where FAO has identified high potential irrigation sites for vegetables and rice production. The inputs made available are 35,920 kits of vegetable seeds, 72 metric tonne of rice seeds, 2,084 metric tonnes of fertilizer, 1,760 kits of water pumps and 4,500 hand tools kits for micro gardening.
“FAO is also supporting a livestock restocking programme in Borno State. 400 bulls will be distributed to 400 youth for fattening and income generating activities, while 6,600 goats will be distributed mainly to women to rebuild their assets and foster nutrition,” he explained
He stated further that the extension services will be provided by Borno State Agriculture Development Programme while Farmers Field Schools (FFS) will be introduced in the LGAs to promote the best agricultural and nutritional practices.
Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, represented by the commissioner for agriculture, Engr. Mustapha Gajerima, said the importance of the intervention cannot be over-emphasised, noting that it is coming at a time when it is much sought after due to the improved security situation and peace in the state. He added that the target of the state is to develop about 1000 hectares for irrigation farming before the end of 2018.
FAO consultant, on Livestock and Fisheries Livelihoods, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, speaking with Blueprint said the programme is targeting local government areas that fail within stages three to five. “These are our priority areas that need emergency interventions. But within these three to five stages, there are communities that are so weak because they are in either famine or crisis stage and needs immediate food assistance, we give these ones food that they consume at once, that is, ready to consume food. Normally, this is not FAO’s area of intervention. But it is the World Food Programme that gives them direct food or money to buy food where the market is functioning but FAO is targeting those who are not too vulnerable.
“It means they have returned to their communities, have access to land, they can now grow their own crops or rear their own livestock. So we target people within stage four and five. For livestock, we look for areas for keeping livestock with space, animals can walk around and graze, but in other camps, its an enclosure, animals may not do well in such environment. Also we prioritised the communities that have people returning home, we call them returnee communities. We target areas with well organised livestock veterinary and extension service, so that if we give animal, they would be supported. So if there is an outbreak of diseases, it would be treated. These are some of the assessment that we do before we prioritised,” he said.
He said FAO has other teams doing assessment. “We have the food security sector working groups also doing monthly assessment, we also have the International Organisation for Migration that is tracking displacement of population and is reporting back to us. What is the population displaced, what are the type of activities they were doing before being displaced? Are they pastoralists or agro-pastoralist, we will know that they are used to keeping livestock, so if you give them livestock, they would be able to keep it. So they are sorts of behind the scene assessment that we do before we prioritised,” he explained.
For the 2017/2018 season, he said the organisation is present in 85 wards in 30 LGAs out of 65 LGAs in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. “These are the LGAs that are under stage three and four. These are wards that are worst off, so in order words, the overriding criteria is that we prioritised communities and populations that are in need of particular assistance and we give them that assistance.
Women and youth
Suleiman stated further that, livestock interventions in most cases focuses on women and youths. “Because goats, small ruminants, and sheep are mostly owned by women. So we are not trying to reinvent the wheels, or doing something that the communities are not use to doing, we give people what they have before. Because the objectives is to reestablish their lost livelihood, so if the women are the ones keeping goats, we give them goats, and we are giving bulls for fattening, this is what the youth have been doing off seasons. Now that the harvest is done and the youth are doing nothing now, until another raining season, except where there is irrigation for dry season farming, but if they are doing nothing, Boko Haram can take advantage to radicalise them, but with the bulls, they have activities that would keep them busy. So they would be engaged with livelihood and income generation activities all year round,” he said
He however said that the livestock are local breeds saying FAO is not trying to introduce anything new explaining that if different breeds are given to them, there will be need to train them, ‘because we are giving them things they are not used too, but we want to mimic what they are use to.”
Dr. Mackitall, said FAO is also in the process of establishing 3 fuel efficient stoves production centres in Borno to address energy needs in emergencies which is vital for ensuring nutrition, food security, environment safeguard, and the protection of conflict affected people.
“Pursuing its mandate of a Hunger Free World, FAO will continue to collaborate and assist crisis affected population in their recovery efforts out of food insecurity and malnutrition,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries of the inputs distributed Mr. Modu Bemi, said the intervention could not have come at a better time as he had lost all his belongings to the insurgency that broke out in the state in 2014, including his only son.
According to him “I use to be a big time farmer before the insurgents attacked my community. When Boko Haram attacked on 29th June 2014 they burnt down my house killed my son, my vehicle was not left out but with the return of peace to the area we had to come back home.
“I don’t pray my worst enemy experience what we went through. I used to have 15 hectares of land that I inherited from my father, I plant millet, sorghum, guinea seed from which I get 50bags of guinea corn, 11 bags of cowpeas, groundnut among others but now am still struggling get better yields from my farm”.
But thanks to the FAO, and the international community, normalcy has returned to the village and we are trying to get our livelihood back.
He however bemoan attack by the herdsmen on their farm crops during raining season, though the international community, local government and village heads are helping them to resolve the crisis.