Two years on – FAO’s support to small-scale farmers in northeastern Nigeria is saving livelihoods

A decade of conflict has severely affected food production systems in northeastern Nigeria, with the worst affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe experiencing high displacement, enormous human, social and economic losses and severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. While humanitarian access is improving, most displaced families still rely on vulnerable host communities for basic needs, including food. This has put already impoverished host communities under extreme pressure, leading to increased exposure to food insecurity. Moreover, lootings and fear of attacks, in particular by the Boko Haram insurgency, have prevented many farmers from working in their fields, leading to the loss of harvests and productive assets, and extremely reduced purchasing power. In August 2019, 2.7 million people are projected to be severely food insecure and 1.9 million internally displaced people due to the crisis.

FAO’s response in northeastern Nigeria is allowing farmers to protect their livelihoods and to restore agricultural production in order to cover their basic needs. Since 2017, FAO distributed more than 430 000 agricultural kits, comprising crop seeds − including, maize, sorghum, millet and cowpea − and fertilizer, to an estimated 3 million crisis-affected people in northeastern Nigeria. With the support of the federal and state Ministries of Agriculture, as well as resource partners, FAO is now the largest non-governmental provider of livelihoods assistance for farming households in the area. In 2019, FAO plans to reach more than 150 000 households, just over 1 million people, with agricultural inputs and activities during the rainy and dry seasons. 

Strengthening resilience through agricultural production 

FAO is implementing a wide range of activities, targeting small-scale farmers, IDPs, host communities and returnees through the distribution of agricultural kits in support to the rainy season, the provision of vaccinations and veterinary support, micro-gardening activities and fuel-efficient stoves.

FAO targets in particular women, supporting crop production of female-headed households, through the distribution of kits, comprising nutrient-rich vegetables like amaranthus, as well as cash crops such as sesame. Internally displaced persons (IDP) are also assisted with micro-gardening kits, which are ideal for limited parcels of land in IDP camps. These kits include preferred vegetable seeds and essential hand tools, which are complemented with trainings on micro-gardening techniques and nutrition education. FAO’s micro-garden inputs are empowering households, primarily led by women, to earn income while enhancing their nutrition. Since 2017, around 15 600 households received micro-gardening kits.

Livestock production is a central economic activity for smallholders, in particular in Borno. Due to the insurgency, a significant number of households lost their animals and livelihoods. Since 2017, more than 15 500 beneficiaries received goats, bulls, rams and chicken as part of FAO’s restocking programme, which has been crucial in providing alternative livelihoods, sources of income and productive assets. In addition, to safeguard livestock assets over 425 000 animals were vaccinated against endemic diseases, such as diseases like Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), Black Quarter (BQ) and Pestes des Petits Ruminants (PPR).

Boosting vulnerable households’ income 

Financial services, both formal and informal, have been severely uprooted by the decade-long crisis. At the village level, many financial activities were dissolved as households were pushed off ancestral lands and forced to abandon livelihoods and traditional schemes like the adashe, an informal village savings club practiced for generations. Embedded in an integrated community-centered approach known as the Caisses de Résilience (CdR), FAO introduced the Group Savings and Loan Association (GSLA) initiative across five sites in Borno State in mid-2018. By early 2019, 72 GSLAs, comprising about 1 900 individuals, had already been formed. The groups have undertaken more than 900 loans and members have started around 800 micro-businesses. A community-led revolving fund was created to support 50 group businesses, with a minimum of 300 000 NGN (about 827 USD) in startup capital each. Groups have bought tricycles, popularly known as Keke Napeps, and entered food processing ventures, among others.

Through its Cash+ programme, FAO has combined cash transfers with other interventions, such as animal restocking and seed distributions, to boost the resilience of the most vulnerable by dis-incentivizing them from selling their productive assets and resorting to other negative coping practices. Since 2018, FAO has issued about USD 1 million in cash to 10 000 households (70 000 beneficiaries). 

Under a fresh food voucher scheme, another 6 500 vulnerable IDP households were able to purchase vegetables, eggs and fish with vouchers worth about USD 400 000. FAO connected the local farmers supported during the rainy and dry season with these IDP households to enhance food access and nutrition of beneficiary households, particularly IDPs’, and facilitated a market for local farmers who provided a significant portion of the produce distributed.

Natural resources and fuel-efficient technologies

FAO’s partnership with the Borno State Ministry of Environment in the provision of fuel-efficient technologies has increased the energy security of households and is contributing to sustainable efforts to better manage overstressed natural resources. Under the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) programme, FAO trained local artisans in the production of fuel-efficient stoves (FES) and established three fuel-efficient clay stove production centres in Borno. In total, 6 000 stoves have been distributed to energy-insecure households, with a further 18 000 stoves to be distributed to other vulnerable households by the end of 2019. In a post-distribution assessment, FAO found that the stoves had a high adoption rate and acceptability in the State. In terms of firewood savings, compared with the three stones fire, wood use is reduced by 60 percent. The intervention has also benefited households’ food security and nutritional status, decreased exposure to violence due to the reduced need for frequent trips to collect firewood, lessened women’s work burden and has had a positive impact on health. 

Moreover, in an effort to improve access to water among the conflict-affected populations in the northeast, FAO and Eni, an Italian energy company, are commissioning water schemes for conflict-affected communities. In total, 35 water schemes are planned between 2018 and 2019. The public-private sector partnership will boost access to water for domestic consumption as well as small-scale agricultural activities like micro-gardening.

Building capacities to improve food security 

The delivery of extension and advisory services in the northeastern states of Nigeria has been negatively impacted by the insurgency. To address gaps in the agricultural extension services, FAO collaborated with the Borno Agriculture Development Programme to train experts in the farmer field school programme and participatory agricultural extension support. In total, 50 extension officers were trained in 2018 and 95 farmer field schools were established across the northeast, comprising about 2 850 farmers.  

Humanitarian actions and agriculture assistance need to continue, as 2.7 million people are likely to face severe food insecurity by the end of August 2019 (Cadre Harmonisé, November 2018). FAO and its partners will continue to work to deliver high quality services to the populations in northeastern Nigeria, ensuring a resumption and restoration of livelihoods for food security, income generation and stability.

“FAO is grateful for its strong and positive relationship with the Governments of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and the generosity of its donors from both public and private sectors’’ said Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria. 

Source : Fao