Building food security and future resilience of communities in northeast Nigeria

UNDP works with the EU and other partners toward immediate stabilization of the northeast Nigerian region.

October 14, 2022
Two women standing in a field holding farming equipment
Photo: UNDP Nigeria

For most people in northeast Nigeria, agriculture is the predominant source of livelihood and income. However, the persistent conflicts have disrupted farming activities drastically, with farmlands becoming insecure and inaccessible as communities are forced to abandon their ancestral homes. Besides insecurity, communities are also experiencing the pronounced impact of climate change, which has significantly affected agricultural and fishing activities, leading to a shortage of food supplies; exacerbating hunger and loss of livelihoods.

In Borno State, Ngala, a border town created in 1976 and situated between northeast Nigeria and Fotokol town of Cameroon, is among communities in northeast Nigeria targeted by interventions through the Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF) phase two for the Lake Chad Basin region, having been cleared of insurgents. With resettlement still ongoing, agriculture and other socio-economic activities are also restarting. Despite the challenges, Ngala has enormous agricultural and livestock development potential; In addition to farming, the access to River Ngadda which flows into Lake Chad, some community members have taken up fishing to supplement their primary source of livelihood.

Like other parts of Nigeria, one critical challenge farmers face is reduced productivity due to unpredictable weather patterns. Fear of possible attacks recurring also limits the extent to which farmers can utilize their farmlands to cultivate food crops. Another issue impacting farming in the area is inadequate access or lack of fertilizers or climate-resilient seedlings that could boost food production. These challenges are pushing the community members further into poverty and increasing hunger in the area. 

Photo: UNDP Nigeria

In partnership with the state government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported the community to boost local food production by distributing agricultural inputs to the farmers across the community in preparation for the year’s planting season in anticipation of the much-awaited rains. This effort is in line with UNDP’s vision of revitalizing the socio-economic activities of the conflict-affected communities in northeast Nigeria to ensure they are future resilient and sustainable. 

The 2022 farm implements distribution support targets 3000 farmers in Ngala and 1000 in Banki, another community in Borno State. The materials provided, including farming equipment, fertilizers, and improved seeds such as maize, cowpea, millet, sorghum, groundnut, and sesame, will enhance the overall farming process and food production. Besides the implements, farmers will also receive training on how to utilize smart agriculture techniques, such as new methods of planting, harvesting, preservation and storage of harvest, to ensure that they are maximizing the productivity of their farms while also minimizing post-harvest losses. 

Jugudum Ali Ngalama is one of the farmers receiving farming implements this year. He focuses on producing rice, vegetables, Lettuce, onions, okra, and cowpeas. Before the insurgency, Jugudum farmed 50 to 60 hectares of land yearly, but now he can barely do less than 5 hectares due to the conflict and security crisis. Reflecting on the challenges he has faced, Jugudum said: 

“The security and conflict crisis has affected our food production, and now we have food scarcity, as we can barely afford to buy seedlings and farming machinery."

"When the insurgents attacked, they destroyed everything, including our farming equipment. On the other hand, nature has also dealt us a blow. In November 2021, a herd of elephants migrating from Cameroun attacked our farms and destroyed all crops; we couldn't salvage anything. Since there was no sufficient harvest, food prices increased, making it impossible for most to afford."

As he left home with his share of the farming implements, Jugudum was elated that he and his three workers could start work immediately. “The support we’ve received is very timely, as we’re already in the rainy season. I can now use the money I had put aside to buy seedlings and hire additional labourers to help on the farm; that way, I can progress faster and create employment for our youths. I hope we will have a bountiful harvest in surplus this year that I can sell for additional income to support my family.”

For Aisha Ali, a widow with seven children, farming is her way of life. When she lost access to her farmlands after the insurgence, she was devastated and never thought she could survive the loss. However, she managed to resume her farming activities three years ago. It hasn't been easy, but she believes this year's farming season will yield more harvests with the inputs she received.  

“I will use the inputs sensibly, and I believe that I will get a good harvest this year as the weather conditions for farming this year is promising. After the harvest, I will still store some seeds for the next planting season; that way, I don't need to rely on humanitarian people giving us seedings,” said Aisha

Aisha is happy to have trained in smart agriculture. She has gained knowledge of new methods of farming and preservation of harvest. She believes that the new ways of agriculture will ensure that they get good harvest sustainably.

For Aisha Ali, a widow with seven children, farming is her way of life.

Photo: UNDP Nigeria

Worthy to note is the need to support the newly resettled farming community of “Wulgo”. Wulgo is a stone's throw from Cameroonian territory; it is known as a village of farmers, as more than 90 per cent of the residents are farmers who were displaced during the crisis. To enable them to kickstart their farming activities again, 300 residents from this area were selected as target beneficiaries of this intervention. 

The local government chairman, Mala Tijjani Ngala, notes the importance of empowering the Wulgo Community. "We are known for our great ability in farming; this support will help restore hope to rebuild their lives and encourage others to return home to their farmlands. The ripple effect on the economy of the entire Ngala local government will be great". 

Inclusion and Equality

Across the country, UNDP provides farmers with climate-smart agricultural tools and practices, promoting livelihood diversification that empowers under-represented women in agri-economic activities. More than 50 per cent of the selected beneficiaries are women farmers, some of whom are categorized under female-headed households. This input will enable them to become more productive and bring home more income for their families.

In Ngala, the women farmers association known as “Yobe Women Multipurpose Farming Association'' has about +70 women farmers from Yobe, a small village in Ngala. The association was founded two years ago to exchange farming knowledge with each other to enhance local food production. More than 30 percent of members of this group were beneficiaries of the Agric input distribution. 

Speaking on the impact of the intervention, Binta Umar, the association leader, said, “food security can be achieved when the government invests and supports local farmers by teaching them new farming techniques that contribute towards yielding of bountiful harvests. We are grateful that some of our members are part of this project, and we will share what we have gained with others not reached this time round to ensure that more people are benefiting from this initiative. We hope this year we will have a good harvest to help reduce the cost of food”.

About this project:

Established in 2019 and funded by the Nigeria Government, European Union, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Sweden, the Regional Stabilisation Facility for Lake Chad — Nigeria window is a rapid response towards the immediate stabilization of the region. Through this programme, UNDP partners with each local government to provide key resources, establish long-term peace and build back trust between the government and its citizens.

Story by Amalachukwu Ibeneme. Edited by Ngele Ali. Find original article here.