Stimulating Food Security In Conflict Areas

Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) observes that no fewer than 7.1 million persons are threatened by food insecurity in the conflict-affected communities across the north eastern region of the country.
Subsequent to this report, the World Bank classified the region as one of the poorest places in the world since the emergence of Boko Haram insurgency in the region.
The activities of the insurgents have drastically affected the socio-economic activities of more than 80 per cent of the population in the region who are farmers on the bank of Lake Chad Basin.
Not only this, several attacks by the insurgents in the region have telling effects on the people of the neighbouring Republic of Chad, Republic of Niger and northern part of Cameroon who share ideas on farming methods.
The north eastern part of the country and the neighbouring communities have repeatedly been the targeted by insurgents with the aim of acquiring resources and forcing the vulnerable populations from their homes.
This perception of insecurity and the threat of being kidnapped have, therefore, prevented farmers from fully engaging in agricultural activities.
Expressing concern about the extent of the damage in the region, FAO describes the Lake Chad Basin crisis as one of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with 2.3 million persons displaced, 11 million persons in dire need of assistance, while 515,000 children suffer malnutrition.
“This has resulted in loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of trade and communications and potentially destabilising inter-community relations,’’ the organisation observes.
With the situation, a food security assessment carried out in November 2016 by the Cadre Harmonise and the Emergency Food Security Assessment in June 2016 indicated that the crisis contributed immensely to the soaring food insecurity in the region.
To check the trend, FAO unveiled a three-year strategy to mitigate the impact of the crisis and boost food security in the conflict-affected communities.
The Director-General of the organization, Mr Graziano da Silva, during his visit to Maiduguri, said it was significant to restore agricultural production and all means of peoples’ livelihood in the region to enable them to come back to their homes.
He said the organisation established farms in the crisis affected areas in 2014 to help some internally displaced and returnees’ persons to revive their livelihoods.
He also said the organisation would provide farm inputs ranging from seeds to fertilisers to the internally displaced farmers in the region.
The Director-General, therefore, solicited more support from donor agencies and countries to assist in the revitalisation of the region.
He said the organisation had asked for 62 million dollars from the United Nations to aid the revival of the region but it got only 10 million dollars.
“It is not enough to provide the food assistance; we need to allow these people that are basically farmers, fisher men and livestock farmers to produce food.
“We are only one or two months ahead of farming season. We need to start preparing the lands now. The time to act is now.
“We cannot leave the issue of agriculture to be the next step; it should be the first step as we provide food assistance,’’ he said.
Similarly, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Mr Bukar Tijani, expressed regret that some livestock in the region had been lost due to crisis.
He said the organisation would also support women and other rural dwellers by providing small ruminants and poultry animals.
The Director, Emergencies and Rehabilitation Division of the organisation, Mr Dominique Burgeon, said 10 million dollars would be required within three weeks to assist no fewer than 248,000 household farmers in the region.
He said the response was necessary to provide agricultural inputs for the farmers in the forthcoming planting season.
Expressing readiness for aggressive farming to ensure food security, some internally displaced farmers at the FAO’s supported farm in Jere Local Government Area of Borno, appealed for more support from the organisation.
The Chairman, Jere Fadama Farmers Association, Mr Ali Kawu, said facilities such as boreholes, start-up capital, maintenance funds for machines, fertiliser, pesticides and different varieties of improved seeds, among others, would boost agriculture in the area.
According to him, if farmers are provided with the inputs, food production would improve and the means of their livelihoods lost during the Boko Haram crisis would be revived.
Mr Yamani Balayaminu, a tomato farmer in one of the FAO farms, nonetheless, said farming had developed to a profitable business following reduction in insurgents’ attacks.
He said he resumed farming six months ago after three years without farming because of the Boko Haram insurgency in the area.
“We want more support from the FAO because we are many and we are also assisting other farmers who fled from their communities as a result of the Boko Haram attacks.
“We want a situation where we will be adequately supported to accommodate all other farmers,’’ he said.
Assessing the role of FAO in the region, Governor  Kashim Shettima of Borno State observed that the organisation’s three-year response programme would bring peace to the region apart from food security.
“The direct response by the FAO is a welcome development because once we create jobs, engage the youth, insurgency will stop,’’ he said.
In the same vein, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, warned that lack of attention to rural developments could destroy Africa.
Commending the FAO for its efforts towards ensuring food security, Ogbeh said:  ”if we enrich the rural areas through agriculture and agro-industries, we can enjoy food and security; let every one of us make an investment in agriculture.’’
Okoye writes for News Agency of Nigeria.


Ginika Okoye