Friday, August 26, 2016

‘Sowing Seeds for Recovery’ in Northeast Nigeria

Aisha M. receives her share of seeds to be planted in
Gombi, Nigeria.
GOMBI, Nigeria: Aisha was home with her husband and children the day they heard that that Boko Haram was coming. The family left the village that same day, taking only what they could carry.

“We managed to escape to the mountains,” Aisha recalled later. “But many of my relatives who didn’t leave soon enough were killed.”

Three years later, Gombi and communities like it in northern Adamawa state remain devastated. All that’s left of Aisha’s house is a charred heap of collapsed concrete and corrugated tin. Any food is long gone. Farm fields are strewn with debris. Home for thousands of families is little more than space on the floor of a host neighbor’s house.
“All of us in Guyaku [district] are farmers,” Aisha said. “It has not been easy for us since we returned without any supplies or equipment. We didn’t have anything to do.”

To be sure, the protracted Boko Haram uprising has substantially restricted food access for most households across the region. Diminishing community support, poor harvests, inflation, and reduced incomes all continue to limit food access.

Many households who could not plant crops this year will continue to have difficulties meeting basic food needs and will remain in crisis or at a high state of food insecurity through 2017, according to the worldwide famine early warning system, FEWS NET. While the security situation has improved, there is a danger of famine following three missed growing seasons.

Over the course of this past June, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, responded to the looming crisis by donating 160 metric tons of seeds to 6,000 households in the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno and Adamawa, where Gombi is situated. The donation will not only contribute to food security in the region but to the livelihoods of the farming community.

The seeds are helping more than 60,000 internally displaced people in the region begin to rebuild
Fufore farmers receive free seed crops, foodstuff from
their lives. The donation included a wide variety of seeds to meet different nutrition needs, such as maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut and cowpea. For many of those who received them, the seeds are already visible sprouting from the newly prepared soil.

“These seeds are helping me start my life again,” said Garba, who left his home in Madagali and still lives in the nearby town of Fufore, also in Adamawa state. “Though we were hungry we did not eat them. At the end of the day we will all benefit by planting and growing food again.”

Partners, including state and local government and the American University of Nigeria’s Adamawa Peace Initiative (AUN-API) helped ensure the distribution went smoothly by assembling a committee of local partners like the Christian Association, the Muslim Council, the Youth Council, women leaders, and the citizen militias. With this broad community involvement, there was confidence the seeds were distributed to those most in need and who had the land and capacity to use them.

To ensure seeds are actually planted and not cooked or sold for food as a result of food scarcity, AUN-API through its fund raising efforts distributed food parcels to help support recipient families while they plant and await harvest.

Fufore district representative Malam Aminu Jaro said the committee did the work of parceling out land to the beneficiaries, providing technical assistance for the planting, ensuring the seeds did not end up in the market for sale.

“The farmers have also received food assistance,” Jaro said. “This will ensure the seeds all get planted.”

With local partners and government agencies, the distribution is one example of USAID’s active role in the transition from humanitarian relief to development assistance in this conflict-ravaged region. USAID support for humanitarian, transitional and longer-term development in the Lake Chad Basin totals $318 million as of mid-August.

Despite the numerous challenges that remain, USAID/Nigeria Mission Director Michael Harvey said reintroduction of agriculture, the region’s traditional economic driver, should go a long way toward returning the communities to normalcy and food security.

“These efforts are literally sowing the seeds for recovery for the people who have been hit so hard by the Boko Haram insurgency,” Harvey said.

USAID is the leading development agency of the U.S. government active in more than 100 countries around the world. USAID provides approximately $500 million annually in support to Nigeria in the areas of Health, Economic Growth and the Environment, Education, and Good Governance.

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