For the first time since the onset of the Boko Haram crisis, hunger has considerably declined in northeastern Nigeria, according to the latest Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis. In the three states ravaged by the violence, the number of people facing acute hunger has halved since June-August – from 5.2 million to 2.6 million people.
This is a major step forward thanks to an overall improved security situation, and the scaling-up of humanitarian and longer-term livelihoods assistance by the government and its partners. The report warns, however, without sustained and timely assistance, all good work could quickly be undone. More than 3.5 million people could battle again with acute hunger, including a risk of famine, by next August.
FAO provided cowpea, maize, millet, sorghum, vegetable seeds and fertilisers to 1 million people (internally displaced populations (IDPs), returned refugees and host communities) to help them get through the last rainy season (June-September) when food stocks are low. FAO is aiming to further boost local production through distributions of vegetable seeds, farming kits, fertilisers and irrigation equipment to some 780,000 people across the three states.
In Yobe, one of the three states affected by violence, the villages are still a bustling field of yellow as farmers cut the last millet and sorghum and pile them in neat bundles. The smell of freshly cut crops lingers in the air. For many, this is the first time they have enough food to eat. By supporting host communities to plant during the rainy season, FAO has also brought relief to displaced, landless populations who could work in the fields and earn an income.
According to a 37-year-old Aisha Ibrahim, who was forced to flee her village three years ago and has been displaced ever since said, “This will be enough food for the family, and with the money from my knitting business, I will plan for my children’s education.”
A local farmer from Ngalda village, Malam Mohammed who supports IDPs said, “Families in my village help about five to six displaced people each. They depend on our assistance. Good harvest brings joy to all of us. It reduces the pressure and makes us stronger.”
A widowed mother of eight children Hajanuwe Sulieman, who has been displaced by violence three years ago said, “The local communities have helped me; I could work on their farms and got paid.”
Across northeastern Nigeria, farmers have been through a lot these past few months; some have had to deal with a dry spell, others with flooding. But now the fields are dry and farmers like Malam and Hajanuwe are getting ready to plant again. Sustained support – from rainy to dry season – builds vulnerable communities’ resilience, strengthens their capacity to grow both staple and cash crops, and reduces the need for food assistance.