A WFP Media Officer, Prince Adedeji Ademigbuji writes on how a livelihoods project implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping families produce food for themselves again after years of prolonged conflict in north east Nigeria.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning in Kiribiri, a dust-covered little village in Nigeria’s north east. Yagana Bagare heads for a small plot of land outside of the village where she recently planted maize.
Although still early in the day, the heat is already intense. Sometimes it gets as hot as 45 degrees Celsius. But that does not deter Yagana Bagare from walking very fast. The 30 year-old is looking forward to weeding around the crops she planted only a few weeks back. For the first time in years — she can enjoy watching her plants grow.
Since the eruption of conflict that is now in its ninth year in north east Nigeria, going to work in fields outside of villages and towns has become a scary prospect. The fighting has forced 1.6 million people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states — the three most affected north-eastern states — to flee their homes.
Kiribiri, which is some 20 km away from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and epicentre of the conflict, like many other villages, has been severely affected. Yagana and her husband who were happy farmers became destitute.
“We lived an impoverished life. We once begged for food — and we still do sometimes,” says Yagana Bagare. “My husband pushes a cart to survive but we barely live a good life.”
But change is imminent. A programme known as FADAMA (meaning irrigable land in the Hausa language) funded by the World Bank through the Nigerian government with WFP as one of the partners, is supporting families to reinforce self-reliance.
The plot of land that Yagana Bagare is hurrying to, was allocated to her as part of the FADAMA livelihood project. The land was provided by 85-year-old village head, Zanna Lawan Umar, for use by the poorest young families of Kiribiri.
Salisu, Yagana Bagare’s husband, often joins her in the field. He would normally be pushing carts at the local Muna market, which has been attacked by suicide bombers several times. Now, as part of the WFP-FADAMA scheme, he feels safer and less dependent on external help.
Village councils selected people for this project benefiting a total of 7,000 people and their families in the Maiduguri area. In Kiribiri 72 persons, including Yagana, enrolled in a farming and irrigation project. The selected households receive a monthly stipend of N17,000 (US$47) from WFP to bridge the food gap until they are able to harvest their crops.
“If we produce our own food, we are going to be respected; we are going to have our lost ground back. That’s the dignity I want for my people in Kiribiri,” says Zanna Lawan Umar, the village head.
Modu Koru, 42, is another Kiribiri resident poised to change the lives of his family members through the programme when harvest time comes. Koru, who has two wives and nine children, also lost his farmlands years ago due to a threat by fighters.
While Modu Koru waits to harvest his crops some months away, he is happy he was able to farm again after a prolonged conflict.
“The conflict drove us out of our farm. We’re happy WFP is taking us back to farming as against begging on the streets or subjecting our children to be street beggars,” says Modu Koru.
The programme provides a number of livelihood activities. Some households are involved in constructing water boreholes for irrigation making it possible for the farmers to plant and harvest several times a year. Others run a tree seedling nursery, and a number of women will start little businesses with poultry production.
The communities will also benefit from the construction of feeder roads, waste disposal pits, soil and water preservation, a vocational centre, market sheds and so on.
Although WFP assists around 1.2 million people every month with food or cash distributions, the plan is to push for more projects like FADAMA, supporting families regain their livelihoods. This is in line with WFP’s mission of saving lives in emergencies and changing lives to make people resilient and self-reliant.