Farming vs. Boko Haram: Nigeria's New Strategy

Farm in backyard of Basaki IDP camp has thrived in producing crops for many. Farm in backyard of Basaki IDP camp has thrived in producing crops for many. © Tim McDonnell/IRIN

4 July 2017
IRIN News published a report  on the use of farming in Nigeria against the current state of the Boko Haram war.

The report drafted by Tim McDonnell starts by describing the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo picking through burlap sacks filled with maize, cowpea, and rice seed. These sacks of seeds, along with hundreds more being collected in Maiduguri, Nigeria, are will be donated to farmers across the state. Shettima stated that the donations were not solely for the purpose of growing food, but also to send a message to Islamist militants who have terrorised the region for the past eight years.

However, on the other side of the argument, many in the aid community fear that the time is not right to start farming again, as there are more important matters of security and humanitarian relief at hand. Many farmers who have recently fled from food insecurity think it remains impossible to return to their fields, as it is currently still not possible to farm.

Before Boko Haram, northeastern Nigeria had an agrarian economy driven by farmers who produced enough food to create a self–sufficient population. But once the region became a war zone, farming became impossible. The conflict wiped out 90 percent of Borno’s agricultural production. Deputy director of Borno’s agricultural office, Mustapha Malah, stated, “Boko Haram militants would burn down whatever they couldn't collect. Farmers had to run for their lives or they would be killed”.

But after a few years of these extreme attacks, the military finally seems to be gaining ground. Many of the insurgents have been pushed out of inhabited areas and into the northern desert fringes. More than 4,500 militants have surrendered through a government disarmament plan. Since October 2015, 1.2 million IDPs have been returned home.

With this comes a larger potential for farming to improve. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has announced a plan that aims to supply one million farmers across the northeast with seeds and fertiliser before the rainy season.

On the other hand, even though humanitarian organizations have spent one million dollars per day on food aid, they are severely overstretched in their ability to address the region’s hunger crisis. Along with this, malnourished and destitute people are more vulnerable to exploitation by insurgents. But giving the food production burden back to farmers would decrease hunger and increase security.

The report mentions IDP Mallam Modusugu, a man who was displaced after his home was destroyed and his neighbours were killed by Boko Haram. He now lives at the Basaki Camp, which refuges 21,000 IDPs. Modusugu and his friends saved up enough money to buy seeds to plant in a small plot of land near the camp where IDPs could farm. Most of the crops they grow are sold to locals and other IDPs. The farm has been so successful that Modusugu has been able to invest in a diesel-powered irrigation pump. Modusugu states, “When we came here, we were empty-handed. With these crops, we are able to sustain our lives”.

Despite the military’s progress, these zones still remain highly vulnerable to attack. There is more progress needed on matters of security, food and water access, housing, and other necessities before farms can operate safely and productively.

 

To read more, visit:

http://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2017/06/26/farming-becomes-new-frontline-boko-haram-war

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