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Senior officials from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have visited agricultural projects in Borno State, in north-east Nigeria, that have transformed the lives of conflict-affected community members.

Borno State, which borders the Lake Chad region, has been affected by a decade-long insurgency that has reduced food security and destroyed livelihoods. High food and fuel prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the economic impacts of COVID-19, are also driving down food security. In partnership with local authorities and partners, FAO has established several projects aimed at better production and nutrition, and shoring-up resilience against future shocks.

In Gongulong community in Jere, the delegation saw FAO-supported projects including integrated aquaculture and vegetable production, centres for fish-processing and making briquettes for fuel-efficient stoves, and a Farmer Field School where participants learn methods for better production.

“What we have heard from the community today is that the livelihood restoration projects are changing the lives of many people,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa. “These projects show that with investments in agricultural projects and programmes, in collaboration  with partners, acute food insecurity, poverty and unemployment can be reduced,” he said.

Innovative solutions for better production

The integrated aquaculture and vegetable production project sees farmers being trained to raise catfish in tanks. The nutrient-rich wastewater from the fish tanks is used to water and fertilize nearby vegetable kitchen gardens, benefitting the community through access to nutritious fish, onions, spinach and okra, and providing a new source of income.

“I can teach others how to set up and sustain the fish farming and vegetable production to earn more income,” Bukar Suguli, a fish and vegetable producer said, adding that the business has restored the livelihoods of the entire community.

The Farmer Field School (FFS), or ‘school without walls’, helps to improve adoption of innovative, sustainable agricultural practices over the course of a farming season. It has been widely adopted in Nigeria, and across Africa, as an effective method for agricultural extension services. Since 2018, FAO has trained over 100 facilitators and established over 400 Farmer Field Schools across five states in Nigeria. Participants have recorded higher yields of up to 40% compared to other farmers. 

At the FFS in Gongulong, women farmers have learned to overcome local challenges such as a parasitic weed that destroys cowpea crops. They have addressed it by planting improved varieties of cowpea that are resistant to the weed and that have higher yields.

FAO has also introduced the FAO Thiaroye Technology (FTT) fish-smoking kiln for safe and fuel-efficient processing of the farmed catfish. The kiln drastically reduces the smoke-related health impacts on the women processors compared to older methods, and extends the shelf life of fish by 6 months. 

Safe access to cooking fuel is another critical issue being addressed through FAO’s work in Maiduguri. Women and children who traditionally collect fuelwood are often at risk of attack when far from their homes.  The Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) programme was introduced by FAO through training to produce fuel-efficient stoves and briquettes.

 At the briquette-making facility in Gongulong, women are being trained to make and sell the stoves and fuel, which provides them with a source of income. The innovative stoves reduce fuelwood collection trips from 4 times a week to just over once a week on average, and halve the amount of fuelwood typically needed. The briquettes use agricultural bio-waste, reducing the need to cut-down trees for fuel.

FAO’s work in north-east Nigeria, including Borno State, is funded by Belgium, Canada, the European Union (EU), the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). FAO is also collaborating with other UN entities in the implementation of the interventions including the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women and the World Food Programme. 

The visiting delegation includes FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Deputy Director of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience Shukri Ahmed, and the FAO Representative in Nigeria Fred Kafeero.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.

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