For almost a decade, conflict spearheaded by the Boko Haram insurgency sparked off large-scale violence and insecurity in the northeastern region of Nigeria, resulting in one of the largest humanitarian crises in Africa.
The sustained insurgency attacks forced millions to abandon their homes and predominantly agricultural livelihoods, leading to disruptions and decreased income.
Across the Lake Chad Basin region incorporating parts of neighbouring countries and 16 States in northeastern region,an estimated seven million people risk suffering from severe hunger.
But even as the trend of the insecurity is declining, and most areas are becoming relatively strife-free, indicators show that there is growing concern for the food and nutrition security and livelihood of populations in the affected States.
Already, more than two million men, women and children that previously abandoned their homes and livelihoods, are gradually returning.
Many Internally Displaced People, IDPs, in host communities with access to land are returning to farming. The returnees are gradually having access to their land, and looking forward to benfiting from the forthcoming rainy season to begin planting.
Findings revealed that humanitarian costs have been on the increase in recent times and the restoration of agriculture-based livelihoods is key to recovery and peace efforts in the region.
Even as the trend of the insecurity is declining, indicators show that there is concern for the food and nutrition security and livelihood of the populations in these affected states.
A joint report tagged “Cadre Harmonise for Identification of Risk Areas and Vulnerable Populations in 16 States of Nigeria”, on the analysis of current and projected situations of acute food and nutrition insecurity , showed that the nutritional status that is in stress in Borno, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Yobe States, may fall within the critical threshold during the lean season.
The report, put together by the Federal government of Nigeria, Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in The Sahel, CILSS is the current regional framework for consensual analysis of food insecurity situations.
It aims to have the results of food insecurity analysis applied to prevent food crisis by identifying affected areas and populations and proferring appropriate measures to improve their food and nutrition security and livelihoods.
Surveys by the FAO showed that in October 2016 and March 2017. The food consumption levels in most of the states is minimal.
Some of the states are facing nutritional challenges especially among children aged under five years.
In 2016, FAO enabled 146,000 people to produce their own cereals, vegetables and pulses during the rainy season. A further 174,400 people are currently being reached for the dry season with vegetable seed and, irrigation support.
In the view of the Director General of the FAO, of the United Nations, Dr. Graziano da Silva, the goal is not that the people should continue to rely on food assistance, rather, restoration of agriculture-based livelihoods is key to recovery and peace efforts in Lake Chad Basin region.
Graziano da Silva who spoke during a visit to a farm centre on the outskirt of Maiduguri, said the need to garner humanitarian assistance to assist the people in hunger-threatened rural communities in the war-afflicted Lake Chad Basin region, said the time to act is now.
“If we miss the coming planting season, there will be no substantial harvests until 2018. Failure to restore food production now will lead to the worsening widespread and severe hunger and prolonged dependency on external assistance further into the future,” he cautioned.
A professor of agriculture and former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Graziano da Silva said his visit was to increase presence of the FAO and help reduce the huge food and nutrition crisis faced by people in the region.
“We have prepared a proposal for development of the Lake Chad Basin. The proposal envisages to give response strategy from 2017 to 2019 for developing the agricultural potential in preventing the risk of severe hunger during the lean season.
“Peace is not a condition for development, rather development is a condition for peace,” he stated.
“We need to go beyond the symptoms and get to the root cause of this crisis
The situation in the northeastern part of the country is not just humanitarian but ecological.
“It is not enough just to provide them with food, their hope and livelihood must be restored.”
In 2017, under the Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, the FAO, of the United Nations is seeking $62 million, of which $20 million is urgently required to reach 1.9 million people in the region during the upcoming main planting season starting May 2017.