By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has disclosed that as at June 2016, 4.6 million people were severely food insecure in the Lake Chad basin with 65 percent located in Northeast Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe States.

FAO further disclosed that the impact of displacements and insecurity on Agriculture in the region was estimated at USD 3.7 billion as a result of livestock losses and reduction in agricultural production.

According to FAO, “Massive population displacements and insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin are putting livelihoods and food security at high risk. In North East Nigeria alone, the impact of the conflict on agriculture is estimated at USD 3.7 billion due to livestock losses and reduced agricultural production, destruction of irrigation and farming facilities, and collapse of extension services including veterinary health facilities.”

It added that civilians bear the burden of insecurity in the affected areas. “Displaced people lost their assets and most of them rely on the limited resources of host communities, who themselves have suffered from the disruption of agricultural activities and of transhumance flows over the past few years. Staple food prices have also increased, with rises up to 50 to 100 percent reported in some areas of Borno State.”

In response to the plight of the affected communities as well as the displaced people, FAO is assisting 93,000 people in the area and plans to further assist additional 123,200. “FAO is providing critical agricultural and livelihood assistance to 92,000 people in the Lake Chad Basin, and will reach an additional 123,200 people in the coming months with essential crops for the ongoing and upcoming agricultural seasons.”

Rosanne Marchesich, Response Team Leader and Senior Strategic Advisor of FAO’s Strategic Programme Management Team on Resilience, said upon her return from a FAO field mission in Borno and Yobe States in North East Nigeria that “After three consecutive lost agriculture seasons, farmers from both host communities and displaced people are resuming agriculture activities. People are preparing their land and host communities have even allocated land to the internally displaced to farm this year.”

In addition, FAO plans to set up a field office in Maiduguri to ensure adequate monitoring of interventions. “Enhanced efforts are made to better assess the current needs and develop coordinated interventions, together with national authorities and other partners. Strengthening the Food Security Sector work in Maiduguri will also bring coordination capacity closer to the field of operations in the North East.),” the statement further said.

And, because more funds are needed to address food security and livelihood needs on a larger scale, FAO is preparing a sub-regional strategy to mobilize more resources and provide increased support to vulnerable communities in the affected areas of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. “FAO and its partners must keep the momentum and build on recent interventions to expand livelihood assistance.’ said Patrick David, Deputy Head of the Sub-regional Resilience Team for West Africa/Sahel (REOWA), Regional Food Security Analyst.

In this direction, the Organisation seeks “to mobilize USD 15 million to reach an additional 63,000 families (504,000 people) by the end of the year with a wide range of agriculture-based activities aimed to quickly generate food production and income, as well as protect livelihoods.”

The statement stressed that while FAO was committed to respond to the immediate agriculture and livelihoods needs, medium and longer term investment would be critical to build resilient livelihoods in order to avoid longer-term reliance on external assistance. “Support to livelihoods through improved access to and use of natural and economic resources, as well as community-based social protection mechanisms is a critical step to sustainable development and peace building in the Lake Chad Basin.

It could be recalled that in the recent months, security forces have recaptured 22 of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Borno State, and 15 of 17 LGAs in Yobe State in Nigeria.