Come rain or shine, every farmer’s dream is a bountiful harvest. Climate change and lack of access to improved seedlings and farming equipment are inhibiting most farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa from realising this dream. In the Lake Chad region, particularly North-east Nigeria, millions of farmers have lost their farmlands to jihadist violence. Some communities now have limited access to their farms due to terrorist attacks. The trends have contributed to the food crisis in Africa – 54 per cent of the global total of people in the food crisis are in Africa, according to a 2020 analysis by the World Food Programme. The continued jihadist violence in the North-east is posing severe challenges for the predominant farming communities in the area. The violence has also influenced the further migration of pastoralists southwards; sustaining the protracted violent conflict between them and already challenged sedentary farmers.
Terror-impacted communities face several challenges, including limited access to farms. Community resilience has also been affected as communities are few attacks away from being impoverished. Despite the ongoing insurgency, local groups are struggling to farm through the conflict – displaced people are also competing with indigenes over diminishing resources. The Nigerian government has to seek ways to implement agricultural interventions in targeted communities across the North-east.
According to a field study by Nextier SPD, affected communities in the region are initiating homegrown solutions to counter realities of the war as part of their coping mechanisms. Protecting and assisting victims of terrorism should be the core mandate of the Nigerian government. Concerted efforts should be made by government to assist indigenous efforts in the area as a way of supporting resilience capabilities to the Boko Haram conflict. There are development partners interested in resilience intervention programmes in the region. Government should seek fruitful partnerships with such organisations to bring succour to the tremendously troubled region.
Food is a weapon for peace. Government’s commitment to supporting local farmers through the harsh consequences of the war adds to counter-insurgency measures. Agricultural interventions in the North-east will lay the building blocks for stabilisation, rebuilding lives and the local economy. Agricultural empowerment of communities in the region will improve their economic security, push for productivity among the vulnerable population and reduce their susceptibility to criminality. Relief support in terms of improved seedling, agricultural sensitisation programmes should be locally implemented. Implementation should kick off by mapping out conflict-sensitive intervention models that will not crumble due to the volatility of the area. Government should fund research to understand the best approach to support local initiatives. Moreover, already concluded research in the area is pregnant with strong recommendations that will cushion the impact of the conflict, especially on local farmers. Beyond military action, the conflict in the North-east requires strategic community interventions.