Nigeria: Refugee women and internally displaced persons boosting food security

11 August 2020

A session of the Farmers Business School (FBS) training in Mubi community, Adamawa State. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
A session of the Farmers Business School (FBS) training in Mubi community, Adamawa State. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

The north-eastern states of Nigeria, especially Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, have suffered greatly from the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed numerous lives since its inception over ten years ago. Thousands have had to flee and seek safety.

“Boko Haram forced us out of our houses at night and all our properties were destroyed,” said Hamsatu Anjili.

The COVID-19 pandemic also increased the need for humanitarian assistance in these territories. Restrictions of movement and rising prices of food are some of the main challenges faced by local and displaced communities. Many farmers could not go to the market to sell their products or prepare the fields for the farming season due to lockdown.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), 7 million people may become food insecure, up from pre-COVID-19 figures of 3.7 million. Most of them are women and children. “[Covid-19] has stopped children from going to school, the cost of transportation has increased, and we can’t go to our businesses,” said Sarah Ishaku, displaced in Borno.

Women empowerment and integration

JRS has been operating the north-eastern areas of the country since 2018, where they have been addressing the challenges of refugees, IDPs, and local women who struggle to access food, drinkable water, or adequate healthcare. Many lacked financial means, agricultural produce, and equipment.

JRS offers several agricultural pieces of training through the Farmers Field School (FFS) and Farmers Business School (FBS), as well as training for teachers, young entrepreneurship programs, and classes for children out of school. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, JRS also distributed hygiene kits to vulnerable households.

I now know that farming is a business and I have another source of income.
Hamsatu Anjili, Farmers Field School (FFS) participant

The FFS participants are equipped with knowledge on modern and sustainable agricultural techniques and receive various seeds and fertilizers. The leaders of the groups in the project are the students themselves. One woman, Habiba Dahibu, has vowed to educate other women on modern farming and its advantages.

“I now know that farming is a business and I have another source of income,” says Hamsatu Anjili after joining the training. “I also learnt how to calculate my farm size and to know the amount of fertilizer I will need as well as the possible number of bags to expect,” said Sarah Amos.

Innovative and environmental-friendly agricultural techniques

Due to the erratic climate condition in Nigeria, it is also crucial to promote community integration within the participants. Groups of displaced men and women help locals and other IDPs while working in each other’s farms during the planting and harvest season. “If we work as a team, we help each other with any farming challenges,” Habiba Dahiru stated.

JRS’ agricultural programme also promotes environmentally-friendly farming techniques, such as the use of biological disease control. The use of chemicals is reduced, for example, by adopting crop rotation like cereals and legumes. “[Taking care of the environment] helps to prevent diseases, and brings unity to the community,” Hauwa Mohammed Bukar, an FFS participant, added.