In Borno state, North East Nigeria, the current COVID-19 pandemic is not just a crisis, it is a crisis within a crisis. The state was already undergoing a staggered recovery on account of to a decade-long insurgency that has resulted in food shortages, imperiled livelihoods and exacerbated poverty. Now faced with the pandemic, conflict-affected persons in the state will be at greater risk if recovery efforts are not sustained and increased.
As part of its emergency response in the state, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched its 2020 livestock restocking campaign. The latest distribution is part of a comprehensive initiative funded by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) jointly implemented by FAO, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the World Food Programme (WFP). It is envisaged that the intervention will empower beneficiaries by enabling them to reestablish their productive asset base through the replenishment of lost livestock.
Regenerating livestock production for rural resilience
Prior to the crisis, livestock production was a major source of livelihood for rural dwellers in Borno. Women have traditionally been the custodians of household poultry and small ruminants such as goats and sheep while youth have typically engaged in bull fattening. For women, the rearing of poultry and small ruminants provides access to income and participation in rural market systems through the sale of animals bred, eggs and other products. Bulls, considered prized assets, are often sold after fattening to generate income to invest in alternative livelihoods including petty trading and purchase of agriculture inputs. Bulls are also used to provide services including the transportation of goods and farmland traction, thereby enabling the owners to diversify their income sources. However, the conflict has resulted in the depletion of livestock assets due to looting by insurgents or fire sales as villagers were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. With a view to restoring the livestock population in the state, FAO has been distributing livestock kits to affected farmers since 2016.
In 2019, under the ongoing EUTF initiative, FAO empowered 2 000 women with goat restocking kits, 500 women with small-scale poultry inputs and 600 youths with bulls. The support has contributed to improving household nutrition, income generation and has also generated rural employment through the production of eggs, goat kids and sales of bulls. An FAO survey revealed that 82 percent of respondents selected from among the poultry beneficiaries generated an average of NGN 6 186 per month from the sale of eggs. Respondents selected from among beneficiaries of goat kits reported increases in their herds and had generated an average of NGN 15 378 from the sale of goat kids. As their new assets continue to yield, beneficiaries will have a productive asset base that will allow them to gradually build resilience to future shocks.
In 2020, thanks to support of the EUTF, FAO is empowering 2 500 women with goat kits, 1 500 women with poultry kits and 1 400 youths with bulls. The beneficiaries, selected from Bama, Dikwa, Gwoza, Jere, Kaga, Konduga and Mafa Local Government Areas in the state, are also being trained on rural livestock management.
“In the context of COVID-19, we have adapted our work to ensure that we continue to provide livelihood and resilience building assistance to vulnerable populations in the state and the northeast region generally”, said Al Hassan Cisse, FAO Representative ad interim in Nigeria. He further reiterated FAO’s continued commitment to support smallholders in the region, stating that their activities are crucial to enhancing food security and to boosting income generation, and emphasized that enabling affected populations to access the inputs needed to restart their livelihoods will be integral to mitigating the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on already fragile livelihoods.