To encourage farming and cushion the growing threats of starvation and hunger already ravaging the North-east, the American University of Nigeria, in collaboration with Adamawa Peace Initiative and USAID, recently donated food and seedlings to farmers, following the return of normalcy in the seven local government areas in Adamawa State ravaged by the insurgency. Daji Sani writes

Most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the seven affected local government areas in Adamawa State are farmers. Agriculture has been the most important source of their income and also the source that provides the basic of necessities of life to these displaced farmers.

Some of these farmers are into dry season farming and others into animal farming. Others also combined both crop and animal farming. However, the most predominant type of farming in those affected areas is crop farming which agricultural experts say that the areas usually produce bumper harvest at the end of every farming season for the nation.

They also lamented that both the continuous onslaught of the insurgency on the affected areas had brought pains and prevented farming activities for about three years which had brought hunger and starvation and also paralysed business activities in the areas. But all hope is not lost as there seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders had been raising the alarm that the Boko Haram victims are dying of starvation adding that thousands of IDPs are dying on a daily basis from diarrhea and malnutrition in North-east especially women and children.

To mitigate this tragedy, the Federal Government had flagged-off the distribution of 70 trucks of grains through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) across the 21 local government areas of the state. During the distribution in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Analysis and Development, Ibrahim Bapetel who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, said the distribution was meant to cushion the effects of hunger and encourage farming activities in the state particularly the areas affected by the Insurgency.

Bapetel said the reason that informed the federal government’s decision to commence distribution was because for about three years now farmers in the North-east were hindered from farming activities because of the incessant onslaught on them by the Boko Haram insurgents.

He said the government believed that the distribution would encourage farming activities and cushion the growing threats of starvation and hunger already ravaging the North-east

The importance attached to farming is the reason that motivated the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, being a development university in collaboration with Adamawa Peace Initiative (API) and USAID, in the month of June this year to donate food and seeds to farmers to aid their farming activities this season following the return of normalcy in the affected areas.

The coordinator of AUN-API humanitarian relief, Bello Abdullahi, at the flag-off distribution in Gombi, said 4,150 farmers, spreading across four local governments in Adamawa state, each received bags of seeds and food to aid their recovery from the destruction Boko Haram brought on their communities and livelihoods.

Abdullahi said the seeds and food distribution in the identified local governments of Gombi, Fufore, Michika and Madagali benefited following the number of identified IDPs who had farmland and are prepared to farm.

He further explained that in Gombi Local Government Areas one of areas mostly affected by insurgency 725 IDP farmers benefitted while in Michika – 1,398 IDP farmers benefitted, in Madagali – 1,522 IDP farmers and in Fufore – 505 also benefited totaling 4,150 beneficiaries.

According to him, the beneficiary received the following seed crops: 10kg of maize for planting, 10kg of cowpea for planting and 5kg of Sorghum for planting adding that these seed crops were supplied by USAID and are high-yielding and require minimal need for fertiliser.

“50,000 households benefited from the distribution and USAID was satisfied with the distribution, the turnout of IDP farmers and their orderly conduct during the distribution,” he said.

He said USAID preferred AUN-API to handle the distribution on her behalf because the organisation enjoys grassroots support and trust of local farmers and has the most effective, transparent and accountable state-wide distribution network.

According to President Margee Ensign, who is the chairperson of AUN-API, “AUN has a founding mandate to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. This mandate was drawn from the vision of our Founder who thought a university is not necessarily an ivory tower. So the so-called town-and-gown relationship was there from our very foundation. AUN works in and with the community to find solutions to challenges faced by its people.”

Ensign said the distributions were done to aid farming activities in those affected areas liberated from the grip of the insurgency and to provide food security in these areas. She added that agriculture is key to the nation’s development and should not be taken with levity and called on stakeholders to venture into mechanised systems of farming in order to secure the nation especially the North-east from total starvation and hunger in the land.

The AUN President further explained that because of the hunger and suffering still present in these affected areas, there was a possibility that these beneficiaries would simply eat these seeds instead of planting them adding that the AUN/API also distributed food stuff to support these seeds distribution initiative in all four local governments.

She explained further that each of the benefiting IDP farmers also received the following:
20kg bags of maize ,10kg bags of beans and N200 (two hundred naira) transportation to aid them get back to their various wards or homes.

Ambassador Samantha Power, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, in her speech during a visit to the North-east and AUN around April this year, commended the university for taking a lead role in the rehabilitation of IDPs and especially in post-insurgency strategic vision – food security, peace mediation and security awareness training.

“I think what you all (AUN) have done here is really a model for how universities, not only in Nigeria but all around the world, can wade into some of the most complex and seemingly intractable challenges facing their communities. It’s also a model for how you shape a rising generation of leaders,” Power said.

According to the Vice President, AUN-API , Alhaji Gambo Jika, “We are expecting a good harvest. Once that happens, the supply of food items in these local governments will increase tremendously and their prices will go down. We are expecting all this to happen, Insha Allah, by the end of the raining season.”

Mrs. Charity Garba, a member of the AUN/API seeds and food distribution told THISDAY that the distribution involves different local organisations so as to reach every farmer in the four identified local government areas.

“We have the CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria), the Muslim Council, the Youth Council, the women leaders, the traditional leaders and the vigilantes. They are the people that formed the committee and they are representing their people. We are expecting to do more. Our organisation was formed to put smiles on people’s faces. So as God helps us, we will continue to do more,” she said.

Aisha Malafa, a beneficiary from Guyaku District, Gombi Local Government Area, said “We were at home when they told us that Boko Haram was coming. So we left the village and ran to the mountains. They killed so many of my relatives but some of us were able to escape. Boko Haram burnt down everything, our homes, our foodstuffs and our farms. So when we returned, there was nothing to do.

“I am a farmer and all of us in Guyaku are too. It has not been easy for us since we returned. So what these organisations are doing will help us. We will be able to plant our seeds and grow something. We are pleading for more assistance.”

“I was happy before Boko Haram struck. But now that Boko Haram has come and gone, I find life very difficult. My house was burnt down and I am currently unable to rebuild it because I am financially broke. By the grace of God, these seeds will help us to get back on track. I will get products and by the end of the day, I will have something to live on. This is a sign of hope. I pray that God will increase them as they are increasing us,” said Pastor Mark Nuhu a beneficiary from Gombi Local Government.

Garba Abdullahi, a beneficiary from Fufore, narrated the ordeal he passed through. “I ran from Madagali to Fufore because of Boko Haram. I left everything. But these seeds will help me to start my life again. I am calling on other beneficiaries not to eat their seeds but plant them because at the end of the day, they will be the ones to benefit.”

Malam Aminu Jauro, a community leader and representative of the District Head of Ribadu, a district under Fufore, said on ensuring that the seeds are planted they would give interested people farmland and encourage farming activities in the areas.

“We will give people farmland and give them instructions on how to use the seeds. We will also go out to monitor them. We will not let anybody to take the seeds to the market to sell. Given that they (farmers) have been given food, we will ensure that the seeds are planted. We want to make up for the disruption occasioned by the insurgency attacks on the areas,” Jauro noted.