Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has said that it is planning to install 100 Farmer Field School (FFS) community groups in 2018 in Nigeria’s North-east region to boost agricultural production.
This comes as the UN agency said it urgently needs about $18 million to meet the needs of agro-based households in the crisis-ridden northeast.
The UN agency in a press release on Thursday, said that it had so far trained 51 agricultural experts in the FFS approach in North-east Nigeria.
FAO said: “In July and August 2018, an additional 26 experts across the three northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe were trained in FAO’s landmark programme for boosting pro-poor and participatory agricultural extension support worldwide.
“Following the training of an initial batch of 25 agricultural officers from government agricultural agencies and non-governmental organisations and the establishment of Farmer Field School (FFS) community groups, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) graduated its second batch of FFS facilitators on 18 August, 2018 in Maiduguri, Borno.
“The three-week long intensive workshop equipped experts supporting conflict-affected farmers in the northeast with the skills to set up and run at least two farmer field schools per facilitator.”
It added that: “FFSs are an interactive and participatory ‘learning by doing’ approach involving groups of 20-25 farmers, pastoralists or fisher folk and a trained facilitator. Group members experiment with best practices while discussing challenges and solutions to agriculture-related issues in their own local context. FFSs are usually comprised of resource-poor participants who typically face limited access to education, information, extension (for e.g. farming and pastoral advice) services, market access and financial capital.”
The release quoted FAO Representative in Nigeria, Suffyan Koroma, as saying that the FFSs are another entry point for FAO to support the most at-risk farming households in the North-east, and that the “UN agency plans to install, with regional partners, at least 100 of these schools in 2018”.
Koroma said: “Smallholder farmers face huge hurdles in managing increasingly complex agro-ecosystems. Through FFSs, farmers will learn how to create sustainable solutions to farming and pastoral issues.”
He said: “FAO’s work in the North-east goes far beyond the provision of livelihood-saving agro-inputs like seed and fertiliser,” adding that: “FAO works closely with farmers to ensure that inputs they receive are being properly utilised, that they are employing the most effective techniques in the management of their crops and animals. And that generally, farming households have the best conditions to boost their resilience.”
The release recalled that: “FAO’s ongoing rainy season programme delivered seed and fertiliser to about 100,000 households as of July. Crop and livestock production is expected to rise with the increased access to farming lands in newly accessible areas in the region. However, access to land remains a key issue as numerous communities are restricted to only small parcels of land for production and cannot use traditional growing and grazing areas due to lingering security risks. In northeastern Nigeria, farmers often rely on sharecropping (planting on land belonging to others in exchange for a portion of harvests) or rent less than one hectare of land for subsistence agriculture.”
It stated that the June 2018 Displacement Tracking Matrix revealed that about 1,549,630 people have been returned to their original communities in northeastern Nigeria, adding that the returnees, host communities and internally displaced people require urgent support to resume their livelihoods, 80 per cent of which is estimated to be agriculture-based.