Boko Haram-related violence in northeastern Nigeria has spilled over to areas of neighbouring Sahelian countries in the Lake Chad Basin – specifically, Cameroon, Chad and the Niger – with devastating effects on food security and livelihoods. The violence has driven millions from their homes and hampered access to agricultural lands and assets, creating massive humanitarian needs in an area already characterized by food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation.
FAO’s strategic approach
FAO’s approach is to use the response to immediate needs as a starting point for the implementation of longer-term activities that contribute to strengthening the population’s resilience. Focusing solely on the conflict and insecurity as the cause of the crisis oversimplifies the complex, interrelated socio-environmental and ecological issues affecting rural and urban livelihoods in the Lake Chad Basin. Demographic growth, harsh competition over natural and economic resources, lack of income opportunities, the marginalization of vulnerable groups (returnees, youth and women), negative coping strategies and social divisions based on livelihood, ethnic or religious lines, as well as governance issues, have been identified as the main underlying factors of the crisis.
Ensuring sustainable and equitable access to resources and services as well as sustainable growth of livelihood opportunities are therefore critical priorities. Strengthening resilience by linking emergency interventions to lasting recovery will facilitate immediate efforts to address food insecurity and reduce negative coping strategies, while mitigating the impact of the root causes of the conflict and instability in the region.
Emergency livelihood support during the lean season is essential to avoid losing the fourth consecutive harvest. Food assistance and livelihood support interventions should be conducted in parallel. Returnees moving back to formerly Boko Haram-controlled areas must be provided with appropriate support to restart agricultural activities, while ensuring adequate access to services and protection. The most critical intervention is the seed and agricultural input provision to be carried out before the planting season (May‒July). This is a priority to ensure staple crop harvests, which will have the greatest impact on food security in the region. Nonetheless, other activities to ensure rapid food production in other sectors are equally critical, such as fisheries and livestock during the lean season.