One of the beneficiaries of the distribution of ruminants in Borno
The insurgency in the North-East region of Nigeria has raged for over a decade. Its cost has been steep impacting 14 million people with over twenty thousand lives lost, hundreds of devastated communities and 2 million displaced people. The region has captured global attention as the site of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. “The humanitarian consequence [of the insurgency] here is great and one of the worst in the world,” said Toby Lanzer, the UN Assistant Secretary and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Region during a visit to Borno State in April 2016. The footprint of the crisis spans three states in the region – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – collectively known as the BAY states.
But amid the rubble and the ruins, there are buoyant green shoots of recovery. In 2016, the Nigerian government unveiled the Buhari Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North-East. In 2017, the Nigerian government in partnership with the World Bank and the governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, established the Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP), a five-year intervention funded by the World Bank with a $200 million loan facility. MCRP is designed to address the needs of the estimated 14 million people affected by the conflict, including over 2.3 million Internally Displaced Persons of whom nearly 80 percent are women, children and youth.
In terms of its scale and scope, the MCRP is unprecedented as it cuts across various sectors with four components that tackle issues ranging from peace building, social cohesion, infrastructural rehabilitation, livelihoods and the restoration of service delivery. At the heart of its approach is the recognition that a sustainable peace in the North-East requires restoring the livelihoods of the people, rebuilding the region’s infrastructure and promoting peacebuilding and social cohesion in places where civil authority is only just now being restored.
In September 2018, the project kicked off in Ngwom, a community in Mafa Local Government Area, which lies some 45 kilometers east of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Borno has been the epicenter of the insurgency and has borne the brunt of the resulting humanitarian crisis. Here the project is targeted at over 50,000 victims of insurgency who have recently returned to their homes in nine local government areas of the state.
One of the legions displaced by the conflict is 55-year-old Abubakar Abdullahi who fled his home town in Marte to Bama Local Government area in Borno State. Abubakar was a livestock farmer and fisherman living and working by the shores of Lake Chad, happily married with his wife and three children. But as insurgent activity escalated in the Lake Chad area, disrupting the local fisheries economy and displacing thousands, life there became untenable.
Abubakar Abdullahi during the interview in Bama
Narrating his ordeal, Abubakar revealed that the tragic incident that caused him to flee his home began one Saturday evening when the insurgents attacked their village and destroyed everything. “We escaped the attack by the mercy of God, only to be reconnected with my family by the ICRC barely two years after separation”, he said. Living as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP), he added, “is not only traumatizing but makes you feel unwanted and imprisoned as well”. Through the MCRP programme of transitional support towards stabilization and recovery, about 300 returnees and IDPs have received essential livelihood support. Abubakar’s family received two ewes and a ram as a means of sustenance.
“It is a great means of livelihood which will help me improve my situation and will allow me to provide for my family,” Abubakar said noting that, despite the insurgency and economic difficulties going on around the country, the majority of Nigerians “depend more on agriculture than on petroleum as a means of livelihood.” Abubakar pledged to use the ruminants properly and then use the proceeds to return home where he would exhume the money he had buried in his house and start life afresh. Like many people who fled their homesteads hurriedly when they were attacked by insurgents, Abubakar had left virtually all his possessions and savings behind.
Two ewes and a ram may not seem like much to the outside world, but in the context of the agrarian economy of the region, they are vital resources of empowerment which can resuscitate the livelihoods of those that have been dispossessed by the conflict. Modu Kolo, an expert on ruminants who consults for the World Bank Fadama Project in Borno said, “most of the ruminants distributed are pregnant and by now they must have delivered so depending on the their needs but if they are to sell one now the market price is twenty to twenty five thousand naira which is equivalent to $60 or $70 dollars and the price will be fifty percent more during festive periods depending on the environment and genetic factors.”
Modu Kolo, Expert on Ruminants
One of the goals of the MCRP is to revitalize agriculture to meet the needs of people like Abubakar who are the most affected by the conflict. More broadly the project aims to bridge the gap between humanitarian support and medium-term development. Having recorded an economic loss of more than $9 billion, the North-East requires far more than humanitarian intervention to set it on the path to sustainable recovery.
Abubakar’s current home, Bama, is the second largest town in Borno after Maiduguri and is home to the second highest number of IDPs, returnees and rescued captives after the Borno State capital, underscoring the need for continued support to people and communities in the area. Through the MCRP, 1,500 people including 120 newly rescued women captives and returnees have also received clothing and other essential items. Among the liberated captives are women and young girls that were previously held by the insurgents in the infamous Sambisa Forest. Some of these women rescued by the Nigerian Army revealed that in terms of need, clothing ranks next to food, as most of them spend three to four years wearing the same clothes.
Borno may be the epicentre of the conflict but the consequences of the insurgency spill over into the neighbouring states of Adamawa and Yobe. The challenge posed by the conflict in Adamawa is slightly different. Apart from Madagali, Mubi and Michika and other communities in the northern part of the state which border Borno and which suffered insurgent attacks, Adamawa has had to grapple primarily with the influx of displaced persons from Borno, an influx that has placed tremendous strain on the state’s economy and social services. Much of the MCRP interventions so far in Adamawa have focussed on livelihoods and empowerment.
100 agricultural extension workers with experience in relevant fields have been trained and will subsequently provide technical support to targeted beneficiaries who will be provided with agricultural and non-agricultural kits. This is part of the provision of livelihood support to farming and non-farming households affected by the insurgency in the northern parts of Adamawa State. One of the trainees, Dr. Atiya Geoffrey, expressed delight with the workshop and promised to pass on the experience and knowledge gathered to farmers in the crisis affected areas. “The impact of the knowledge acquired here will in no small measure impact positively on our local famers and we expect that at the end of this year’s farming season, the region will certainly experience a bumper harvest” she said. Her statement reflects the mood of quiet optimism that is blooming in the region.
With the delivery of agricultural and non-agricultural kits, Adamawa is set to commence the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and the delivery of social services and has also initiated the handover of sites for the drilling of boreholes in affected communities.
Some members of the Grievance Redress Committee
The Project Coordinator, MCRP Adamawa PCU Dr. Maurice Vunobolki Addressing Participants at the 5-Day Training of Agricultural Extension Workers in Yola.
Cross Section of Participants at the 5-Day Training of Agricultural Extension Workers in Yola.
Delivery of Agricultural and Non-Agricultural kits
Given the scale of the devastation wrought by the conflict, the extent of the need in vulnerable communities and the vastness of the project, it is inevitable that misgivings may arise regarding the distribution of resources and interventions in the affected areas. To address grievances that may occur during the implementation of the project, a Grievance Redress Mechanism was put in place to register and address complaints and grievances from beneficiaries. Grievance Redress Committees (GRCs) were established in affected communities to provide social accountability, inclusion and transparency. Members of the GRCs were drawn from traditional and religious institutions, female leaderships, youth organizations, and local authorities from each community. This has brought confidence, created trust in no small measure and established a firm foundation for the smooth implementation of the project in Adamawa State.
The Yobe MCRP team, the Head of Works, Tarmuwa Local Government Area, Abubakar Helma and Bulama Modu, the Village Head of Limanti at the Limanti borehole.
Administrative difficulties delayed the kick-off of the MCRP in Yobe. The state which is known as the Pride of the Sahel lies to the west of Borno and sustained significant damage to its public infrastructure and disruptions of life and livelihoods in its communities. Since the commencement of MCRP in January 2019, the Yobe State PCU has hit the ground running. It has carried out a state-wide tour of communities across targeted local government areas, engaging in advocacy visits to the most vulnerable beneficiaries, community leaders and key stakeholders to ensure that assistance is successfully delivered. Potential sites have been visited to assess the status of infrastructure projects selected for rehabilitation. As in other states, the goal of the project here is to provide the vulnerable with livelihood opportunities, rehabilitate essential infrastructure and promote peace.
The project team visited borehole project sites in Hausari and Kolori in Gaidam Local government area, Jumbam, Kiska, Koka and Limanti in Tarmuwa local government area, and Lamba Lailai, Jigawa, Tike, Maina Kaina, Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dogon Zare and Dogo Nini in Potiskum local government area. The places visited were found to be in critical need of water supply restoration or improvement, among other key infrastructure and social services. Water security is a major challenge in these parts, said Abubakar Helma, the Head of Works, in Limanti. “The residents here in Limanti travel for more than 10 kilometers to get water for their daily use. Although there is an existing mechanized bore hole, the water yield is very low. You know, rearing of animals is a major means of livelihood here, so there is also a large concentration of livestock and the residents find it difficult to get enough water for themselves and their animals. In addition to this, because of the concentration of security operatives in our neighboring local government areas, more herders troop to Limanti to look for water.” Limanti is a remote settlement in Tarmuwa local government area.
During the MCRP’s visit, the visibly happy residents of Limanti and their village head, Bulama Modu welcomed the team. Modu said that the MCRP is the first project to attend to the community with the purpose of addressing its perennial water problem. In the course of its tour, the team introduced the MCRP to the local government chairs of Gaidam, Tarmuwa and Potiskum with their council members in attendance. It solicited the cooperation of the local government authorities in the identification of beneficiaries for its programme of livelihood support which includes free distribution of livestock, agricultural tools, seeds, fertilizer, and support to women for income generating activities.
The ball is rolling—in Yobe, the MCRP is set to restore thousands of lost livelihoods, strengthen social cohesion, rehabilitate health and school facilities, and rehabilitate and improve critical services and infrastructure like health facilities and boreholes to promote healthcare and restore water supply, among other interventions. The importance of these to the lives and human security of people in North-East Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.
So far, more than 11, 000 people across the BAY states have benefitted from MCRP but it is still early days and there is yet more to come. With the project’s second phase – the rehabilitation of infrastructure and the restoration of social services – now commencing, there is a growing sense that the worst years are now behind the region and that its people have entered firmly into a phase of recovery. In partnership with MCRP, these resilient communities are paving the path to a sustainable future.
Reporting by Bulama Yerima (Maiduguri), Shettima Ilyasu (Yola) and Shuaibu Maidala (Damaturu).