January 2017—Before the harvest, Mary Utsewa touched an ear of maize so large she could hardly get her hand around it. She looked at the stalks reaching above her head and considered her good fortune. Driven from her fields for three growing seasons by Boko Haram, Utsewa is a farmer again.
After years as internally displaced persons, Utsewa and her family were among 6,000 farming households that benefited when USAID provided seeds and farming implements to help them transition back to an agricultural lifestyle. Many of these families had been unable to produce for themselves and were reliant on humanitarian aid for several growing seasons.
Displaced and living near the town of Magadali in northeastern Nigeria near the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Utsewa’s family was allotted a parcel of land by the host community, and were able to plant the seeds last July.
“No words can express my joy for this harvest,” said Utsewa. “From the community that lent me the land to grow this crop, to the donation of the seed, I can’t believe it.”
With the harvest complete and 10 100-kilogram sacks full of quality product, Utsewa and her family now have ready access to cash and other food staples and, most importantly, some hope for the future.
Two months after the planting, agronomists with USAID followed up with the beneficiaries. After meeting with traditional leaders known as maiunguwas, village chiefs, religious leaders, and officials of the U.S.-supported Adamawa Peace Initiative of the American University of Nigeria, the researchers found some surprising results.
While 85 percent of the seeds went to the internally displaced persons, the remainder went to host families to alleviate the strain from accommodating the displaced and to recognize the hosts' importance in restoring food and economic security to everyone in this troubled corner of Nigeria.
Small successes like USAID’s seed distribution program cannot by themselves address the humanitarian crisis precipitated by the scorched earth tactics of the Boko Haram insurgency. Through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Office of Food for Peace, USAID has also provided $366.5 million in humanitarian assistance to people living in the Lake Chad Basin, working with U.N. agencies and other partners.
USAID also provides approximately $500 million annually in development assistance to Nigeria in the areas of health, economic growth and the environment, education and good governance.
Building on the success of the pilot activity, USAID, through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future global hunger and food security initiative, plans to scale up agriculture efforts ahead of the next growing season. As for Utsewa, she plans to share her good fortune with her host community.
Last updated: January 06, 2017