In northeastern Nigeria's Borno State, conflict-affected youth are being supported for employment and income generation through an agricultural support programme funded by the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF). As part of the programme, FAO recently launched a massive livestock restocking campaign, targeting vulnerable youth and women in the State. As of May 2019, FAO has distributed a bull each to 450 youth in Jere, Konduga, Mafa and Dikwa local government areas (LGAs). In Borno, a total of 2 000 bulls will be distributed to youth by 2020.
"There was no one in Dikwa LGA who did not know Kaka Ali," said Ali, a 34-year-old who started trading household commodities when he was 17. When Ali's shops were burnt down by insurgents in 2014, he escaped with his family to Maiduguri. Since returning to Dikwa in 2017, he has depended on the meagre income from construction work. In May, he was given a bull under the EUTF programme for fattening. "This bull is now my only hope of restarting my business," said the father of eight.
Ali and other beneficiaries will also be supported with cash to meet their daily needs while they fatten the animals, disincentivizing the premature sales of the bulls. It is envisaged that after six months of fattening, beneficiaries can earn between NGN 150 000 and 200 000 (USD 420-550) from the sale of each bull. Earnings can be re-invested into another cycle of bull fattening or for strategic investments in petty trading, small shops, etc. The livestock restocking campaign is part of an expansive agricultural support programme, designed to assist 100 000 vulnerable farming households between 2018 and 2020 in Borno State.
"Youth employment is an antidote to radicalization and is crucial to sustaining peace in volatile regions such as northeastern Nigeria," said Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria. "Through these bulls and other livestock, the livestock value chain in the state, which has been affected by the conflict, can be restored and youth will be at the helm of this restoration," Koroma shared.
Benjamin Saleh was a bricklayer before the insurgency, earning a regular income of NGN 2 000-3 000 (USD 5-8) daily. He has been unemployed since returning to his LGA, Mafa in 2017, relying on irregular and low paying odd jobs. "After I sell it, I will buy sheep and goats, my plan is to start a livestock business", the 30-year-old said.
Under the EUTF project, 4 500 female-headed households are targeted for goat (three females and one male) distribution, and 2 000 youths are targeted for bull distribution. In addition, 24 000 pullets will as well be distributed to 2 000 women in the state, each woman will get ten pullets and two cockerels. These inputs will significantly contribute to the restoration of agricultural livelihoods in the State, boost employment and income generation, and enhance household nutrition.
Before the crisis, livestock production was a significant contributor to the agriculture sector in northeastern Nigeria. However, pastoralists in Borno have lost their productive assets to fire-sale, theft and destruction by insurgents.
Women are some of the most vulnerable as a result of the crisis in the North-East. Widows have been left to cater for their families without any sources of income. Similarly, youths without a source of living have become targets to be recruited by extremists, who entice them with pecuniary gains.
In the region, bulls are used for socio-economic activities like farmland traction and transportation of goods or household needs. Youths can earn between NGN 2 000-2 500 (USD 5-6) daily from leasing their bulls for farmland traction.
Traditionally, women raise small ruminants and poultry to obtain milk and eggs for both household consumption and to earn an income.
(With Inputs from APO)