FAO’s fresh food distributions boost market access for dry season farmers in northeastern Nigeria
A statement issued by Patrons Pink, Communication Officer, FAO Monday said Fatima Mohammed fled from Rann more than three months ago when insurgents attacked her village of Kalabargi. Bussed by the military to Maiduguri, they settled in Gubio Camp, just on the outskirts of the city. Since nearly the start of the year, Fatima has lived in a small tent made from her family’s clothing, propped up by sticks. She receives food assistance but it is usually cereal-based. The mother of two, as well as 3 000 other people in Gubio and New Stadium Camps close to the Borno State capital, benefited from a week’s supply of fresh foods including eggs, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and other locally sourced produce. “This is the first time in three months that I will be able to eat fresh food like eggs and vegetables”, said Fatima. When asked what she was most excited to cook, her answer came quickly. “I will boil the potatoes and cabbage for myself and the babies this evening”, she said, unable to conceal a smile.
FAO’s initiative was supported by the Government of Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Beneficiaries were registered electronically and received voucher cards that they later redeemed for fresh foods. Through these distributions, FAO provides a market for smallholders, especially for producers of fresh foods that typically face high perishability and unstable prices. Some of the food items were purchased directly from locations like the vast Gambouru produce market in Maiduguri, with a State food safety team monitoring the quality of the purchases at point of sale and during the distributions.
“I am very happy my cabbage is going towards the nutrition of the IDPs”, said Ahmed Mohammed who sells produce in Gambourou. Ahmed sourced his cabbage from FAO-assisted dry season farmers in Konduga, a Borno State local government area. “FAO is using the fresh food voucher approach to boost access to nutritious and diversified food items to IDPs, while providing a platform for our dry season supported farmers to sell their harvests”, said Suffyan Koroma, FAO Representative in Nigeria. “Our fresh food distribution is also promoting smallholder market participation as we have focused on crops traditionally farmed within local communities”, he continued.
During the dry season, FAO-supported farmers received fertilizer and vegetable seed including amaranth, cabbage, carrot, okra, onion and tomato. In areas suitable for production, farmers also received rice and maize seed. In total, about 62 000 dry season beneficiary households (about 430 000 people), had their incomes, and food security and nutrition supported. Dry season harvests are expected to continue until June 2019 in some communities. In the forthcoming rainy season, FAO aims to assist about 92 000 households with crop seed and fertilizer delivered through direct distributions, as well as through seed fairs where farmers can obtain their ‘seed of choice’ from FAO-supported vendors.