By James Ezema
To reach no fewer than 60,000 herders and farmers with better access to water, healthier livestock and higher yields, and better management of improved water resources, the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have launched “Water for Agriculture” project in conflict-affected North Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
CRS is the official international humanitarian agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The three-year project, worth $8 million, was awarded to CRS by USAID. The Cooperative Agreement aims to boost the livelihoods of crop and livestock farmers in the Nigerian States.
Speaking at its launch in Abuja recently, the USAID Nigeria Mission Director, Stephen Haykin, said that “Water for Agriculture will also improve the capacity of local governments and communities to govern and manage water infrastructure and resources in the region.
In the conflict area, smallholder crop farmers and livestock herders are dependent on water for their livelihoods, which are increasingly threatened by climate change, inadequate investments and destruction of infrastructure, poor water management and practices, and population growth.
“Water for Agriculture will play a critical role in USAID’s strategy to develop new sustainable water sources in rural communities where displaced populations are returning”, USAID Mission Director said at the launching ceremony.
Mr. Haykin added that “it will contribute to our promotion of agriculture-led economic growth to improve resilient and nutrition and stronger governance of the water and sanitation sector.”
To implement the activity, CRS will partner with Federation of Muslim Women’s Association in Nigeria, Search for Common Ground, Diamond Development Initiatives, the Pastoral Resolve, the Maiduguri and Yola Justice, Development and Peace Commissions, and relevant government agencies.
Earlier, the Deputy Country Representative – Programs for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Dane Fredenburg in a welcome remarks the project “is a critical activity that aims to address a major challenge: inadequate water for sustaining livestock and cultivating crops in northeast Nigeria.”
CRS alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished with our partners through programs in, HIV, health, agriculture and livelihood, education and emergency response.
Dane Fredenburg noted that “the USAID Water for Agriculture Activity was awarded to Catholic Relief Service on the 15th of July 2019 as a Cooperative Agreement.
“It is a 3-year Activity (15th July 2019 to 14th July 2022). The “Big Idea” of the Activity is that provision of, and equitable access to, adequate and sustainable water resources can unlock the NE’s agricultural potential and reduce violent competition for water among herders and farmers.
“The Activity also represents USAID’s primary response to addressing the challenge of a shrinking Lake Chad Basin, the historic source of water for livestock and crops in the NE region.
“The Water for Agriculture Activity will reach over 50,000 herders and 4,000 farmers in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Also, program staff members will construct or rehabilitate at least 21 water structures, including dams, irrigation systems and boreholes in the 3 states.
“Within these localities where water structures are built or rebuilt, they will improve access to water for an estimated 62,722 herders and farmers. This, in turn, will reduce conflicts among these two economically and socially significant and interdependent producer groups.
“Water for Agriculture will also increase livelihood opportunities for herders and farmers by improving healthy meat and milk production as well as crop yield.
“It will also foster sustainable water governance especially at local government and state level. And more importantly improve social cohesion and peace building among herders and farmers thereby putting them on a pathway self-reliance and sustainable resilience”, the Deputy Country Representative – Programs for CRS said.
The USAID Water for Agriculture will achieve its project objectives through the construction of water infrastructure for herders and farmers in the 3 BAY states, strengthening of water governance at all levels while primarily focusing on state and local government institutions, improving productivity and income of herders and farmers, and mitigating conflicts among herders and farmers through inclusive, participatory, gender-responsive programming.