“Being trained on this new agricultural technology and putting it into practice gives us a little bit of our lives back,” said Ayuba.
The assistance is part of a technical cooperation project by the IAEA, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Federal University of Oye Ekiti. Using nuclear technology, the IAEA – in partnership with the FAO – has developed techniques for cultivating crops with minimal water use under an approach that is called climate-smart agriculture. This has benefitted farmers in many countries. In the Abuja camp, the new irrigation systems have helped increase yields of crops such as cucumber, watermelon and okra by 60%, while decreasing water use by 45% compared to other methods.
“Growing and selling these crops gives us an income, and we are working towards improving the lives of many in the camps by providing food,” Ayuba said. More than 80% of the camp’s inhabitants are women and children.
Ayuba’s situation is not uncommon in Nigeria. Over 2.7 million people have been displaced in the country since 2014 due to Boko Haram, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR. The group has used extreme forms of violence to threaten villages across Nigeria, forcing people from their homes and livelihoods.
Many of the people end up living in IDP camps, which are often overcrowded and have food shortages. They comprise makeshift tents and shelters built out of plastic and metal sheets, which offer little relief from the baking sun and the heat of the tropical climate.
Many camps are located in areas with harsh climate conditions, such as minimal rainfall, drought, and high temperatures, making it difficult to grow food. This is only being exacerbated by climate change.
Following the success of the small-scale drip irrigation systems in Abuja, the Federal University of Oye Ekiti has partnered with a local non-governmental organization, Akabat Ventures, to expand the use of drip irrigation technology to more camps throughout the country, in part through funding from the national Tertiary Education Tax Fund.
“Through training and support, the farmers – mostly women – can really make a difference by not only providing food for themselves, but creating a business providing food for others at the camps as well. This has real long-term impact on the lives of people,” said Thuloane Tsehlo, the IAEA Programme Management Officer leading the project.