April 17 marks the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles.[i] This year, the struggles of farmers may be even more challenging in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Farmers are the ones who feed the planet, but surprisingly, they are also among the poorest and hungriest people in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around half of the world’s hungry people are from smallholder farming communities, surviving off marginal lands prone to natural disasters like drought or flood.
A pandemic like the one we now face, risks devastating “poor rural communities and small-scale food producers who already face challenges such as weak resilience, poor nutrition and limited access to resources and services.”[ii] Covid-19 poses risks to the ability of farmers to travel, get produce to market, purchase inputs and of course keep producing the food that is necessary for their national food security.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program is currently supporting work by our partner CISCOPE to assist smallholder farmers in Northeast Nigeria to restart agricultural activities after being displaced by violent conflict.
The Northeast region is one of Nigeria’s agricultural centers, producing cereals, vegetables and livestock. However, the increasing incidence of Boko Haram violence there has devastated agricultural production in the region. People have had their property destroyed, livelihoods disrupted, and been displaced from their ancestral homes and farmlands.
The communities supported through CISCOPE’s work are attempting to rehabilitate their agricultural activities and lives after Boko Haram militants burned down homes and fields, stole farming tools and food stocks, and raped women and girls.
The instability and fact that so many in the Northeast region are internally displaced, living in camps, settlements or have been welcomed into host communities, combined with experiencing long periods of undernourishment and even starvation, make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is currently in the process of supporting communities in Northeast Nigeria with (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) WASH kits to ensure they are able to collect and store clean water, as well as have access to soaps and hand sanitizer.
On this International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles, we celebrate the resiliency of smallholder farmers in Northeast Nigeria who are willing to restart their food production after losing everything even while the threat of future violence and Covid-19 looms. And we celebrate our partner CISCOPE, whose dedicated staff are willing to risk their own safety to do this important work.
The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing
[i] Since 1996, in memory of the massacre of 19 Brazilian landless peasants who were brutally assassinated, the Via Campesina, an international peasants movement, has declared April 17th to be the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles, a day for recognizing the struggles of smallholder food producers globally and organizing actions in support of food sovereignty and food justice.