JUBA, South Sudan
The sleepy, quiet and slow pace of Wuro Dadi village situated on the banks of the Benue river, north-eastern Nigeria, belies its recent history; one of violence and destruction, when gunfire rent the air and residents fled in panic.
Wuro Dadi lies on the outskirts of Yola, the capital city of Adamawa state, firmly within the region that has been grappling with the decade-long Lake Chad conflict. In recent times, the village has been adversely affected by communal violence. When it was attacked in 2018, the violence left 5 people dead and most of its homes and farm produce destroyed.
Safiratu, a mother of three, recalls the morning she fled into the vast farmlands surrounding her village.
“We escaped with nothing but the children we have.” She said.
Her husband was killed that day, her home set ablaze and all their farm produce destroyed. In all, over 75 homes in Wuro Dadi were destroyed. Since then, the village has struggled to recover and Safiratu lived in the open with her children for seven months under a lean-to which also served as an outdoor sitting area, in front of her destroyed home.
The residents of the village are predominantly farmers and fishermen. They grow grains and vegetables and fish from a nearby fresh water pond which is fed by the annual flood waters of the Benue river. Since the attack, no one has been able to return to their farms.
“Without our seeds, there is nothing to plant” said Dishong, a 60-year old resident of the village. “We survive by fishing the pond and whatever odd jobs we can find but it is not enough. Since we cannot farm, feeding our families has become very difficult.”
We were very self-sufficient here but the fighting changed it all
For Boyomoso Eli, a father of two, fishing has become the mainstay.
“This is how we survive. Whatever we catch per day we have to sell so that we can earn some money to buy food for that day.”
Despite the intense pressure to overfish the pond, the people of Wuro Dadi practice a simple form of sustainable fishing. The pond is only fished for a few months after the rains and then it is left to fallow for the rest of the year so that it can be replenished by the Benue river. During the fallow period, those who can afford the tools needed, proceed to fish in the river. Those who cannot, have to rely on their farm produce alone.
“We were very self-sufficient here but the fighting changed it all,” said Bitrus Alvadi, a shop owner and the secretary of the village co-operative society. Bitrus’ shop was burned and looted. He was able to repair and re-stock it with support from the village co-operative society.
“Although the co-operative is of great help to us, it has also been affected by this crisis. Loans have not been repaid due to the losses suffered and so there is not enough money for loans this year.”
In April, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped to rebuild Safiratu’s home. The first of 77 destroyed shelters scheduled for construction. Local workers and material from the village were used for the project. Safiratu was also involved, she helped the construction team draw water for the project from the village stream.
In addition, over 200 families received maize and rice seeds for planting. Along with cash for the purchase of fertilizer and farming or fishing tools.
The seeds and cash that were distributed to the families in Wuro Dadi is part of the ICRC’s wider agricultural assistance to victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence in Nigeria.
The distribution targeted over 80,000 families in nine states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe all in the North-East, Plateau, Bauchi, Benue, Nassarawa, Kaduna in the north-central region and Cross River located in the south.
Now that the planting season is well underway in Nigeria, the people of Wuro Dadi can return to farming their lands as they work towards being self-sufficient again.