UNDP ‘urbanizes’ rural communities liberated from Boko Haram insurgency
By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna
SPECIAL REPORT – Twelve remote communities that were ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency are beneficiaries of a strategic and sustainable intervention from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is providing basic amenities to restore communities come back to life.
UNDP in collaboration with the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) of the Ministry of Environment has deployed off-grid solar PV for borehole water supply, health care delivery, street lighting and home solar lighting with mobile phone charging to these 12 communities in Hong Local Government Area (LGA) of Adamawa State.
Some villages located in remote areas still bear the brunt of Boko Haram insurgency, which declared the entire Hong LGA as a caliphate, destroying properties and displacing thousands of people. The affected communities are Fa’a Gaya, Gaya Silkami, Garaha Mijili, Dilwachira, Gashala Mamud, Mutuku, Shashau, Garaha Lari, Garaha Banga, Kubutafa, Pella, and Kwakwa. The communities are bordered by other towns in Borno State –the hotbed of Boko Haram insurgency- such as Chibok.
Residents of these communities make up some of the two million Internal Displaced People (IDPs) across northeastern Nigeria as a result of the insurgency. With the liberation of the Hong by the Nigerian Army, the ravaged rural communities were inhabitable for the residents who were held –up in the IDP camps in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe State.
To improve the standard of living in these liberated communities the UNDP|ECN intervention installed a solar-powered water borehole to provide clean portable drinking water in each of the 12 communities, respectively. The communities’ Primary Health Center were each supplied with a Solar PV powered Vaccine storage refrigerator and Solar PV for the provision of electricity for lighting and electronic appliances in the health center, while two solar streetlights were installed in each of villages playground or squares.
The intervention of deploying off-grid solar PV for borehole water supply, health care, and others has enabled an overwhelming return of the residents to the villages from the IDP, thereby improving their lives and livelihood.
Dorcas Christopher, 28, is a resident of Gashala Mamud, one of the benefiting communities of the UNDP|ECN intervention. “I have been using this pump for the past four months and I do not know what to say but a big thank you to UNDP for giving us this bore-hole in our community. Nothing I say can qualify the impact the solar pump has had on my family” said the widow and mother of four, while fetching water from the solar water pump.
“Before this solar water pump was provided, we normally fetch water from a very small stream with the Fulani people (herdsmen) who also bring their cows to the stream to drink water” Dorcas explained. Adding, “the cows always mess up the stream as they walk through it and also defecate inside the stream. It is even worse during the dry season when the stream dries up. But now as the UNDP people have brought us our own clean water and we are fetching very-very clean water at ease, any time and even the Fulani herdsmen now bring their kegs to also fetch water for themselves and their cows from the solar pump.”
This clearly affirms the subtle but assertive socio-economic impact of this UNDP intervention in the communities as it averts the perennial conflicts between residents and herdsman while the facility is powered in an environmentally sustainable way.
The Gashala Manud Village Primary Health Center established in 1992 has for over 20 years being the only health center that serves the almost 2,000 residents of the village and the facility has never had power supply until the UNDP came around with the series of solar powered intervention in 2016.
“We now enjoy many health care services that were always not available here due to the lack of adequate infrastructure,” said Haija Habsatu Shaibu, a Health Official at the Gashala Manud Village Primary Health Care Center. “For example, when the World Health Organization brought vaccines for us, we could never store or preserve them in this village, so most of the vaccines got spoilt in few hours. But this solar fridge is helping us a lot now” Hafsatu added.
“The vaccines are now supplied every week and they are stored in the solar fridge which enables us to dispense them adequately and regularly unlike before.”
Prior to this intervention, patients from the village trek a distance of over 30km to Mubi Village for basic medical services. When emergencies happen in the night before the UNDP solar intervention, health officials use lantern and torch lights to attend to the patient. Such emergencies include child delivery and accidents. “Now, the primary health care center has solar bulbs that light-up the clinic all night long, we work on any emergency whether it is day or night under the bright lights that solar bulbs [provide]” Hafsatu said.
The solar-powered bulbs also enable effective security around the health center and the entire community at night. Ahmed Abubakar, the security official for the health center affirms that his work has been greatly enabled with the solar-powered bulbs because the bright lights enable him to see the environs clearly unlike before when he will have to use torch lights.
“Everything that could be done was done,” said Ahmed. “We never dreamt of anything like these in our entire lives in this village” he adds.
This is the first ever bore-hole water or any piped water facility in Gashala Manud community that has been in existence for thousands of years. For every solar-powered bore-hole, a solar-powered street light is installed a few meters away under the UNDP|ECP intervention. This is to enable the villagers to fetch water at any time of the day or night. Such solar-powered street lights are also provided at the village centers/squares and playing fields for kids and games.
This is crucial for a community that is just recovering from a devastating insurgency that has led to mistrust and violence among neighbors, family, and friends. The solar powered street lights enable the village to come alive at night with assuring security and unprecedented lit playground, which enables bonding and communal association at all times.
“We are now urban people as our village is now urbanized village with the solar light which comes on every night” admits Nurse Hafusa. “The street lights have transformed the village life completely. We are no longer villagers. You need to see what this community looks like at night when the solar bulbs come on” Ahmed adds.
Ahead of implementing the project, a baseline study conducted by UNDP revealed that over 70 percent of the energy consumed for lighting in the village is derived from kerosene and dry cell battery as well as generators powered by very expensive fossil fuel. As the village does not have any power supply as it is not connected to the national grid, almost 170 households in Gahala Manud are beneficiaries of solar powered lamps under the UNDP|ECN intervention.
Umaru Kadiru, a 65-year-old grandfather who lost his son to the insurgency, is now saddled with the responsibility of taking care of his daughter-in-law (Jemila) and her two children. The family is one of the beneficiaries of solar powered –lamps that the UNDP|ECP intervention has provided residents of Hong LG.
Mr. Kadiru laments that he buys batteries every three days (because they are sub-standard) for torch lights, which are used to dimly lit up their home but that money is now being saved due to steady and sustainable power supplied by the solar-powered lamps provided by UNDP.
“We are now able to use the money we regularly waste on batteries on other things in the house and for the up-keep of my grandchildren. They also use the lamps to read at night and it also allows us to see any reptile or harmful animal or insect that crawl into our house,” he said.
The multifunctional lamps also enable the household to charge their mobile phones.
This amplifies the economic impact of the solar-powered bulbs as the resident of this rural community are extremely poor with little or no income after the insurgency which has ravaged the community for over three years. Therefore the regular purchase of batteries for torch lights and kerosene for lanterns is a major strain on their lean purses. This intervention by UNDP and ECP is now helping them to save for rainy days.
Return from IDP camps
Gashala Mamud is an extremely remote community located at about four hours’ drive away from Hong where the Boko Horam insurgents hoisted their flags after they took control of the entire LGA, declaring it part of their caliphate. The village which is devoid of any basic infrastructure was one of the villages ravaged by the insurgency which displaced thousands of its residents. It is bordered by Ubain village in Borno State, the hotbed of Boko Haram uprising. Residents of Gashala Manud were completely displaced and the village was deserted for over a year with the residents moving to the Internal Displaced People (IDP) camps across Adamawa and Borno States. The absolute collapse of the community and acute lack of infrastructure necessitated the UNDP|ECP intervention to choose the village as one of the beneficiaries of its projects for communities ravaged by Boko Haram following the restoration of security to the communities by the Federal Government and Nigerian Army.
According to Dr Epkeyong, a Director with ECN, the main objective of UNDP for the project was to use renewable energy resources (solar) to provide some of the energy needs (lighting and health care delivery)in communities that were directly affected by Boko Haram insurgency which have been liberated and made comfortable for residents return back. The new investments in the rural communities have also enabled residents of Gashala Mamud return home from the IDP camps to pick up their lives again.
Reacting to this intervention, the Commissioner for Water Resources in Adamawa State; Hon. Julius K. Kadala, highly commended UNDP for its strategic intervention in Hong which has led to a lot of IDPs returning home, “the UNDP has played a major role in getting a whole lot of people out of the IDP camps to return to the normal and now improved livelihoods and the Adamawa State Government is highly grateful for this.”
Noting that out of the seven local government areas that were ravaged by Boko Haram, in Adamawa State, HONG LGA was the most hit with the insurgent bombings and burning of several government buildings as well as traditional institutions and private homes. The Commissioner, therefore, appealed for more of such support from other international development agencies, urging them to replicate UNDP’s intervention across the northeast region of Nigeria, adding that the state government is willing to support such interventions.
Editor’s Note: This report was made possible by the UNDP Nigeria office as part of its efforts to support communities affected by Boko Haram insurgency.