DAKAR, June 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Seeds and fertiliser are being delivered to more than a million farmers in Boko Haram-hit northeast Nigeria ahead of the rainy season to combat growing hunger and dwindling aid in a region threatened with famine, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The Islamist militants' bloody insurgency has prevented farmers from planting or harvesting crops for years in the northeast, where more than 5 million people need food aid and about 1.5 million are on the brink of famine, aid agencies say.
"Investing in agricultural assistance today will provide food for tomorrow, and can ensure people have a source of food even when they are cut off from other forms of aid," said Nourou Macki Tall of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The delivery of fertiliser and cereal, pulse and vegetable seeds targets those who can access land yet have been hit hardest by the conflict, such as the internally displaced, refugees and host communities, Tall said in a statement.
They will also receive food rations from the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure the seeds are planted ahead of the imminent rainy season, and not eaten instead, the FAO said.
"Eighty percent of the people in the area are farmers, and need support to return to their farms," said Alhaji Maina Gana, chairman of the Fune local government area in Yobe state.
Boko Haram's campaign to create an Islamic state is in its eighth year with little sign of ending. It has claimed more than 20,000 lives and uprooted 2.7 million people in the northeast.
A U.N. official said this month the WFP had scaled back aid due to a lack of funds, and was now aiming to supply food to 1.4 million people instead of the 1.8 million intended.
At least half of government food aid sent northeast for people driven from their homes by Boko Haram has been "diverted" and never reached them, a state official said on Sunday.
Nigeria's humanitarian response plan for 2017 has received less than a third of a requested $1.05 billion to date, the U.N.'s Financial Tracking Service shows. (Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)