Women Entrepreneurs Strive to Survive Amid Biting Lake Chad Basin Conflict

The Lake Chad Quadrangle region, comprising Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, has long been plagued by instability, driven by factors such as Boko Haram  conflict, poverty, and environmental degradation. Amid these challenges, the  protracted conflict in the region  has cut off millions of women  from their livelihoods, making them entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.

  Fadimatuh who used to sell smoked fish but now lacks food for her and her family to survive.

Local farmers going to their farms outskirt  of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

“ I used to export farm produce and dry and smoked fish to neighboring countries but now it’s just a matter of history” Fadimatuh said while lamenting the lack of food and other resources to support her family members in Maiduguri, Borno State capital. 

Women in the Lake Chad Quadrangle face numerous obstacles, including limited access to education, financial resources, and socio-cultural barriers. A study from Tthe United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)indicatesd that the Boko Haram conflict in Northeast Nigeria has resulted in perilous  economic cost that arises from violence and grave violations.  The study found that, for the duration of the conflict, cumulative losses (i.e., the losses that build up each year that the economy is damaged) were around US$100 billion. 

The monetary measures are an indicator of the lost development opportunities suffered as a result of the conflict. This economic damage and many other factors including destruction of family structures and loss of livelihoods have greatly impacted on the growth of small and medium enterprises among the women in the affected communities in the Lake Chad area. 

Findings show that despite these challenges, many women have shown remarkable resilience and entrepreneurial spirit, driving small-scale businesses and income-generating activities in their communities.

Impact on Small and Medium Businesses 

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Research indicates that empowering female entrepreneurs can have a transformative impact on local economies and contribute to stability in conflict-affected regions. 

By providing women with access to business training, financial services, and market opportunities, they can become drivers of economic growth, job creation, and social cohesion.
Several initiatives are underway to support and empower female entrepreneurs in the Lake Chad Quadrangle. Capt Sadique  said that “ organizations such as Save the Children are providing entrepreneurship training, access to microfinance, and mentorship programs tailored to women’s needs.” 

The organizations have been providing the survivors and women with both technical and financial support to start up their businesses. Falmata, a middle aged woman lamented that “ getting the buyers of our products are the major concern for us, the men dominated the market” 

 Additionally, success stories abound, with women-led businesses ranging from agribusiness and handicrafts to technology startups, making significant contributions to their communities’ economic development.

Rukayya , 41,  , hails from Marte community  in Borno State. Prior to the Boko Haram insurgency, she was familiar with the region and engaged in buying and selling of smoked fish. Following the conflict, she relocated to an IDP camp in Maiduguri with her  family after the group killed her husband. 

She has however not stopped looking for means of survival. Rukayya now deals in Firewood, “ I can make between N500-N1500 daily” she told this reporter.

Women’s  case is even more exceptional given the need to meet maternal responsibilities asides from striving to survive. This is even as Women have become single heads of family due to family separation or the result of mass killings. Women therefore have been faced with filling this vacuum and providing for their family, thus expanding their decision-making power. 

Rashida Usman is a widow with seven daughters who have been striving to make living “ no body is providing food and non food item for us, I have no option than to use the little things earning from my charcoal business to cater for my daughters” 

Many of the women lamented that the family responsibilities and pressure on their families remain major obstacles for their growth in entrepreneurship. Fanta Hammam another women fending for herself said “ the cost of living in Maiduguri is beyond our control, in our communities, we normally farm and fish to feed our families but here we must go out and work for you to make sure your children have enough food and shelter” 

Dr. Abu Hamisu who is a former member of defunct Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative stressed that “ initially, women are not suppose to be fully responsible for their families but the conflict pushed them to be doing masculine jobs like farming and other hard labor for them to take care of themselves” 

“ Entrepreneurship is still a new concept in the region as many women are still struggling to learn skills and creative works  that enable them to make a living in their locality”, he concluded. 

Women in Affected Communities Want More Capacity Development

Majority of the women who were interviewed by the reporter indicated that the absence of knowledge and skills dwarfed their ability to harness the knowledge gained from non-governmental organizations who trained them in entrepreneurial activities. 

The Executive Secretary, Borno State Agency For Coordination Of Sustainable Humanitarian Response, Dr. Babakura Mamman speaking on this development lamented that the majority of the interventions were not in the most affected communities, especially in the Lake Chad Basin Areas. 

 NGOs all work in silos. There is no  coordination. There is  no centralized coordination between them.” He said, 

Ada Emmanuel said “ the lack of skills is not only the problem but also the fact that how relevant the intervention is to them” 

Majority of the organizations have misplaced priorities for the victims of the conflict in the region. “ Instead of focusing on their areas of expertise and need, they usually focus on what they think is important for the victims,” Dr. Babakura concluded. 

Psychological Issues….

The impact of the conflict on mental stability and wellbeing is another challenge  women entrepreneurs face in the region. 

Hajia Falmata is a director at ministry of women said “ the women’s exposure to horrible situations has negatively affected the quality of their thinking about being innovative or even having a sustainable career as entrepreneurs” 

Aisha Umaru who specializes in cap making and knitting explains that “ the entrepreneurship is dominated by men who have been successfully making network and marketing, the sexual abuse some of us experienced is another reason why women are not attracted by the business. They are always afraid of engaging with men because of their sexual orientation and experiences” 

The trauma remains a major concern for women in the region as many struggle with psychological issues as a result of their exposure to terrible experiences in the hand of Boko Haram insurgents. 

Stakeholders, Experts Proffer Ways Forward


International partners, including governments, NGOs, and multilateral organizations, play a crucial role in supporting efforts to harness female entrepreneurs’ economic potential in the Lake Chad Quadrangle. 

Dr. Hussain Abdu, Country Director of Care International, an organization that assisting women in armed conflict communities in the lake Chad basin elaborated that “ providing financial assistance, technical expertise, and policy advocacy, these partnerships can amplify the impact of local initiatives and foster sustainable development.”
Dudu Abdu, one of the victims lamented that “ most of the interventions are based on who you knew, it mostly concentrated in the southern Borno region instead of lake Chad areas”

Despite progress, significant challenges remain, including gender-based violence, legal and regulatory barriers, and access to infrastructure. 

A director at the ministry of women, Hajia Falmata Goni stressed that “ Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including policy reforms, investment in social services, and greater inclusion of women in decision-making processes.”

As the Lake Chad Quadrangle strives for stability and prosperity, harnessing the economic potential of female entrepreneurs must remain a central strategy. Hajara of Limbe foundation has been empowering women through her entrepreneurial activities and she said that “ investing in women’s empowerment, fostering entrepreneurship, and promoting gender equality, the region can unlock new opportunities for growth, resilience, and peace.”


In harnessing the economic potential of female entrepreneurs, the Lake Chad Quadrangle stands to achieve not only economic prosperity but also greater stability and social cohesion. Dr. Hussain Abdu, country director of care international concluded  that “ by  supporting women’s empowerment initiatives and fostering an enabling environment for entrepreneurship, the region can pave the way for a brighter and more sustainable future for all its inhabitants.”  

This report was completed with the support of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development and the Open Society Foundations.

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