Food for now, seeds for the future

DCA has been ensuring access to food for people in critical need in Eastern CAR - and training and seeds to ensure self-sufficiency in the future.

© Kira Petersen

In the Central African Republic (CAR) conflict, violence, and trauma have touched the lives of almost everyone. Coup d’états, civil wars, inter-religious conflict, and decades of cycles of political and military instability leave marks on a population. Most recently in the aftermath of the violence associated with the December 2020 elections which had a devastating impact on the country.

About the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest countries in the world and was ranked 188 out of 191 countries on the Human Development Index in 2022. Instability, poverty, and little or no development has led to a lack of basic social services, further weakened by recurring bouts of armed conflict combined with seasonal flooding and drought which is further aggravated by climate change.

Exactions of resources by armed groups, accompanied by serious human rights violations, continue to worsen household living conditions, forcing thousands of people to move. By mid-2023, more than three million people were displaced in CAR and the UN (OCHA) has identified 3.4 million Central Africans in need of humanitarian assistance (more than half the population), including 2.4 million in severe need.

Many Central Africans displaced by conflict have found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings with no income, hardly any food, no roof over their heads and a limited social network for support.

With funding from the European Union, DanChurchAid (DCA) in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been providing displaced people and the communities hosting them cash and vouchers to support access to food from the local markets to stave off the most immediate threat of hunger. In addition, DCA has been supporting the livelihoods of those most affected by conflict and violence to ensure that they can feed themselves in the future too.

Displaced and returning persons start with nothing

In both rural and urban Bria – the capital of the county Haute-Kotto in Eastern CAR – the residents are a mix of locals, people who have fled other parts of CAR (internally displaced), and people returning to the relative calm of Bria after fleeing the area months or years earlier (returnees).

For most arriving in Bria housing is an issue. Many structures are in a state of disrepair after years of conflict – and building (or re-building) a house of one’s own requires resources. But conflict and instability mean that business opportunities are limited and the possibility of earning an income range from scarce to nil.

Food is a major challenge

And above all getting food is a major challenge – and with limited access to land or agricultural inputs, many have to scrape through on a bare minimum. This affects everyone in the community.

In fact, a 2023 survey in the area showed that more than 70% of the households in the area had too little food. And half of the population get so little to eat that the situation is just shy of being categorised as a full-scale emergency.

Therefore DCA has been supporting those in the most vulnerable situations with cash and vouchers to ensure access to food from the local markets. By offering the means to buy food this approach accomplishes several things – people can meet their immediate need for food, they chose how they can best address the difficulties they are facing, and by buying food from local shops and producers it stimulates the local economy. It is an approach that not only fills tummies in a dignified manner – it also empowers those who receive it.

Changing lives with cash

In addition to cash and vouchers to support access to food, DCA provided those returning to Bria center with multi-purpose cash to cover other basic needs, such as shelter, small school fees for their children, medicine and small livestock to help get then back up on their feet again. It is in particular, households who settled in other areas of the city due to the crisis and who have voluntarily decided to return back to their original neighbourhoods.

31-year-old Alima Manou and her family returned to Bria in November 2022 and with the cash they received from DCA they purchased two goats, three ducks and two pigs – and their investment is paying off. The ducks supply eggs and the goats are producing off-spring. This means that the family can now reliably put food on the table daily – and they are selling produce on a small scale in the community.

“It has been a life-changer,” says Alima. She’s in charge of the household economy – and she doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.

“I try and make sure we invest some of the money – and not just spent it on food. If all is spent on food, the money would soon be gone – and we would be hungry again.

We really hope that our livestock will produce enough for us to eat and make a small income, so we will depend less on organisations like DCA in the future,” says Alima Manou.

© Kira Petersen

Alima and her husband even managed to buy enough bricks to finalise the construction of their house.

Training to grow food and cultivate peace

Some have been invited to join gardening groups – groups that convene at a demonstration plot to learn new techniques, share knowledge, gain insights, and receive inputs to grow their own food. Most of those who receive food aid are encouraged to join a gardening group.

The gardening groups meet at a community garden for various types of training in agricultural techniques. In Bria the community garden was next to the local mosque and brought Christians and Muslims together. This also contributed to strengthening the social fabric of the community. And thereby minimised one of the drivers of local conflict in CAR.

Ndeivenda Claudia took part in the agricultural training and received inputs so she could grow groundnuts.

Since then, she has been able to produce around three large 25 kg sacks of nuts every three months.

She keeps half a sack for the family’s consumption and sells the rest.

“With the money I earn, I can buy new seeds and feed the family,” she says and adds that she has also put money into fixing their house and buying medication for her children.

For many people in Bria fixing their housing has been a priority – for some it means building a house, for some it means upgrading what they have – and this includes adding essential features to a humble abode.

Ndeivenda and her family in front of their house.

Tipamati Bella returned to Bria in March 2023 – seven years after his family lost everything to conflict in the area. They are now rebuilding little by little – and funds they received from DCA have been a great help in improving their situation. Such as putting a roof on their house.   

They also bought pigs, ducks, and chickens – and even if two pigs have died, the rest of the animals are producing off-spring and thereby they are getting returns on their investment.

“My wife and I discuss how to spend the cash we receive as I feel these important decisions should not be taken by the man alone.

Everything we have bought we have decided on together. And the support has helped immensely,” says Tipamati.

© Kira Petersen

A little goes a long way – but situation remains precarious

The number of displaced people has continued to grow in the counties of Haute-Kotto and Ouaka during the two years the project has been implemented – with the influx of Sudanese refugees, including Central African returnees, adding to the number in Haute-Kotto, Ouaka especially. In Ouaka incidents of violence carried out by armed groups are still prevalent and are often linked to mining and cattle rustling. As is often the case in times of conflict, the civilian population bear the brunt of these incidents.

Moving people and goods in CAR is difficult as the infrastructure is either poor or bordering on non-existent in many places – limiting market access and making goods and services expensive or simply out of reach for many. DCA is the only International NGO present in Ippy – capital in Ouaka County – leaving large gaps in the delivery of aid to the thousands of people who are still scrounging for a daily meal.

But for more than 16,000 people in Haute-Kotto and Ouaka the EU funded project has provided life-saving support – and a stepping stone to a future of greater self-sufficiency and dignity.

Photo: Kira Petersen

The Project

Full title: « Sécurité alimentaire d’urgence et réponse aux besoins non alimentaires essentiels des ménages les plus vulnérables de la sous-préfecture de Ippy, dans la préfecture de Ouaka et Bria dans la Haute Kotto en RCA »

“Emergency food security and response to essential non-food needs of the most vulnerable households in the sub-prefecture of Ippy, in the prefecture of Ouaka and Bria in the Haute Kotto in the CAR”

Overall objective: Contribute to improving food security and strengthening the livelihoods of households affected by security shocks in the sub-prefecture of Ippy and Bria, Ouaka and Haute Kotto prefectures (counties) in CAR.

Specific objective: Help improve food security for displaced people, returnees and vulnerable hosts by providing them with emergency food assistance through cash and voucher transfers, while strengthening their agricultural production capacities (food crops and market gardening) to cope with future shocks .

People reached:

  • Strengthening the livelihoods of 16,791 people through the distribution of agricultural inputs (seeds, tools, training). This is in addition to the establishment of 2 market gardening pilot sites whose aim is to improve the knowledge of good practices.
  • 16,746 vulnerable people (3,190 households) were supported through the distribution of food coupons or cash in order to help them meet basic food needs.
  • 3,390 people affected by new shocks in Ippy and Bria were supported with cash or vouchers
  • Multi-sectoral Cash assistance for 8,511 people who spontaneously/voluntarily returned to Bria center.

In total DCA, with funding from the European Union and DANIDA has contributed to the improvement of food security and strengthening the livelihoods of 45,438 people (8,313 households) affected by conflicts in the sub-prefectures of Ippy and Bria in the Central African Republic.

Budget: 3.25M EURO

Donor: The European Union with (5%) co-funding by Danida

Duration: April 2022-March 2024

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