The resilience of Sahel belt communities rests on self-sufficiency
Across the Sahel region, the most vulnerable communities face significant challenges during the lean season. To help communities gain in autonomy while reducing dependence on humanitarian aid, particularly food assistance, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched an integrated convergence programme in October 2018 in Chad's central and eastern provinces.
This programme has three components including resilience, nutrition and education, with an emphasis on school feeding. The activities are carried out on three sites: Chawir (Guéra province) Zobo and Brégué-Birguite (Batha) benefiting ten villages. WFP is implementing this programme with its local partners, the Evangelical Community-based Development Project (ECDP) in Batha province and Moustagbal in Guéra province. On 17 March 2019, after nearly six months of implementation, WFP, accompanied by OCHA, went to see the progress of the activities.
Building household resilience and keeping children in schools
In Chawir, in the Guéra province, a gardening project is being implemented by the national NGO Moustagbal. Four hectares of land have been made available for market gardening and millet production. On site, 246 households work and are paid through a food assistance programme for asset creation. The products are consumed by households and students benefiting from school canteens, while guaranteeing their access to schooling. As soon as market gardening activities end at the onset of the rainy season, the space is used for the school crops. This year, the latter produced about 7,800 kg of cereals (78 bags). Chawir also benefits from a community forest project. As in Zobo, 400,000 trees of have been planted.
Another resilience project in Brégué-Birguite supported 157 farmers in 2018. Thanks to WFP, they were able to use a 250-hectare plot of land for the production of 173.35 tonnes of beré-béré, a variety of sorghum. This operation is based on a water retention system through the construction of dams and half-moons. Based on its success, an additional 873 hectares will be harvested this year during the rainy season. Dams are being built and three weirs to prevent water loss.
Countering deforestation, malnutrition and unemployment
The Zobo site focuses on the fight against deforestation in Batha province. Out of 400,000 expected seedlings, 129,000 have already germinated thanks to the provision of an 18 m3 water network. These seedlings will be ready in July during the rainy season, and will eventually be used to create a community forest and develop public service spaces such as the town hall, sanitary facilities and schools. These are not ordinary plants but a species of plants with multiple functions. They have nutritional and soil protection values and can contribute to improving food security. In addition, the project creates jobs for 200 people, including 157 women. Finally, three out of five school gardens have already been created for the production of cereals and market produce in the area.
Employment opportunities for men and prevention of an exodus
Before this project, men left the villages in search for work, leaving women with dependent children behind. For women, these resilience projects have not only encouraged men to stay home but also resulted in small savings for their households. These resources will enable them to establish small businesses. Men now feel that they can assume their responsibilities as heads of households and attempts to migrate to the north of the country to work in gold mining sites are reduced. Thanks to the project, they can ensure the health care of their families and their children’s access to school.
A community learning process
Participation is an essential element for ownership and continuity of these projects. In Zobo, two villages have provided 9,749 m2 of land for the project. In Brégué-Birguite too, the 873 hectares come from the community. Residents collaborate and feel involved in the development of their communities.
The two sites also offer training in techniques related to tree planting, compost production, water retention and the use of organic pots to protect the environment. This community learning is essential for the sustainability of projects. At the Chawir School Garden in the Guéra, students and parents practice and learn to garden and grow off-season cereals. "It takes at least three years to complete and depends on predictable resources to avoid wasting what has been achieved," said Alemu Mekonnen Gebre, WFP's Resilience Programme Manager. In a context where the eastern provinces of Chad are facing a protracted crisis, resilience programmes represent one of the best approaches to help people escape humanitarian dependency.
For more sustained resilience
During the focus group discussions organized by OCHA, the communities of Zobo and Bregué-Birguite expressed their needs. For men, support is needed for the acquisition of small ruminants. Women, for their part, are calling for the building of halls to store their products for sale, as well as mills and financial support to develop their small businesses and handicrafts (weaving). However, other initiatives should be put in place to fill the gaps in the project, particularly in terms of support (e.g. teaching them how to save and store their products). This will allow the populations to really take charge of themselves at the end of the project.
WFP identified 240 villages with the potential to integrate food security, nutrition and education activities, with the aim of strengthening the resilience of 188,336 people. This will help reduce their dependence on emergency food assistance when the lean season strikes again.