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Seeds of change in Central African Republic

Maedhbh McDonald | 12 July 2016 | 0 Comments

In one of the world’s poorest countries, Concern is providing local communities with seeds to ensure a brighter future. Learn how Concern seed fairs are supporting the poorest households in Central African Republic.Gaga in Ombella M'Poko prefecture, Central African Republic. Photo: Crystal Wells/Concern Worldwide.

It may be rich in minerals and resources but Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 187 out of 188 countries in the world on the UNDP Human Development Index. Years of conflict and recurrent violence has severely hindered the country’s economic and social growth, and it has had dramatic humanitarian consequence.

The mass displacement in CAR has resulted in an agricultural production decline. Due to displacement, thousands of households have been unable to plant or harvest crops and they have had to rely on basic crops and wild foraged foods for daily sustenance. The deterioration in agricultural production has also impacted on the quality and diversity of seeds. As a result, many farmers in CAR are experiencing a low yield, which poses a grave threat to food security.

Concern tackles food security

Concern is working on a multi-sectoral programme in Lobaye Prefecture which focuses on nutrition and food security. The programme delivers assistance to displaced households and their host communities by providing them with seeds and tools. It is hoped that the programme will encourage local communities to grow their own produce, to ensure food security for their future. Seeds and tool are distributed directly to households, or more frequently, at seed fairs.

What is a seed fair?

Seed fairs are held to enable trade, exchange and sharing of seeds among local farmers. Buyers – local farmers in need of seed – are issued with vouchers and have the freedom to choose their own seeds. Vendors – local farmers with excess seed – have their seeds put through a germination and humidity test and are then free to sell at the fair. This approach encourages exchange for local producers, empowers households by giving them purchasing power and helps boost the local economy.

The many benefits were apparent at a recent seed fair organised by Concern with the support of Global Affairs Canada in the Lobaye prefecture. The seed fair hosted over 160 farmers selling seeds. A total of 2, 800 households (approximately 20,000people) were given seed vouchers to purchase at the seed fairs. A total of €90,000 was injected into the local economy.

Wiligala Isabelle from Kenenge village is pictured holding her vouchers used to purchase seeds and tools at a seed fair organised by Concern. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Wilgala’s story

Wiligala Isabelle (45) is from Kenenge village in the Lobaye prefecture, where she lives with her husband and four children. At the height of the conflict in 2013 her village was attacked and she was forced to flee to the bush with her family and her new born baby. When she returned her village was destroyed – livestock had been stolen, houses lay in ruin and the village’s only health center was pillaged.

Determined to rebuild her life and support her family, Wiligala attended the Concern seed fair in the Lobaye prefecture. She has a patch of land beside her house but she only has a small amount of seeds remaining from last year to plant. She used the voucher provided at the fair to purchase maize?, sesame and peanut seeds and she also purchased two hoes. Now Willigala can start planting immediately, and she hopes to have enough seeds left over to share with her family members.

Seed vendors Germain Ndoumbe and Moyebe Estella are participating in a post-fair monitoring survey for vendors. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Germain and Moyebe’s story

Germain Ndoumbe and Moyebe Estella are local farmers from the Lobaye prefecture who were selected as seed vendors at the recent seed fair in the Lobaye prefecture. Both farmers saved seeds after their last harvest, and sold the excess seeds for a profit at the seed fair. Now Germain and Moyebe can use their earnings to invest in their farms and potentially harvest more seeds to sell.

Seeds of change

Concern’s seed fairs have helped local communities protect themselves against malnutrition, equipping households with the tools they need to ensure food security for the future. They have also enabled trade exchanges between community members, supported growing livelihoods and helped inject cash into local economies. Based on these positive results, we are determined to build on the success of our seed fairs in CAR, with the support of our partner Global Affairs Canada.

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