Planting seeds of hope in the Central African Republic

Planting seeds of hope in the Central African Republic

03/05/2016

Three years of conflict have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic. Nearly one million people are still uprooted. Half of the population faces hunger. Now, peace is coming to CAR and people need support to recover and rebuild.

"When you’re held at gunpoint, do you have a choice?” ponders 53-year-old Marguerite Lakue as she recalls the day she fled her village. “I will never forget that day. It was 7 March 2015. There was a group of them with weapons. Within minutes, they burned down my house. They took everything we had. There was nothing left. I walked 30 kilometres to get here to Kaga Bandoro with my children... We were in total shock and despair," she says.

Marguerite is a mother of ten. She is also a farmer. Before being forced to fee, she worked her land for 20 years. "Back home, I used to grow peanuts, manioc (a root vegetable also called cassava), corn, sesame, pumpkins, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, okra, and rice," she says softly. "Last year, I couldn't do anything. I relied on help from the World Food Programme (WFP) for food. My brother who works in Bangui has been supporting me to pay for the place that we are renting here. But I need to become independent," says Marguerite.

It has been difficult. She says she hasn’t had anything to eat for the past day. This happens occasionally, she explains, as she wants to feed her children first, and there are times when the food is simply just not enough for the whole family. Marguerite hopes to return to her village one day. For the immediate future, she hopes to regain a sense of normalcy: to grow her own food and have enough for everyone.

Her immediate dream is within reach. In the next weeks, she will receive seeds and tools from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to plant the plot next to her home, and also food from WFP to get her through the following months. It is the period before the next harvest, known as the lean season, when there is less food than usual. It’s also the time when Marguerite, and others in her situation, need the most support.

"I am looking forward to this assistance. I can focus on farming again this year and have food to eat between the planting and harvest seasons," she says. "These days, when possible, I earn some income by baking and selling doughnuts, but I am a farmer. This describes in the best way who I am,"  she adds.

Seeds for Change

Eight out of ten people in CAR depend on agriculture. FAO and WFP are working together to help farming families provide their own feed. Each year, starting in 2014, through an initiative called 'seeds protection', FAO and WFP work in synch to provide seeds to nearly 100,000 families before their planting season starts. During this period, when food is scarce, some families might otherwise have to resort to eating the seeds that are meant for planting.

WFP provides food (cereals, beans, oil and salt) for families to prepare meals to eat now and during the growing season, and FAO provides seeds (groundnuts, maize, rice, sorghum, and beans) and hoes for sowing to the same families so they can eat in the future too. At harvest time some of the seeds can be saved and planted again next season.

The FAO-WFP partnership is crucial to reduce hunger now and in the years to come. Providing food through the seed protection initiative is made possible thanks to the financial support of: Canada, European Union, Japan, USAID.