How to better understand and respond to the vulnerability of households in the Sahel and in West Africa?
My name is Moussa Jean Traoré, sociologist by training and Nigerian - Burkinabé by nationality. I work at the Institut de Sahel (INSAH www.insah.org) a specialized institute of the Comité permanent Inter - États de lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS) and that has as the mission of "Coordinating, harmonizing and promoting studies and researches in the agro-socio-economic and demographic domains in member countries of the CILLS", with headquarters in Bamako in Mali.
The communities of Sahelian West Africa (Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali) face, year after year, hazards such as drought despite all the aid awarded by international organizations. These are people in debt, living in chronic poverty, without many assets struggling to cope with these shocks.
The instability of ecological conditions, which constitutes an additional hazard, increases their vulnerability and undermines their livelihoods.
But for me, and I am sorry to say that, these organizations seem not to have any notion of food security. Otherwise with all this years of experience they should have overcome food insecurity in those areas experiencing food crises about every three years, despite all the obstacles of nature.
Let me explain: The methods of targeting vulnerability at the community level are not adapted to the context of the reality of these African countries. As has often been said, to understand the problems of a society one must be a member of that society. How can someone learn about the problem of a society through the questionnaires on vulnerability often employed by international organizations? Besides, I am also disappointed that most organizations are represented by people from developed nations who know nothing about societies in developing countries let alone about their societal values.
The concept of food security has four major components: Availability - Access - Stability – Quality. These four components are interdependent and interacting, and if one is suffering then insecurity will occur.
To briefly review the methods of vulnerability assessment it should also be noted that investigations are often carried out by youth without a diploma, formed in two or three days.
I think that to overcome the issues related to food insecurity it is imperative that NGOs and other key stakeholders should:
- Organise in each country, an annual round table on disaster risk reduction (DRR) for sharing knowledge, research and practice (drawn from local experiences) between representatives of donors, governments and NGOs covering all points of view from the local to international. This could then lead to a more effective network for future sharing of lessons learned.
- Produce guides on DRR to raise awareness and to train policy makers and development practitioners, at implementation level, on the specific circumstances of the Sahel region. These guides should receive a significant level of community input and be promoted at the annual Round Table on DRR.
I would love to share these views with the experts on this subject matter.
Moussa Traore Jean
CILSS / INSAH