FAO Investment Centre

From conflict to peace in Central African Republic: empowering women and youth is key


Years of conflict and a protracted humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) that forced nearly one in four people from their homes have left the country in a fragile state.

CAR embarked on the slow road to recovery following presidential and legislative elections in 2016, but persistent insecurity in parts of the country threatens to derail progress.

In 2017, the FAO Investment Centre helped design a seven-year USD 29 million project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to revitalize crop and livestock production in the Savannas.

The project, known by its acronym PREPAS, aims to strengthen the agriculture-based livelihoods of vulnerable young women and men – and in doing so, rebuild their self-reliance and resilience, while also supporting the country’s transition toward sustainable development. 

Building social cohesion

Poverty and food insecurity are widespread in CAR and literacy rates low. But the country, blessed with abundant natural resources and arable land, has excellent agricultural potential.

More than half of CAR’s 4.7 million people are under the age of 25. Making agriculture a more attractive and viable option for this younger generation is essential. 

“The project is using farmer field schools, an experimental field-based learning approach, to improve people’s technical skills in agriculture, but also to promote literacy and raise awareness on important issues such as nutrition, gender, youth employment, climate change and the environment. Working together on these issues helps build social cohesion,” said Monique Trudel, a targeting and gender consultant from the FAO Investment Centre.

Given that literacy is crucial to economic and social inclusion, participation and informed decision-making, the project seeks to train 100 literacy teachers, at least half of them women and young people.

“People usually have to be literate to attend farmer field schools, but we looked for a way to work with the communities as a whole, especially in this post-conflict context. We removed the literacy criteria and tailored the farmer field schools to the needs and levels of different groups, from those who have little knowledge or capacity to work in agriculture to young entrepreneurs,” Trudel added.

A group of trainers will also be trained on water quality, sanitation and hygiene in an effort to improve the overall health and well-being of the communities. In addition, the project team will teach communities about good nutrition and provide support to the most vulnerable households to set up gardens – an initiative that will improve the availability of diverse and nutritious foods.

“The project is exploring the possibility of processing Moringa products and other high-value fruits and nuts, such as citrus, mango, papaya and cashew, as a way to create jobs and increase incomes,” said nutrition specialist Giorgia Nicolo, who, along with Monique Trudel and agronomist Chloé Cangiano, was part of the FAO project design team. 

Wider outreach

Along with farmer field schools, the project team will rely on traditional communication means, such as radio, churches and theatre, to share knowledge and information on agriculture, health, food safety and nutrition.

Local radio played a huge role during the conflict, Trudel said, adding “it was the only means of communication reaching the communities. The great thing about radio is that you can use it to send messages out on agriculture – when it’s time to plant or harvest, and so on – but also to share nutritious recipes, or invite community elders to talk about what they are doing, which can have a huge impact and influence on the others.”  

As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes clear, there can be no sustainable development without peace and vice-versa. By empowering youth, women and men through better access to information and education, improved agricultural skills and greater employment opportunities, the project hopes to contribute to a lasting recovery in CAR.


Photo Credits:

Top: ©FAO/Riccardo Gangale

All others: ©FAO/Monique Trudel