More than 17,000 families living the urban slums of Senegal no longer have to choose between food and other necessities thanks to a new cash voucher programme that provides them with money to pay for groceries. The project is also a boon to local businesses, which have fallen on hard times amid the economic downturn.
by Paulèle Fall
DAKAR—Lamane Ndiaye lives in Yeumbeul North, a destitute suburb on the outskirts of Dakar, where he and his neighbours have been living hand-to-mouth since the global recession set in last year, wiping out the local economy.
“Many of us can no longer afford to eat more than once a day,” he said. “Even the most fortunate can only spread out their main meal between two smaller ones.”
Ndiaye says that his family was running out of options before they started receiving cash vouchers in September. This has created enough space in their budget to keep everyone fed.
A safety net
Ndiaye’s family is one of over 10,000 in Yeumbeul selected for the cash vouchers scheme, a pilot project designed both to prevent people from going hungry and stimulate local markets.
Like other families, his receives 18,000 Francs CFA per month (about US $36.00), which saves him from having to choose between food and other daily necessities.
“It’s a huge relief for thousands of us who are suffering in this poor economy,” he said. “We wait impatiently for the vouchers all month."
A shot in the arm
Cash vouchers are an ideal solution when there is food on the markets, but it's too expensive for people like Ndiaye to buy.
By putting him in a position to buy more food, the cash voucher project is also helping to revitalize the local economy. Mr. Mansaly, a grocer in the same neighbourhood, said that business has turned around since the programme was introduced.
“It’s a real breath of fresh air in these times of crisis. The first month it started, my shop went from just breaking even to making almost 12 million Francs CFA (about US $25,000). That’s six times more than it was earning before,” he said. “What’s more, many of my customers have stopped buying food on credit,” he said.
“I think it’s a big relief for them not to have to do that.” Mansalay’s grocery is among retailers selected by the programme to receive the vouchers in return for rice, millet, maize, sugar and oil.
Funded by the European Union Food Facility, the Cash Voucher pilot project will assist some 17,400 households over a total of six months, including 10,000 in Pikine and 7,400 in the southern city of Ziguinchor, at a total cost of 2.5 billion FCFA (about $5.3 million).