Food Vouchers - WFP Fighting Urban Hunger

In one of the shops that has signed a contract with WFP, a woman shows her vouchers. With these she can get maize, cooking oil, salt, sugar and soap.

Copyright: WFP/ Stéphanie Savariaud

When shops and markets are full of produce, but prices are still too high for the poor, sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food.

OUAGADOUGOU -- WFP has launched its first food voucher operation in Africa, deploying a new tool to address hunger in an urban environment where food is available, but beyond the reach of many because of the impact of high food prices. Read news release

The new voucher programme, which was launched in the west African nation of Burkina Faso on 13  February,  is targeting 120,000 people here in the where the prices of basic staples such as millet and sorghum are more than 25 per cent higher than last year.

“Sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food,” said Annalisa Conte, WFP Country Director in Burkina Faso. “This is an innovative solution to hunger needs among people who live in a city where shops and market stalls may be full of produce, but prices are still too high for the poor and the vulnerable.”  

Under the new programme, family members are given a voucher worth 1,500 francs CFA (US$3) which they can use in shops that have signed a contract with WFP.  In exchange for the voucher, people receive maize, cooking oil, sugar, salt and soap. Each family will receive up to six vouchers per month for six months.  The retailer is able to redeem food vouchers through an arrangement WFP has made with MICROFI, a local micro finance company.

Next month WFP and its partners will also distribute food vouchers in Burkina Faso’s second city of Bobo Dioulasso for 60,000 people.

An assessment by UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the government last June showed that the combination of high food prices and decreased employment opportunities had hit people hard in urban areas as they generally have to rely on buying their food in local markets.

Distributing vouchers instead of food can be a more effective way of alleviating hunger in urban environments where markets are strong, because it cuts down on the cost to WFP of transporting and storing food assistance and helps to inject money into the local economy.