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Jane Howard works for the Division of Communications at WFP’s Rome headquarters.
While drought ravages swathes of eastern Africa, on the other side of the continent many communities in Cameroon’s dry north have set up village granaries to help them through the lean season. Supported by WFP, the granaries are mostly run by women.
YAOUNDE -- Three women hold the keys to beating hunger in the drought-hit village of Zidim in northern Cameroon, where a WFP-supported village granary ensures an all-round food supply for the entire community.
Felicite Sengram and two other key-holders open up a small warehouse for sales of maize and sorghum that can help villagers get through the difficult lean season when food is scarce.
WFP provides an initial stock of cereal, usually 10 metric tons, and trains the mostly female management committees in food storage, book-keeping etc. Villagers can deposit grain when it is plentiful and withdraw stocks during the difficult July-October period before the harvest comes in.
“Since we got WFP assistance to set up the granary we are able to satisfy our basic needs for food,” said Felicite, secretary of the management committee. “We can borrow food like a loan or pay for it in cash -- it’s very useful.”
Sheep as collateral
Retired preacher Jean Haman Kadangaba, 68, remembers the time in 1998 when villagers died of starvation during a terrible drought. Last year he turned to the village granary when he ran out of money and out of food. He had no grain to “pay in,” but the committee accepted a sheep as collateral.
“I’m one of the oldest people in the village, and I remember all the hardship we have gone through, the lives we have lost. But thanks to the creation of this community granary, we have now forgotten all the hard periods we have gone through,” he said.
WFP supports 410 village granaries in northern Cameroon, on the edge of the dry Sahel region of West Africa. Almost 90 percent of the management committees are made up of women. They set the prices for sales and identify the neediest cases in the village for loans. Beneficiaries pay interest, usually in the form of a small bag of grain.
At the Agropastoral village granary in Mbarang village, Adamaou region, Didim Hapsatou, 57, the treasurer, also remembers hard times.“Hunger – it’s something very bad, a scourge that comes every year. If someone is hungry, you can’t work, you can’t rest – it’s like an illness.”
But now her village has begun to invest granary profits in items such as a grain mill, a school and plots of land to grow more food. “Everyone gives their thoughts and we agree together on what we want. Everyone discusses solutions that are valuable to the village,” said Didim (see picture above left).
WFP Cameroon Country Director Jacques Roy says the project is a way to build resilience in the face of drought and food shortages. “These droughts are recurring. So the idea is to explain to them how to maintain a stock that will save their lives later."
Between 2008 and 2010, the project, funded mainly by the European Union, reached helped more than 300,000 people.