WFP-CARE Partnership Helps Poor Farmers Think Ahead

Published on 05 April 2009

Mahamdu Zuuru and his family

Copyright:WFP/Agustine Yirideme

Poor farmers in Ghana harvest too little to feed their families, let alone to build lasting food security. A collaboration between WFP and Care International means they can plant more seeds and still have enough food for their families while they wait for the harvest.

TAMALE -- Like most inhabitants of Bogni, a small farming village in northern Ghana, Mahamadu Zuuru has been a peasant farmer all his life. He grows a mix of crops: maize, sorghum, field peas and groundnuts, among others. Yet he does not produce enough to feed his family, let alone surplus that he could sell at a profit.

Rainfall is erratic, the soil is depleted of nutrients because of overplanting, and seeds and fertilizers are expensive. Life for Zuuru has been a vicious circle of working very hard and receiving very little in return. In 2007 he lost his crops to floods and then drought. When the 2008 planting season came around, there were no seeds to plant.

Then Zuuru’s community got word that “the NGO people” had come and they wanted to help needy, vulnerable households improve their agricultural productivity. Zuuru's household was soon on the list of beneficiaries of CARE International's FARM-2 project.

Left with dilemma

CARE International’s field officers encouraged him and other beneficiaries not to sell or eat the maize, bambara-bean and field-pea seeds he received, but to plant them so they would have food in the future. But this left Zuuru with a dilemma – if he planted all the seeds, there wouldn’t be enough food to tide him and his family over until harvest time.

Zuuru considered borrowing a bag of maize from a wealthier community member. This is normal practice - those who are better off lend foods to poorer people during the peak hunger season. After harvesting, Zuuru would have to pay back double the quantity borrowed.

But Zuuru was about to receive more good news from “the NGO people”. During the planning and design of FARM-2, it was considered unfair to give seeds to poor farmers who had nothing to eat at the time and to insist they plant all the seeds without eating any. And so WFP had been approached to assist the farmers with food so they could eat while they planted the seeds and waited for the harvest.

Plant all the seeds

Zuuru was given a 50-kg bag of white maize, 7.5 kg of beans, vegetable cooking oil and iodized salt. The idea of borrowing from a neighbor was discarded.

The WFP food assistance had made it possible for farmers in Bogni to plant all the seeds they received. They were not tempted to harvest their maize prematurely, as they’d done in previous years – so there will be plenty of corn to harvest this year. Neither did they have to borrow from their neighbors. And the women of Bogni pointed out that they would now be able to stock up on shea nuts, which they would sell at a higher price the following year – giving them more money to buy good seeds for the next farming season. Without the WFP food assistance, all the shea nuts would have been sold cheaply to buy food.

For the community of Bogni, household food security is no longer a dream – thanks to this collaboration among WFP, CARE International and local farmers.