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Fighting Hunger
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Food Sovereignty

Vulnerable communities in the semi-Saharan Far North Province are thriving through their participation in the network's Food Sovereignty program. Having been organized to run their own communal grain banks, farmers in 42 villages now ward off speculators at harvest time. Instead of selling their yields to merchants who hoard the produce to maximize profits later in the year, the crops are stored in the village granary. When families run out of their own reserves, they can take grains on in-kind credit and pay back this loan from the next sorghum harvest later in the year.


COMMUNITY GRAIN BANKS

 

Muskwaari - the counter seasonal sorghum variety

With the Sahara desert stretching out over Northern Cameroon, the population there struggles to secure its food supplies. While the unfavorable climatic conditions in the Saharan regions cause at times sudden problems of catstrophic proportions, high poverty levels pose a chronic threat for the population's food security. At harvest time, farmers sell off their crops to ensure the educational and other needs of their family. With market prices low, business men go back and forth between the villages to stock up on supplies and thus create food shortages. Once food has become scarce, they put their supply back on the market against exorbitant prices.

Traditional family granary

 

As the families run out of their own supplies, they are forced to sell their livestock or borrow money to purchase cereals. By this time prices for cereal are soaring, while they are plummeting for livestock. In this way, the population's living standards and food security continue to spiral down.

 

Food Sovereignty
When the region faced severe food shortages in 2005, an ad-hoc committee of RELUFA member organizations ADERSA, FoSal and ADESE worked with the network coordination to study other food security programs. They met with national and international organizations and churches to learn about their respective experiences. The committee then discussed how to achieve as a national network food sovereignty for vulnerable communities in Northern Cameroon

 

A community granary

The establishment of a community cereal banking system was identified as the most appropriate strategy to break the cycle of food scarcity, soaring market prices, chronic malnutrition and dependency on food distribution programs. The village granaries will allow for self-governance of food supplies by the villagers and curb the speculation mechanisms that generate poverty.

Read more about RELUFA's 2006 pilot project, see an overview of the first 18 village granaries, and images of harvest time

 

The Strategy

A pile of newly harvested grains bought up by RELUFA to constitute a first stock for one of the grain banks

At harvest time RELUFA provides the villages with a working capital to allow the granaries to buy up supplies from their farmers and start operating as cereal banks. These stocks are stored in the granary, which will close its door after harvest season. The cereal bank will open up its door when the community runs out of food. It will sell the bags against an agreed upon price or on credit to needy families within the respective groups. Surpluses will be sold outside the community at the market price. The money earned on the sale of this supply serves as working capital to buy up cereals from the community at the next harvest and to reconstitute the stock in their granary for the next period of shortages. At the same time, families that borrowed food from the cereal bank pay back in kind.

Training
RELUFA provides sensitization meetings in the targeted communities for the groups to better understand the community cereal banking system. Community management committees are installed in each of the villages and trained in the operations, management and supervision of their cereal bank.

Impact
RELUFA's Food Sovereignty Program entails a strategy that addresses at the same time hunger, poverty and economic injustice.

Bags of cereal in a village granary

 

Hunger: The community's permanent stocks ensures security of its own food needs. At the time of food shortages the group sale's price for members will be 5,000-10,000FCFA ($10-20) per bag lower than the market price. Families can easier afford to purchase food or take it on credit for inkind repayment at harvest time. One bag of cereal will feed one family of six persons for about one month.

Poverty: The group member price will allow the community to save between 500,000-1,000,000 FCFA ($1000-2000) per year on a stock of 100 bags. Rather than spiralling down into poverty by having to sell livestock or to take out loans, the money and/or livestock remain in the community. Also, if a village group manages to eventually augment its number of bags, i.e. build up savings, the sale of these surplusses will give additional capital and increase the living standards of the community at large.

Economic Injustice: The practice of speculation feeds on the high poverty levels within the population. The mere fact that farmers need to buy back the produce of their own hard labor, while paying more for it than that they had earned on it in the first place constitutes an injustice. By creating community cereal banks and purchasing the stocks from the small farmers before the businessmen will do so, RELUFA curbs the exploitation by speculators. In the longer run, the network will work with member organizations and communities to lobby with local authorities to put in place policies that prevent the sale of local produce to business men from neighboring countries.

TIMELINE

2014

PASC Project

2011

November 2011: The Ambassador of Japan inaugurates new storage facilities for community grain banks in the Far North - Read the article

July 2011: Grain stocking communities in the Far North of Cameroon become agents of their own development - Read the article

 

2010

December 2010: Japanese Embassy finances RELUFA's construction of 25 grain storage facilities

June 2010: Food Sovereignty Newsletter June 2010

February 2010: Food Sovereignty Newsletter February 2009

 

2009

September 2009: Grain Bank communities benefit from RELUFA's CAP loans

June 2009: An update on RELUFA's Grain Bank Project

 

2008

March 2008: RELUFA establishes 16 new grain banks

2008 - 2013 A Five Year Vision

2008 FS Status Report - the program two years after its launch

 

2007

December 2007: Presbyterian Church USA Moderator visits grain banks

November 2007: A Community prepares the harvest to restock their grain bank

June 2007: Food Sovereignty program enters second year

March 2007: Chicago partners go up North

2007 FS year report (en francais)

2007 Jan-July FS report (in English)

2007 overview new stocks (en francais)

2007 Overview impact and performance of granaries

 

2006

December 2006: Introduction of RELUFA's Food Sovereignty program

 

 







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