When WFP expanded operations in Niger recently, meeting operational needs was a challenge to say the least. As much as 40,000 metric tons (mt) needed to be moved in August as well as in September. (Subsequently operations are drastically reduced because of the harvest in October.) Outrageous really, when you consider under normal circumstances WFP Niger moves on average about 3000mt a month. The question, of course, is did they do it?
The capacity of Niger’s national transporters is simply inadequate to carry the amount of food WFP needed to move in such a short span of time to far remote final delivery points (FDP) and distribution sites only accessible by sand tracks, even contracting all available civil and commercial vehicles. Some stats: WFP works with 43 private transporters in country operating a total of 280 trucks with a combined capacity of 6571mt; 60 of these trucks are of less than 10mt capacity, 98 trucks are from 11-20mt capacity and 122 of these trucks are “gros porteurs” (more than 25mt capacity). CO Niger contracted all 280 trucks, of which 101 were under a commercial lease dedicated only to WFP operations.
And so, in addition to the ten specialised all wheel drive trucks already borrowed from Malawi, WFP had to get their hands on another ten special off-road trucks. This time they came from our operations in Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso who also provided the drivers of their trucks.
Food is coming into Niger via three corridors. The food shipped to these three regional ports arrives in country to eight extended delivery points (EDPs) that WFP had already set up in previous Niger operations, including the 2005 droughts. From the EDPs food is then transported further into the country to (FDPs), to what are now 150 identified warehouses, either run by us or by our implementing partners (IPs).
WFP, as an organisation, specialises in primary and secondary transportation. Once the food reaches the EDPs, WFP works with its cooperating partners (CPs) to get the food to its final destination and distribute it to beneficiaries. 24 CPs also faced the same lack of transport options of specialised off-road trucks in country, so WFP made its own transport available for the final leg, fulfilling our role of logistics service provider of last resort. In order to successfully reach the target WFP encouraged the Partners to engage commercial transport capacities of off-road trucks as much as possible for the sand tracks from FDPs to distribution site, complemented by WFP trucks wherever such commercial trucks were not available.
Consider that beneficiaries in Niger are traditionally of a nomadic settlement structure, hence move often over huge areas. Consider that sand tracks are the only means to reach these remote areas, hence 90% of after-final deliveries are to be done with camels, donkeys and “linge-linge”, the local word for small all-terrain 4x4s. Consider also that August and September are the rainy season, hence turning the sand tracks into mud traps. It starts to be clear how the normally problematic conditions turned into extreme one for operations.
So, did we do it? In August, WFP moved 42,018 mt and in September, 38,835 mt. Another successful example of how WFP Logistics went above and beyond to deliver very much needed food aid.
All photos courtesy of WFP/ Uli Schmid, Logistics Officer on mission in Niger. Many thanks to him, the Head of Logistics in Niger, Jean-Marie Mulonda and the Deputy Chief of Transport, Mietek Maj.