N’Djamena – The Guéra region of Chad is part of the Sahel belt, which is prone to recurrent drought, short rainfalls and locust invasions. The combination of these conditions leads to high levels of vulnerability, chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.
For years, malnutrition rates in the region have been above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of ten percent. Access to water is limited, as several natural water reservoirs have become dry and silted. The Government of Chad and national and international organizations continue to work to devise solutions to these recurring challenges.
As in many parts of the Sahel, people look forward to a rainy season that starts on time and is distributed across agricultural areas. However, rain is a double-edged sword for many communities living in the Sahel. On the one hand, steady rainfall is the main source of water and is essential for a good harvest. On the other hand, too much rain and subsequent flooding creates logistical challenges and can damage crops.
A community of farmers near Mongo lives separated from their farms by the river bed of the Madja. While peoples’ homes are on one side of the river, fertile agricultural land lays on the other side. During the rainy season, these agricultural areas can sometimes remain inaccessible for months. Unattended farms results in lower yields, which has a negative impact on the community’s food security. Meanwhile, farmers can remain stranded in their fields waiting for the water levels to lower before returning home.
During the last rainy season, farmers cut-off from their land by the Madja river proposed a food-for-work project supported by WFP to construct a bridge and overcome seasonal logistical challenges. Under food-for-work project, community members are given food in exchange for work on infrastructure projects that aim to increase households’ food security. Other examples of food-for-work projects include: irrigation, terracing and soil and water conservation.
WFP works with NGO partners to carry out its activities. The community proposed the project to the local NGO Moustagbal, which means “hope” in Arabic. WFP approved the project, in exchange for 6.7 metric tons of mixed food. This was the ration calculated for the participations for a period of three months. WFP, Moustagbal and local authorities were involved in the technical supervision of the project. When there was a problem with the drinking water at the project site, the WFP sub-office lent a mobile water cistern.
Around 2,600 farmers worked on the project, of which nearly 1,800 were women. Roughly a third of the farmers were able to access farms, which they had previously abandoned.
When the project was complete, the community was jubilant. The project was completed in three months as planned in June 2012, just before the start of the rainy season. This has proved the best agricultural season in recent years partly due to steady rainfall spread across territories and partly thanks to the bridge, which made it possible for farmers to reach and tend to their fields on a regular basis.
According to interviewed beneficiaries, harvest production increased both in terms of yield per hectare as well as the total area cultivated. The yield increased from 0.6 to 1.0 metric tons per hectare. The combination of favorable climatic conditions and the bridge, which greatly facilitated access, increased last harvest production to 7,800 metric tons in comparison to 2011 harvest of 2,200 metric tons, which was one of the worst harvests in recent years.