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One Man's Experience Of Food For Assets In Madagascar

The south eastern region of Madagascar is prone to cyclones and floods which can have real impact on people's livelihoods and their ability to feed themselves. Thanks to donations from Brazil and Spain, a World Food Programme initiative has been able to help communities become more resilient to such shocks. One beneficiary of the project, Jean Berthin, tells of the difference it has made in his life.

Would you like to tell us about yourself?
My name is Jean Berthin and I live in Agnateza, a small municipality in southeastern Madagascar. I'm married and have five children. None of them is in school.

What do you do for a living?
I’m basically a farmer. But given the difficulty of everyday life, I also do fishing and make charcoal to make ends meet. I learnt that WFP and Welt Hunger Hilfe were starting up a community project in my municipality. I ran to enroll my name in the list of participants.

What is your everyday routine like?
In the harvest time, I try to provide my family with three meals a day though it can be difficult. Fishing helps feed my family. Nevertheless, agricultural production was not good last year due to the lack of rain. The extra activities that I’ve been doing have not been enough to cover all our food needs. I needed to find something else. Fortunately for me, WFP was there to help communities with this asset creation programme they've started. It involves helping to restore agricultural infrastructure and that sort of thing. By being part of it, I can put more food on our table.

What is the activity about and what benefit did your community get from it?
I seized the chance offered to me. I'm doing tree planting. I feel lucky to get the chance to take part in it. Not only did they give me the chance to work, but already I’m preparing for the future of my kids. It is me who grows those trees but my kids will benefit from them as they will get the wood when they grow up. They are blessed. Once they get older, there will be wood ready for them to build their own houses, to make charcoal and in that way, they’ll be able to earn additional money.

What is the impact of the Food for Assets project on your daily life?
The organization of this activity was a considerable help to me. It helped me cover more than a half of my family’s needs in terms of food, especially during the pre-harvest period. Two of this three-month period - what we sometimes call the hunger season - was covered by the food rations I got in exchange for the work I was doing. I'm happy that I've been able to make a real difference to the future of my children and to the community while at the same time getting extra food to support my family.

What are your plans for the coming cyclone season?
Agnateza is a high-risk cyclone zone. Being faced with cyclones has never been easy. Therefore, people’s concerns are focused on two main issues: housing and food. In the region of Agnateza, we get together to make sure we will have a roof over our heads. Most of us reinforce our roofs and repair them when necessary. In the meantime, we make the primary school classrooms ready to host cyclone victims. I prepared for the cyclone season a long time ago by fixing my roof and cutting down the surrounding trees. I’m rather more concerned about how to support my family’s food needs. Since the beginning of the harvest, I’ve been trying in vain to lay in a stock of food but, given the lack of crops last year, I have to make do with cassava which we alternate with rice during the cyclone season.