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Selling Sand In Ouagadougou

OUAGADOUGOU - On the outskirts of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Sylvie Dipama finishes her day’s work. Three more days and she should be able to sell a cartful of sand for 750 Francs CFA Francs (about US$1.5). Her previous job was selling cooked rice on the streets, but the price of rice became so high last year that she could not make a cent out of it anymore. 

“It has become extremely difficult. I have four children but I had to leave our youngest daughter with my mother temporarily as we really can’t afford to feed everybody at home”, says Sylvie, shielding her face from the sand as she sifts it.  

For dinner that evening: a small pot of beans, sorghum with a bit of salt which will feed five people in the family and two cousins.

“We have really seen this situation again and again over the last year,” explains Annalisa Conte, WFP country director in Burkina Faso. “Even in the informal sector, people could not earn a living anymore because of high food prices and had to resort to other activities.”

Despite a relatively good harvest in 2008, cereal prices remain very high in the country (millet is up 22 percent on last year, sorghum 21 percent). A joint assessment of UN agencies, NGOs and the government last June indicated that the combination of high food prices and a decrease in employment had a negative impact on people in urban areas, as they generally rely on cash to buy food on the markets.

To help people to recover from these shocks, WFP and NGOs in the country are about to start voucher distribution programmes in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso for 30,000 families. These vouchers will allow people to purchase locally-produced goods – corn, oil, sugar, salt and soap - from local shops.

This is the first time that WFP has launched distribution programmes in urban areas in West Africa in order to improve the health and nutritional status of the poorest and most needy.