NETEBOULOU - By the end of March, village granaries stood empty and people were resorting to desperate measures to feed their children and themselves, “ to escape hunger if even just for a night.”
Early lean season
“Since our children were hungry and we had little food to give them this year, we would go into the forest to gather wild fruits that we cooked and gave to our families to escape hunger,” said Cisao Danso, 60, from the village of Nétéboulou. “We boiled dried leaves in water to make them into a sauce. Normally, we would use them to feed our animals.”
Last year’s poor rainy season across the region led to many failed harvests, bringing the lean season to rural areas earlier than usual in Senegal – in March, when normally it comes in July. This period, which falls between the two harvests, is marked each year by a gap in village food stocks.
Bridging the gap between harvests
But cereal banks, warehouses where communities can store grain after the harvest and borrow from during harder times, can bridge this gap. They allow farmers to store their produce after each harvest in order to have food throughout the year and also to avoid speculation on the prices of cereals in markets during the lean season.
“We are currently supporting 380 cereal banks across the country,” said WFP Country Director Ingeborg Breuer. “Nétéboulou is one of the places where the cereal banks have been restocked because it is in one of the hundred of vulnerable zones, where the levels of food insecurity exceed 60%, a level that requires a rapid intervention by WFP.”
“Today more than 100 families in your village will receive 133 kg of rice each. After this launch, we will be restocking cereal banks in other villages in the commune of Nétéboulou, as well as the communes of Koussanar, Niani Toucouleur, Dialacoto and Missira. After Tambacounda, the regions of Kolda, Kaolack, Kaffrine, Kédougou and Diourbel will follow,” added Breur at the launch ceremony.
Part of a larger response
To respond to the Sahel food crisis in Senegal, WFP is using various mechanisms adapted to geographic and socioeconomic contexts. One of these initiatives is cereal banks, others include targeted food distributions, cash vouchers, nutrition support and activities to support agriculture at a community level.
From now until the end of June, WFP plans to reach more than 800,000 of the most food insecure people across the country with the support and assistance of the Senegalese government and implementing NGO partners.