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02/15/2017 - 08:24
Food For Assets

Traditionally people in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya have been highly dependent on livestock for survival and it is a measure of wealth for the family. Usually women could not lay claim to property, particularly livestock, but in Oldonyiro village in Isiolo county, things are changing.  Naipaari Lengirinas is one of the 127 people – mostly women – working on WFP-supported asset creation activities.

“We come together in groups of about 10 and buy livestock, which we later sell at a profit. Right now we have seven goats and one bull,” explained Naipaari Lengirinas. “We grow our own fodder. Our animals don’t have to roam far in the bush,” she said.

Thanks to a WFP supported programme Naipaari and her neighbours can now afford to keep their animals near their homesteads and provide enough pasture to keep them healthy.   This has been vital in their survival as a widespread drought grips the country following a poor short rains season in 2016. Livestock prices are plummeting as the body condition of animals worsens and most herders are having to walk long distances in search of water and pasture, often searching for months. 

Fodder for food

The community chose to grow African foxtail (cenchrus ciliaris) and Massai grass (eragrotis superba). Fodder production is one of several activities under WFP’s asset creation. These activities cushion families from the impacts of natural hazards such as drought by providing an extra source of income and food.

“We initially tried planting food crops such as cowpeas, green grams and black beans, but the harvest was poor,” said Josephine Lesokoyo, the group’s secretary. “That is when WFP introduced varieties of grass for livestock. The harvests have been very good.”

In a year, the group harvests three times.

“We made sales worth 15,000 Kenyan shillings (US$150) during the last harvest. Each bale of grass goes for 350 shillings,” explained Josephine.

Water harvesting technologies

The group’s farm measures about six acres (2.5 hectares). Since the area is dry and receives very little rainfall, the women have dug rectangular pits known as zai pits, which trap the little water hitting the scorched ground whenever it rains. The soil within the pits and the raised embankments retain moisture for longer, providing enabling conditions for crop and fodder growth.

“Building the pits was hard work – and the men kept away,” said Kumontaare Lesoito, a member of the group. Being purely livestock keepers, the women had to learn how to dig using hoes. In return for working to establish the infrastructure of the communal farm, the group receives a monthly food ration.

“The food we get is very helpful. But the farm is giving us even more,” said Kumontaare. “We are happy that the hard work is paying off.”


WFP is not the only agency working on improving the lives and diversifying sources of food for the people of Oldonyiro.  The County Government of Isiolo and the USAID-supported Resilience for Economic Growth in Arid Lands programmes have provided equipment and training in fodder production and packaging, and built a modern livestock market.

The group is also trained on bee-keeping, soap making and making beads as alternative sources of income. It has 13 beehives all strategically placed near members’ homesteads.


In addition, the Oldonyiro group is also banking together. Members can borrow money from the group to grow their small businesses or to meet other family obligations.

“The men respect us more. Sometimes they come to us for financial help,” said Kumontaare. “They cannot sell our livestock without consulting us.”

As part of a multi-sectoral approach, cooking demonstrations are held to introduce nutritious foods and teach the group ways of cooking without destroying valuable nutrients.

“The Samburu community values milk and ugali (maize meal); but now we’ve learnt that it is healthy to eat green vegetables. They are good for the body,” said Kumontaare.


WFP’s asset creation projects are supported by Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, UN CERF, and USAID.

WFP is helping 650,000 food-insecure people living in the arid and semi-arid lands build resilience to drought. Together with partners, WFP is helping these families to build rural productive assets while transferring new production skills and approaches in order to enhance and diversify livelihoods. These activities are helping many better cope with the severe drought that is currently affecting Kenya.

02/10/2017 - 17:50
Food For Assets

It’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon as the smouldering heat of the day begins to ease, and a determined, active woman named Abung Koch is bustling back and forth in the community garden in the centre of Aweil. There is no time to waste, as this is the perfect time of day to get things done in the garden – first watering, then some weeding and finally the preparation of a new garden bed.

“I first planted cabbage over there,” Abung Koch says, pointing. “Before, I used to just put the seed in the ground, but now I’ve learned how to make a raised bed, which protects the seeds from the rain. I got a lot of knowledge from my facilitator, and when they gave me the tools and seeds, I planted tomato in the same way there. I now have three places, and this will be my fourth."

“Having the water close to this garden is good – before there was no water here and we had to rely on rain,” she adds.  “We eat most of the vegetables at home, but I also sell my tomatoes in the market.”

When asked about her future plans, she says, “My husband is old and cannot work, so in this way I can get some money and feed my six children. The people gave me some money to work here before, but now I am doing it myself. Before I did not know how to do this but after we got some help, I started. I would like to learn more – especially about pests, since some animals are attacking my things.”

“I hope we can continue this project so that we plant all this land,” she says, gesturing toward the open space behind her. “But first we need to build a fence, since the animals are coming in and eating our vegetables.”

Giving farmers opportunities

Koch’s story is not uncommon. Many people struggle to meet their food needs, but then, when given the opportunity, quickly learn the skills and see the benefits of having their own garden.

With funding from the United Kingdom, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are implementing a joint programme which has supported 77,820 farmers in the Bahr el-Gazal region of South Sudan by providing them financial compensation for their work in building and rehabilitating community-level productive assets, such as the well Koch worked on and the fence she is hoping to get. Offering people compensation for their work on common assets provides positive incentives and adds to the sustainability of the activities, as the community has a sense of ownership over the things they create.

This programme emphasizes the synergy of creating high-quality, relevant assets and the importance of the farmer field school approach, through which farmers who have received seed and tools participate in a series of hands-on training sessions that encourage the use of modern farming techniques. Farmers learn through demonstration plots and weekly supervision of their progress by technical experts, enhancing their opportunities to produce more food.

Building production capacity is critical

The Bahr el-Gazal area has been facing a long-term severe food crisis, as a structural deficit in production has resulted in many households relying on markets to meet their food needs. According to experts, the main drivers of this food crisis are mono-cropping of sorghum and poor agricultural practices, especially those linked to the ever increasing climate variability and extremes.

In addition, food prices have been rising astronomically, pushing food purchases out of reach for the poor and raising new vulnerabilities. This increase is due to the escalation of the national economic crisis, continued insecurity along the prominent trade routes, halted trade due to the border closure with Sudan, and fighting in certain areas of the state.

To help mitigate the impact of the food crisis in this area, it will be vital to increase farmers’ ability to cultivate a wider variety of crops, expand land size through communal farming and increase farmers’ knowledge of pests and diseases.

“We are working here together, and by helping each other we get stronger and better,” Koch concludes. “This year we are learning and want to keep learning so that we can produce more, because it is good for us and our families.”

A joint programme by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and their partners is supporting vulnerable community members receive financial compensation in exchange for work to construct infrastructure such as wells, and broaden their skills in community gardening to improve their livelihoods.

02/02/2017 - 11:11

Hargeisa, Somaliland - Twenty-year old Ruman Mohamed gently puts down her 11-month old daughter, Obah. She fills a small metal bowl with water from a plastic pitcher then dips her daughter’s hands inside, rubbing them clean.

“I learned to do that at the centre,” Ruman said, pointing to her daughter’s hands and referring to the MCHN centre she had visited in the morning, 10-minutes walk from her hut in Hargeisa City in north-western Somalia.  

From a plastic bag at her feet, Ruman pulls out a sachet with the letters ‘RUSF’–ready-to-use supplementary food. She kneads the sachet with one hand then tears off the corner with the other before handing it to her daughter, who puts it straight to her mouth and starts sucking out a smooth pale brown paste.

With big inquisitive eyes and full round cheeks, it isn’t obvious that Obah is moderately malnourished. Her daily ration of RUSF–a peanut-based nutrition supplement rich in essential fats and fortified with vitamins and minerals–is part of a 4-month nutrition treatment by WFP to address malnutrition in children under five. After the first month of treatment, the weighing scale at the MCH centre that morning showed that Obah had put on 200 grams – one sign that the treatment is working so far.

Malnutrition on the rise

In Somalia, some 363,000 children under five are malnourished, of whom 71,000 are severely malnourished and face a high risk of disease and death. With severe drought conditions prevailing in the country, it is estimated that 6.2 million Somalis, more than half the country’s population, are facing food insecurity. Of this number, close to 3 million are unable to meet their daily food requirements and are in dire need of life-saving assistance. The alarming food insecurity levels in the country mean that without immediate food and nutrition support, malnutrition rates for children and adults alike could rise.

A new arrival

An hour after Ruman and Obah leave the MCHN centre, 40-year old Saado Abokor Warsame sits quietly as a nutrition health worker checks her for malnutrition. Saado’s jilbab (veil) only shows her sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks. Her tall but frail body gives no suggestion that she is actually close to 9-months pregnant. The indicators show what the nutrition health worker had already suspected – Saado is malnourished.

Saado is a new arrival at the centre. To get to Hargeisa, her sister had to send money for her and her four children to make the 100-kilometre journey from her village. Her husband stayed behind to look after what was left of their worldly assets: four cows. The drought has already claimed 11 cows and 100 of their goats. With almost no means to produce or buy food, Saado said she and her children had no choice but to leave their home.

Unabated drought

Consecutive failed rainy seasons in Somalia have left pastureland in the north barren and caused a major drop in crop yields in the south. Officials say that most pastoralists have lost at least half their livestock to disease or starvation. This has prompted thousands of people in search of food and water to move east to Puntland or westward to towns, and even into neighboring Ethiopia. As more people arrive in Hargeisa and towns close by, already stretched resources risk being overwhelmed. 

This has meant that Saado’s situation is only marginally better than it was at home. Her sister and her family are already struggling everyday to find work and buy food. Meals consist mostly of rice, with no meat or vegetables. 

“We share food with my sister’s family,” said Saado, “But I know we are a burden.”

Healthy mother, healthy baby

Following Saado’s health assessment at the MCHN centre, she is enrolled in WFP’s nutrition programme for pregnant and nursing mothers. Until she gives birth and her baby reaches 6 months, she will receive counseling during pre and ante-natal care plus a monthly provision of supplementary fortified food to protect her from malnutrition and ensure that she is able to nurse her baby. 

Story by Mireille Ferrari, with contribution by Abdullahi Abdi (Hargeisa, Somaliland); Photos by WFP/Kabir Dhanji

WFP is assisting young mothers and children with nutrition programmes in over 930 Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) centres across Somalia. In many centres, WFP works together with UNICEF, who treat severe acute malnutrition, while WFP addresses moderate acute malnutrition. With the United Nations warning of a risk of famine, these centres and others like it is just one of the critical ways that the international community can urgently and effectively address the impacts of the severe drought on the health of women and small children.

01/31/2017 - 18:03
Cash and Vouchers

"Given the scale of the needs, it was necessary for WFP and UNICEF work together to provide a coherent response to try and improve the living conditions of the displaced persons, especially those of women and children who are most vulnerable," said Philippe Martou, WFP Head of Office in North Kivu. 

Experience has shown that when households receive the money directly in their hands, they really appreciate the ability to choose their purchases according to their priorities. 

Kavira (23) a mother of six, explains that she had to seek refuge in Kanyabayonga because of communal violence in her home village in Nyanzale. She fled almost empty-handed and is now living with members of her extended family in Kanyabayonga. The latter welcomed her in their small and deteriorate house made of clay and wood in October 2016.
"Receiving the money was a blessing because now I can buy food, kitchen utensils and new clothes for my children," she says. “And at least I now have something to share with my relatives.”

Each of the 12,800 households assisted received a sum of US$ 92 - 185 dollars, depending on the number of persons in the family unit. With this money, they were able to meet food needs as well as buy essential household items such as soap and other toiletries.
"Winning the fight against hunger requires flexibility and innovation,” says Philippe Martou. “Cash transfers have many benefits. Not only do they allow vulnerable families to buy the food of their choice. They also help the local economy. Finally for WFP, this type of assistance eliminates storage and transportation costs associated with the traditional food distributions. This way of doing things makes sense for everyone.”

Through this joint intervention, the participating organizations have undertaken the largest money transfer operation - both in terms of the sums mobilized and the number of beneficiaries reached - that they’ve ever done in the DRC.

More than 90,000 vulnerable people were assisted through cash transfers in Kanyabayonga, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in November 2016. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Mercy Corps, Diakonie and Programme d’Appui au Développement (PAP) carried out this operation to meet the needs of people displaced because of armed conflict in Lubero and Rutshuru territories, eastern DRC.

01/30/2017 - 18:22

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, told staff today that she will not seek a second five-year term and will conclude her service at the end of her current contract on 6 April 2017. She had earlier informed the Secretary-General of her decision and said she would be discussing the transition with him.

01/23/2017 - 16:16

Applicants are being asked to design innovative solutions that harness “exponential” technologies – those that double in power but halve their costs from one year to the next.

The solutions should be able to be rapidly deployed after the onset of a crisis, and secure a sustainable source of nutritious food as quickly as possible. In this way, they could help vulnerable families support their own households and reduce their dependence on external assistance. Entries can range from concepts to already implemented innovations.

The challenge is open to everybody, everywhere: entrepreneurs, technologists, scientists, students and passionate members of the public. Shortlisted winners will be invited to a boot camp at the WFP Innovation Accelerator in Munich to help flesh out their ideas with WFP staff and innovators. Following the boot camp, one team will be chosen to attend an all-expenses-paid nine-week-long Global Solutions Program, hosted at Singularity University’s campus at NASA Research Park in California. 

The Global Impact Challenge is open until 10 March 2017.

Find out more and apply.

Watch the Facebook live event from the World Economic Forum.

The World Food Programme and Singularity University have launched the Global Impact Challenge, an open call for bold ideas to ensure sustainable access to local and nutritious food in emergencies.

01/23/2017 - 12:00

Syrian mother of five Merve shares one of her favourite dishes as part of our series exploring the tastes of home for refugees and displaced families supported by the World Food Programme.

01/13/2017 - 08:02
Cash and Vouchers, Climate Change, Contributions to WFP

Khadija Maalliim Ali is 25, divorced, jobless and singlehandedly raising six children. She lives with her sister, also a single mother with 4 children.  

With little means to buy nutritious or diversified foods, Khadija relies on support from a mother and child nutrition centre in Yaaqshiid, northeast of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. In addition to pre and post-natal care and advice, she receives a monthly food ration from WFP as well as specialized nutrient-dense food supplements given to young children and a cash-based e-voucher to buy fresh food and vegetables. Together, these have helped Khadija and her small children avert malnutrition.

2016 was the year that Somalia’s food security situation reached a new threshold – 5 million Somalis, or 40% of the population, are now food insecure. Of that figure, 1.1. million people are unable to meet their daily food requirements and are in need of life-saving assistance, while 3.9 million are “stressed” and in need of livelihood support, without which they fall at risk of becoming even more acutely food insecure. The situation for children is also tenuous, with 350,000 children acutely malnourished, of whom 50,000 are severely malnourished. 

ECHO funding is helping WFP reach vulnerable groups such as mothers and young children and internally displaced populations (IDPs). Wherever possible, WFP is using SCOPE, a digital platform that allows WFP to register beneficiaries using biometrics (fingerprint and photo), store information on the amount of food they are entitled to and – in the case of cash or vouchers – transfer the specific amount onto the cards.

Diversity and Choice

Xaliimo Mohamed Nuur is a divorced mother of six, ages 2 to 10 years, living in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Bossaso. Life is difficult – none of her children attend school and she is unable to find work, but she says the security situation in Bossaso is far better than in Mogadishu, where she used to live. In the Bossaso camp, she has access to a health facility.

 “I had nothing before except little support from my ex-husband. This food assistance has had a positive impact on my family – my children aren’t continuously hungry,” said Xaliimo who has been receiving food assistance from WFP for the last three months on her e-transfer card and finds it easy to use.  “I know how to place my finger in the fingerprint scan when they verify my card in the machine.  I like that I buy food of my choice.”

Learning new skills

ECHO funding is also enabling Somalis to acquire new skills to help get them back on their feet. Hinda Osman Hassan is a 32-year old widow and mother of six. Her inconsistent domestic jobs, such as washing clothes, have meant that only her two eldest can go to school, while her four younger children stay home. Hinda recently completed a 9-month training course in Bossaso that consisted of 3-months of numeracy and literacy, followed by 6-months of mobile phone repair training. Throughout the duration of both training modules, she received monthly food entitlements on her SCOPE e-transfer card to feed herself and her family.  

After the graduation ceremony, Hinda will receive a mobile phone repair business startup kit. Her goals are clear.

“With my skills, I will be a big person with my own business, and food will not be a problem for me anymore. I will be able to send my children to school,” she explained. 

Through its humanitarian funding to WFP, ECHO is making an impact each day. From a Somali family who sits down to a meal it could not otherwise afford, a single mother of six provides food for her children while learning skills so she can go from washing clothes to repairing mobile phones, to a mother and her children who get a better chance at a productive life when they receive food supplements to prevent malnutrition.


Written by Mireille Ferrari, with contributions by Habiba Bishar (Mogadishu, Somalia), Odette Kishabaga and Abdifatah Barre (Bossaso, Somalia).  Photos by WFP/Kabir Dhanji

A worsening food security situation, due to a prolonged drought and ongoing conflict in Somalia, is threatening to unravel the fragile progress achieved since the famine of 2011. More than ever, WFP is counting on its partnership with ECHO to assist in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Somalis. 

01/10/2017 - 06:49

Situated at the south-western coastal area of the province of Maguindanao is the Municipality of Upi, a mountainous town composed of 23 barangays home to nearly 50,000 people, a large number of which relies on agriculture as their primary source of income.

Despite prior improvements, transporting their agricultural commodities is still difficult for several barangays due to rough roads and steep transportation costs. “Travel to our barangay is often difficult because of the limited access, especially during the rainy season,” said Anson, a farmer and resident of Ranao Pilayan.

Anson is one of 75 men hired to work on improving local roads as part of a Food For Assets programme in Upi, Maguindanao. WFP/ Jeanne Spillane
Anson is one of 75 men tasked to work on improving local roads as part of a Food For Assets programme in Upi, Maguindanao. WFP/ Jeanne Spillane

Working With Local Government

In response, WFP, in partnership with the local government unit of Upi, launched a project entitled “Enhancing Food Security Initiatives of Upi Upland Barangays”. The project focuses on rehabilitating 5 kilometers of farm-to-market roads, benefiting 950 households in 11 barangays, and aims to increase access to basic social services by reducing transportation costs and travel time. Meanwhile, household-level food security is addressed through the inclusion of establishing backyard vegetable gardens.

Anson is one of over three hundred people to register for a new electronic ID card from WFP. He joins a team of 75 men tasked with digging drainage channels on local access roads to ensure they remain passable even when the monsoon rains fall. The new ID card will allow him to claim food assistance from WFP for three months in return for the work. 

Many of the roads in the region are unpaved dirt roads, prone to severe flooding when monsoon rains hit. Local government identified road improvement as one area that would benefit local farmers and families. Drainage channels like this one ensure that the road remains passable whatever the weather.  WFP/ Jeanne Spillane

Registration of project participants in the SCOPE system began in October 2016, and from a distance the scene at barangay Rifao is a familiar sight, one no different from previous sign-ups for WFP projects. SCOPE is an online database system which WFP has developed to improve how it assists people in need. In the past, distributing food or cash assistance to the poorest communities involved registering people using a paper-based system. This often proved time-consuming and inefficient, with duplication a frequent problem. 

Electronic ID Cards

New electronic ID cards are provided to project participants, and while the initial registration does take time for WFP staff on the ground, once complete, monitoring and tracking of food and cash distributions is far more efficient. SCOPE also means registration and distribution services can be more easily delivered directly to the people who need them, meaning they no longer have to travel to a centralized distribution point.

“This registration was much faster than I expected. I also appreciate that it was conducted in a nearby barangay. We didn’t have to travel far from our homes or spend money to be able to register and participate because the registration took place near us,” explained Anson. 

Anson is one of 75 men hired to work on improving local roads as part of a Food For Assets programme in Upi, Maguindanao. WFP/ Jeanne Spillane

Improving Monitoring & Evaluation

In addition to WFP’s monitoring, Ronald, the leader of the Project Management Committee, said that SCOPE also assists them in their monitoring and evaluation. “SCOPE will help us in checking attendance, ensure participation, and in the verification or validation process during distributions. With the new IDs, it’s quicker to identify the participants and ensure that the money they’ve earned goes to the right person.

Since re-establishing its presence in the Philippines in 2006, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been working in conflict-affected areas in Central Mindanao in close partnership with local government units and communities to rebuild their assets following years of conflict and displacement. Now, WFP is improving its project registration, implementation, and monitoring system to streamline and balance project implementation and benefit project participants.

12/16/2016 - 12:21
Climate Change, Contributions to WFP, Purchase for Progress, Responding to Emergencies

In April 2016, it was time for most Malawians to harvest their crops. Abel Mwase, a lead farmer in Lilongwe district, fared better than most Malawian farmers by producing over 300 bags of maize, some of which he has been able to sell for a profit.

This came after an extremely difficult growing season characterized by El Niño-induced drought, which left most farmers countrywide with failed harvests and little to no food for the year. These challenging circumstances resulted in around 40 percent of Malawians facing food insecurity this year with the most difficult months still ahead.

Abel, who is supported by the World Food Programme’s Purchase For Progress (P4P) initiative, is a founding member of the Chigonthi Farmer Organisation, which currently consists of 99 members. Through P4P, Chigonthi farmers have benefitted from WFP trainings on post-harvest management, market and cooperative management, as well as from partner-led trainings on conservation agriculture.

“This year I applied compost manure which I think conserved moisture in the soil. This helped me to grow more than most during the past growing season, which was very difficult due to lack of rains,” said Abel.

Prior to his involvement with the cooperative, Abel lacked access to proper storage facilities. Now using methods learned through P4P trainings, he is able to store surplus commodities safely in a warehouse originally supported by FAO and handed over for management by P4P-supported farmers in 2013.  

Since the group’s establishment, the food security situation of the members has seen great improvement with many of the farmers experiencing surplus harvests.

P4P also increases market opportunities for supported farmers, in part through WFP’s direct purchase from supported farmers. At the onset of its current relief response, WFP looked to Farmer Organizations like Chigonthi to source some of the response’s maize requirements in June and July. This helped ensure availability of commodities for distribution at the exceptionally early start of the response in July.

Of the 300 plus bags he harvested this past year, Abel put aside 100 bags of maize for storage in the farmer organization’s warehouse. Using a contribution from USAID specifically for local maize purchase, WFP purchased 30 mt of maize directly from the Chigonthi Farmer Organization in July, which it then delivered to food insecure households as part of its current relief response.

“I was able to supply 90 bags to WFP under this sale,” explained Abel. “I have used the money I made to purchase farming inputs including chicken manure to apply on the crops I have planted for this season.”  

WFP and USAID require high quality standards of commodities, which farmers in the Chigonthi Farmer Organisation were able to meet this year in part due to skills learned through P4P. Competitive prices are offered in exchange for quality commodities, which further incentives investment and increased production among Malawian farmers. Abel has also sold over 200 bags of maize to the Government of Malawi’s National Food Reserve Agency, further increasing his post-harvest profit.  Continuing to build on the skills and support provided by WFP, Abel and other WFP-supported farmers hope to increase production and sell to WFP and other competitive buyers in future years. 

Using a contribution from USAID specifically for local maize purchase, WFP purchased 30 metric tons of maize directly from the Chigonthi Farmers Organization in mid-2016 which it then delivered to food-insecure households as part of its current relief response.