CAR: Saving lives and livelihoods

17 July, 2012
Family farming in the Central African Republic. Credit: OCHA
Family farming in the Central African Republic. Credit: OCHA

In the Central African Republic (CAR), about one in five people living outside the capital, Bangui, faces a food crisis. Conflict earlier this year led to widespread displacement and the destruction of villages, farmland and livestock. Providing food assistance is a high priority, but so is helping agropastoralists to rebuild their livelihoods. 

“My family lost everything—houses, farms, cows and other personal belongings,” said Fabien Dalakoua, a 50-year-old farmer and a father of 16. 
 
Fabien and his family were among more than 700 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled violence in villages in Kaga Bandoro, northern CAR. There was widespread insecurity across the country, but most attacks took place in the north and central regions. Attacks by a Chadian rebel group, the Front Patriotique pour le Redressement (FPR), displaced about 10,000 people throughout CAR. As of June 2012, about 2,500 people have still not returned home. 
 
Fabien’s family took refuge in a temporary site located in Nana-Outa, 38 km north of Kaga Bandoro. Humanitarian organizations provided urgent assistance to the IDPs. In June, the World Food Programme (WFP) distributed more than 20,000 metric tons of food including corn, flour, peas, vegetable oil and salt. 
 
“Before the food distributions, we only ate one meal per day. Our main meal was wild yams,” said Fabien. “WFP’s food distributions helped us to have balanced meals during this difficult period.” 
 
In April, before the rainy season began, the IDPs received seeds for planting from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They also received food rations for a month so that families did not eat the seeds. But Fabien said he and his fellow IDPs were not strong enough to do more than plant the seeds.  
 
“We were too weak to work on the farms,” he said. “There’s a shortage of food. We don’t have any way to get money and we can’t afford to buy basic necessities.”
 
Humanitarian partners providing food aid have made agropastoralists their top priority. By rebuilding and restocking farms with animals, they are supporting families not only in sustaining themselves, but also in generating income to buy more-nutritious food. 
 
“We used to have cows which we used for farming on large fields,” said Fabien. “My family usually harvested over 30 bags of cassava, 20 bags of maize and 10 bags of groundnuts. Unfortunately having lost our cows, we can now only practice subsistence farming.” 
 
So far, partners have distributed seeds and agricultural tools to more than 349,000 people across CAR. WFP has distributed food aid to more than 126,000 people, mostly IDPs, refugees and other communities that have been affected by the food and nutrition crisis and displacement. 
 
During the second half of 2012, aid organizations will continue to support agropastoral activities that will help farmers generate food and income, and boost the local economy.  
 
Reporting by Laura Fultang/ OCHA Central African Republic