Reducing hunger while promoting local foods

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Reducing hunger while promoting local foods

25 September 2015 – It is early in the morning and Coumba Ndoffen Sene and his family are eating breakfast in the Niakhar village in Senegal.

Today, there's enough millet for the children to eat as much as they want. But food hasn’t always been this plentiful. In this arid area, temperatures are high and rainfall is low, and Coumba has struggled to grow millet here.

And with most Senegalese preferring imported food, the millet he did produce was also difficult to sell. But this year, everything changed.

The new developments in Coumba’s life are part of a bigger government initiative known as the Agricultural Value Chain Support Programme, funded by IFAD. Among its goals is to increase rural incomes, create jobs and reduce the six-month “hungry” season (when crop supplies and pasture are exhausted in between harvests)

It’s all based on a very simple idea: developing a taste for local foods.

To make it happen, farmers needed encouragement to grow local crops, like millet. Productivity is improving too. So far, almost 9,000 farmers have been trained to use new methods and improved seeds and fertilizers to produce higher yields and better quality crops. 

Before, Coumba could hardly feed his family. But this year he can not only provide food, but also pay his five children's school fees and buy them new clothes. He has even invested in a new business, raising chickens.

"Our production has more than doubled, almost tripled," says Coumba. "Before we could not even get to one ton of millet but now we produce two or three tons per year. And this is more than we can eat in a single year, so we sell the surplus to pay for other things we need."

But to reap those gains, farmers need a market. There is no sense in producing more if there is no one to buy it.

So the project team had to work with the surrounding community to encourage them to eat local foods. About 700 women so far have been trained to cook with local crops. Not only are these crops cheaper and more nutritious than imported rice — they have also provided the inspiration for new businesses.

The women have started combining different local cereals and are packaging it as porridge for babies and selling it in their local shop, as well as in the capital.

 

I’m not only improving the diet of the family, but also I’m taking care of the needs of the children. So I think it's had a tremendous impact that has allowed me to move forward in my life.

Since the training, many restaurants in this area offer only locally grown food. And the economy is certainly improving in the area. With a strong local market, Coumba and the other farmers have been able to expand their production.

Working with the project team, they built a new storehouse, and they can now sell their produce throughout the year without worrying about market fluctuations. And with a quality crop and so much surplus to sell, they were able to negotiate regular sales to Nestlé in Ghana.  

The project’s initiatives have had an enormous impact on people’s lives and incomes. Before, Coumba could hardly feed his family. But this year he can not only provide food, but also pay his five children’s school fees and buy them new clothes. He has even invested in a new business, raising chickens.

"I’m not only improving the diet of the family, but also I’m taking care of the needs of the children," he says. "So I think it's had a tremendous impact that has allowed me to move forward in my life."