The power of food vouchers in Niger

28 Aug 2012   |   Blog   |   Emergency Relief   |   Niger

Tags:  CRS, Niger, Sahel, food crisis, West Africa   |   2 comments

Villagers in Niger. Photo Credit: Catholic Relief Services

Currently 6.4 million people in Niger are classified as stressed or in crisis food security mode due to poor harvests, drought, rising food prices and ongoing conflict in neighbouring Mali, which has seen many refugees fleeing to Niger.

Caritas Australia funds currently support people in the Tilabery and Oullam regions which are particularly vulnerable to recurrent drought. Food vouchers help provide people with food and nutritional security, meaning farmers are no longer forced to eat the seeds they should be planting for the next harvest. Bill Rastetter, from Catholic Relief Services (Caritas USA), recently visited one of the villages in Niger.

Bill Rastetter reports, “I traveled today to one of the villages currently assisted by CRS [Catholic Relief Services] with the generous support of Caritas Australia. The residents of the village are quite happy with the assistance that they are receiving. We witnessed the distribution of food vouchers taking place.”

The use of food vouchers enables people to buy their own food. The advantage of this approach is that it tends to be faster and cheaper than giving people food. Most importantly, it gives people greater flexibility and dignity – they have the power to buy what they need. Bill describes:

A number of men and women said some men were able to stay in the village and work in the fields only because of the CRS/Caritas support. Otherwise they would have left for Ghana or Nigeria seeking work. The bad news is that the rains started so late that the outlook for their harvest is not good. Unless the rains continue well past mid-September – which is unlikely – the entire harvest will be at risk.”

The assistance that Caritas Australia is providing will support the continuation of a large scale emergency assistance project across 50 villages in the region. Additional activities as part of this program will have a more long term focus to ensure that farmers can harvest over the next few months. These activities include cash for work activities and seed fairs for the provision of seeds.

Find out more about our work in West Africa on our West Africa Crisis Appeal page. 

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  • Travis howe

    “It good to see that the niger's are getting vouchers.”

  • Nio Hashiri

    “It's great to see how much Caritas is helping Niger”