Finding food autonomy: rebuilding, not just surviving
Single mother and small business owner Christine Bamon shares how she overcame adversity to feed her family
Christine Bamon lives in western Cote d’Ivoire. A resilient woman, she is doing everything she can so that her five children can grow into healthy adults. She started a small sweet banana business which has allowed her to send her two eldest children to high school in Daloa, Cote d’Ivoire. This is a true victory for the single mother who, not that long ago, found it hard to provide even one meal a day for her family. This is her story.
“My priority has always been the education and health of my children, but very often, it was challenging for my family to eat even one meal a day,” says Christine. “Today, I am able to send my eldest children off to school in the city, and even send them money for their accommodation and food. After paying all of that, I do not have much left but it is my responsibility.”
The small village Christine is from is not far from the Liberian border. Following the 2011 post-election crisis, she and her children fled to her parents’ house. “One night, we heard the shootings so close that my children and I fled to Liberia instantly, hoping that my husband would join us later. But he never did.”
“I have to keep moving forward and fight, for the sake of my children.”
In 2013, peace and stability returned to Cote d’Ivoire, and Christine and her children went back home. They were hopeful they would be able to pick up the pieces and go on with their lives. Going back to Cote d’Ivoire, however, turned out to be much more difficult than they had expected. They discovered that their family home had been destroyed. They had no savings and no means of procuring a livelihood.
Their old life was definitely over.
Today, Christine continues to think about her husband’s disappearance. “I am still wondering if he ever even reached Liberia, if he is still alive, if he is also looking for us. But I have to keep moving forward and fight, for the sake of my children,” she says.
When they first arrive, returnees are often vulnerable and many are scarcely able to meet their food and nutrition needs. Back in Cote d’Ivoire, Christine’s uncle welcomed her and her family. She immediately began selling wood — a physically taxing job — so that she could feed her family and enroll her children in school.
Three years after Christine returned, her community told her about the World Food Programme (WFP)’s livelihood and resilience activities and Food Assistance for Assets initiative (FFA). After participating in a training on good practices and community empowerment in 2016, Christine joined one of the projects — a community poultry farm. WFP gave the programme’s 15 participants 250 chicks, chickenfeed and vaccines for the animals.
While they waited for the project to take off, participants received food, vouchers, or in some cases, a combination of both to meet their food needs and those of their families. After 30 days, the first hens were sold. With the profits, participants expanded production and started a second farm.
With the two vouchers she received, Christine was able to invest in a sweet banana business as a way to supplement her activity on the farm. Eventually, she was able to stop selling wood. She enrolled her two oldest children in high school in Daola, while her three youngest attend the village’s primary school.
“My message to everyone struggling like me is that we have to prepare ourselves to be independent and resilient”
In 2016, approximately 20 percent of the population in the western and southwestern regions of Cote d’Ivoire had limited access to land and were food insecure. Even today, families continue to face food shortages. Approximately 25 percent have low and moderate food consumption.
WFP in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided assistance through a voluntary repatriation programme to help combat food insecurity among returnees and host community in western Cote d’Ivoire (2013–2017). To help returnees meet their immediate food and nutrition needs, WFP distributed a three-month supply of food to people as they arrived at the border between Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.
Following initial food assistance, returnees benefited from WFP interventions focused on restoring livelihoods, building resilience and promoting social cohesion in fragile communities. With the support of local NGO Développement Rural et Agricole à l’Ouest (DRAO), WFP was able to create income-generating activities such as poultry farming, fish ponds, the development and rehabilitation of land, cultivation of plantain and cassava, and other agricultural activities. Participants in the projects received food, vouchers, or a combination of both.
The programme’s activities have allowed people to rebuild their lives by contributing to the creation of sustainable food systems, enhancing the communities’ agricultural know- how and improving people’s access to land and food.
“My message to everyone struggling like me is that we have to prepare ourselves to be independent and resilient, and for that we need to invest and benefit from WFP’s support to do good things,” says Christine.