For the second consecutive year, world hunger is on the rise. Following a decade of progress in the fight against hunger, this reversal can in part be attributed to the growing effects of climate change.
WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) programmes aim to address vulnerable people’s immediate food needs with cash, vouchers, or food transfers, while contributing to their long-term food security and ability to adapt when confronted with shocks affecting food security through the building and rehabilitation of productive assets. This might include, for example, the recovery of degraded land to restore agricultural potential, reduce hardships, such as the collection of water, firewood, and fodder, particularly for women and girls, and to set foundations for further value chain development and income generation opportunities.
We talked to Rokeya, from Bangladesh; Kadzo, from Kenya; and Ismail, from Somalia, about their experiences as participants in FFA programmes and the impact that FFA programmes have had on their lives and communities.
“It used to take us the whole day to water tomatoes alone, but now we just fill up the tank, and off we go to other domestic duties. This technology has saved us a lot in terms of labour.”
Kilifi County in Kenya struggles with erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spells, and constant droughts. Designed in collaboration with a number of partners including the Kilifi County Government and World Vision Kenya, local asset creation programmes have as their primary objective the tackling of persistent water scarcity.
Kadzo Changawa is both a farmer and the chairperson of the Dola community women’s group in Kilifi County. The group does small-scale vegetable farming, which is demanding work, especially during the dry seasons.
Kadzo recalls how life was prior to the programme, “During the dry season, I cannot be out in the garden more than ten minutes before I start to sweat while working on the raised beds where I had planted my vegetables. I can’t imagine how the crops in our gardens feel under such conditions. Without regular watering, we will lose the crops and end up begging for food. Watering at this time is very demanding and time consuming.”
WFP, with the Kilifi County Government and World Vision Kenya, provided one-acre drip irrigation kits and trained the group on how to set up and operate these kits. After two months, the group expressed satisfaction with the drip irrigation system. Kadzo asserts, “It used to take us the whole day to water tomatoes alone, but now we just fill up the tank, and off we go to other domestic duties. This technology has saved us a lot in terms of labour.” The drip irrigation system has allowed the women’s group to produce valuable crops, even during times of scarcity.
“This year, I have cultivated a rain-fed paddy on a share-crop basis. I am expecting a good harvest and also planning to cultivate watermelon in next dry season.”
In recent years, the Sakthira district of southwestern Bangladesh has been deeply affected by waterlogging and flooding. These problems affect the lives of approximately 800,000 people and the consequences have been severe: crop cultivation has become almost impossible, leading many people to migrate to other areas. In 2015, a joint FAO, UNDP, and WFP FFA programme was initiated to rehabilitate local drainage canals. This programme has reduced the recurrence of waterlogging and flooding and improved the productivity of local farms. With their short-term food needs met by cash transfers through mobile banking systems provided by FFA, the individuals participating in this project were able to dedicate their time to rebuilding the assets needed to ensure long-term livelihoods activities such as crop cultivation.
“In the last four or five years we were living in the water for about six months in a year. Flood water was more than knee deep in my homestead. We are safe this year as the canal drained the rain water and helped us to get rid of the waterlogging,” says Rokeya, one of the participants in the FFA project.
Rokeya, who is a single mother supporting a family of four including her mother and two daughters, continues, “This year, I have cultivated a rain-fed paddy on a share-crop basis. I am expecting a good harvest and also planning to cultivate watermelon in next dry season.”
“Our future could not be brighter. We are well-armed to face droughts!”
With recurrent droughts, flooding, and land degradation, as well as decades-long conflicts and a lack of governance, Somalia is among the poorest and most food-insecure countries in the world. Beginning in 2013, WFP and its partner Action in Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) have introduced an FFA programme that allows programme participants to access food from local markets using vouchers while building productive assets such as shallow wells and shallow water tanks.
Ismail, from Bassao district, took us on a tour of his farm and proudly showed us his watermelons, onions, and tomatoes. As Ismail explains, “We are growing these crops using irrigated water, which is sourced from a shallow well. It is hard labour that has brought us this beautiful produce.” Following the implementation of the programme, Ismail and other farmers are earning approximately US$ 750. Some farmers have invested their increased income in other livelihoods such as small shops or kiosks, where they sell their farm produce.
As Ismail says, “Our future could not be brighter. We are well-armed to face droughts!”
These stories are just three of testimonies from the millions of lives changed by FFA. Ismail, Rokeya, and Kadzo’s represent a small slice of the individuals selected to participate in WFP’s FFA programme, following a long-term analysis of their communities’ vulnerability to food insecurity and natural shocks as well as their capacity to contribute to resilience-building initiatives.
FFA programmes are being implemented in over fifty countries, benefiting more than 10 million people a year. Yet, no two FFA programmes are exactly alike, as each community’s specific needs — determined by the communities themselves, in collaboration with WFP, the government, and partners — are considered when designing each programme.
As WFP Executive Director David Beasley wrote, after visiting an FFA programme in the Sahel region of West Africa:
A concerted, focused effort like this can create stability, the kind of conditions that help a family, a community, a region take care of itself. That must start with food, because nothing else can happen when everyone’s hungry. But it also means schools and water and roads and governance and a dozen other things.
WFP is working in partnership with communities and government and in collaboration with other actors to improve long-term food security and strengthen resilience to shocks that affect livelihoods.