The usual hustle and bustle is returning to Paoua. Children are playing on the streets and hunters and farmers are returning from the fields. Not long ago, this town situated 479 km northwest of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, was the scene of clashes between armed groups that uprooted thousands of people from their homes.
To urgently assist more than 70,000 displaced people, the World Food Programme (WFP) put its resilience projects temporarily on hold. Now, with the return of relative calm, less people are going to the food distribution sites. WFP has been able to gradually resume its Purchase for Progress (P4P) activities. This initiative promotes entrepreneurship among smallholder farmers and helps to increase their incomes. As a result, this initiative helps build long-term resilience.
“Since WFP began buying our produce for its operations, our lives as farmers have completely changed. We are better off and live without worries,” says Claudia Ziranone, President of the Nzando farmers’ group.
“I used to sell small quantities of my crop at the market which allowed me to solve some minor problems. With the resumption of WFP’s local purchases, I can pay for my children’s school fees, build my house and have a better quality of life,” explains Claudia.
WFP has been implementing P4P activities in the Central African Republic since 2015. Despite the complexity of the crisis and the recurrent spikes of violence, there has been significant development activities alongside humanitarian operations in the country.
Many smallholder farmers have gained an entry point into markets through P4P. Encouraged to form associations, they can negotiate better, sell more, lower their transaction costs and extend their customer base. P4P has been transforming their lives.
“With the income I earned from selling my crops to WFP, I was able to extend my field from two to five hectares,” says Sylvanus Téon President of the Federation of White Beans Producers of Paoua. “The small village farmer that I am has constructed a four-bedroom house which I am renting out in Bangui,” says Sylvanus with unabated pride.
In the Central African Republic, WFP has already supported some 25,000 farmers in the sale of their produce, including nearly 14,000 women.
“I am proof that agriculture can help young people to support themselves while participating in the development of their regions,” says Felix Nzoubaraketia. “Thanks to the 16 tons of sorghum that I sold to WFP, I bought 4 cows, a motorcycle, and I was able to build my house where I live with my wife and our 4 children”.
With the financial support of donors such as the European Union, France and Japan, by the end of 2018, WFP will have injected more than 1.4 billion FCFA (roughly US$ 2.5 million) into the local economy by buying more than 4,000 tons of food directly from smallholder farmers and local suppliers.
“Agriculture is the only legacy I will leave to my children. It is only through agriculture that I manage to take care of my two wives and my 10 children,” says Julien Nzoumitia, a farmer in Paoua.
In Paoua, the impact of support to smallholder farmers goes beyond improving local agriculture and longer-term food security. It is helping young people find employment and consider alternatives to joining armed or criminal groups.
“Now I can afford to provide for my essential needs,” says Raoul Kamandoko, a young man who fills bags with harvested produce at a farmer’s cooperative. “Beyond making money, I realized that we can make a living through agriculture rather than by taking up arms,” adds Raoul.
In a context where underdevelopment, hunger and conflict are interconnected, WFP’s smallholder-friendly procurement system is contributing towards towards stability and peace in the Central African Republic.
Learn more about WFP in the Central African Republic
Written by Bruno Djoyo