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At a glance: Niger

Cereal banks provide food security during Niger’s ‘lean season’

© UNICEF video
A young girl in the village of Guidan Gazobi, Niger, where a UNICEF-supported cereal bank sells grain to women at 40 per cent less than the market price.

By Nina Martinek

GUIDON GAZOBI, Niger, 29 September 2006 – The workday is long for the women and girls of Niger. It is still early in the morning when Mahou Abdou begins her daily chores – a series of strenuous tasks, all of which she will have completed before noon.

“I wake up at 5:30 every morning,” she says. “We collect water and food for my family and animals, sell baked goods, grind millet and prepare the meal.”

Adding to her already full schedule, there is a continuing food crisis in Niger. In the so-called ‘lean season’ at this time of year, grain reserves are exhausted and the new crop has not yet been harvested. Thus Ms. Abdou could face an added responsibility – making the long trip to the market, where grain is often sold at exorbitant prices.

But that is not her only option, since UNICEF and the World Food Programme have established a cereal bank supplying 10 tonnes of grain to the village of Guidan Gazobi, to be sold to families at 40 per cent less than the market price.

© UNICEF video
Mahou Abdou walks to the nearby cereal bank in her village. She no longer has to travel for hours to get to the market.

Improving health

“It helps a lot,” says Ms. Abdou, the mother of five children. “We don’t have to wait for hours to go to the market, and it is sold here at a moderate price.”

Prior to the creation of the cereal bank, Ms. Abdou spent long hours in the fields with her eldest daughter Zeli, cutting the millet and cleaning the husks. Now she has more time to care for her children and participate in income-generating activities such as selling baked goods.

In addition to providing food security, community cereal banks help improve the health and well-being of women, who no longer have the added burden of travelling many hours in order to feed their families. And children who otherwise would be at high risk of undernutrition have easier access to food – a key point given that undernutrition is the leading cause of child mortality here.

© UNICEF video
With grain from the cereal bank, Mahou Abdou prepares the daily meal for her family.

Community empowerment

“Fifty per cent of children in Niger are chronically malnourished, and this is a structural problem,” says UNICEF Representative in Niger Aboudou Karimou Adjibade. “There are many social factors. It is not only a question of food availability.”

Cereal banks run by the villagers themselves – primarily the women – are one approach to solving chronic undernutrition. The grain they sell is collected at the end of previous harvest season, when prices are at their lowest, accounting for the reduced resale price.

For the long term, UNICEF and its partners hope to empower communities and have them take ownership other sustainable development projects as well. To that end, UNICEF has established a Community Development Programme in Niger promoting local efforts on health, education, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, food security and economic self-reliance.

UNICEF currently works with communities to carry out child survival and development activities in 345 village clusters within the 12 poorest districts of Niger.

By helping to provide greater access to child health services, safe drinking water and education – and at the same time, setting the foundation for sustainable development – UNICEF and its partners in Niger are working to save and improve children’s lives.




29 September 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on Nigerien community development programmes that are providing food security through cereal banks.
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