Concern’s Alex Tsakiridis illustrates the impact that a simple seed fair can have on a community seeking to recover from the trauma of civil conflict in Central African Republic (CAR).
It was a first for the region and the surrounding villages, and it showed. The women wore their most joyful earrings and yoghurt merchants from across the district eagerly collected to sell their products to the crowds. This, the premier seed fair held in the village of Boukanga back in April, was indeed a major event for the community.
Attracting a crowd of almost 800 people, the fair targeted the most vulnerable farmers of the area. On entering the fair – which was organised by the local Village Relief Committees and the Concern team – each farmer was given two hoes and vouchers which they could use to buy seeds of their choice from approved vendors. Prior to the fair, a local team had been selected to carefully identify who in their community was most in need of support. It is perhaps appropriate that the name for the programme is ‘Maingo ti e’, meaning ‘our development’ in sango, the vernacular language of the Central African Republic (CAR). This community really is driving its own recovery.
According to the locals, the fair was a vital tool not only for reviving the farming activities but also community spirit – it is remembered in the area as a joyous social event. And nowhere in the world is there more need for joy than CAR – a country whose people have been terrorised and uprooted by brutal civil conflict that has gone on for four years now. Everyone agreed that April couldn’t have been a better month for it to take place. "It was the best time to have the fair," explains Gilbert Kotti, President of the Bogban Village Relief Committee which helped to organise the event. Why? Because April is the month when corn, beans and peanuts are sown.