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How to feed a country ravaged by conflict
For too many years, people living in the Central African Republic have existed under the shadow of conflict. Many people live life day-to-day, unable to predict what will happen in the coming weeks.
For a largely rural population where growing your own food is integral to obtaining a balanced diet, this is a problem. Why grow crops that take three months to produce food when you might have to leave your home in a few weeks? Changing these attitudes is part of the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Here is a field full of potential. Squash, maize and peanuts grow as well as paddy rice and sesame. It is one of Concern’s Farmer Field Schools where people can learn improved cultivation techniques and grow on land ripe for food production.
Many farms were deserted due to the conflict in CAR and because of the lack of seeds and the instability still felt in the country, they haven’t been cultivated. Concern’s seed fairs and training create a sustainable way for families to feed themselves and earn an income.
Before and during the rainy season, farmers are supported in cultivating subsistence crops that will provide enough food to feed themselves and their entire families. During the dry season they are assisted in cultivating their vegetable gardens to sell produce at markets. This ensures food security all around the year.
Golden Marlenue is stood outside her home with her young children. Her two youngest children Naomi, two and Athanase, 12 months, are both malnourished due to lack of food (and poor nutritional habits). Helping families support themselves through farming is just one way to solve the burden of poverty. Whilst many children go hungry every day, those under-five are particularly at risk of becoming dangerously malnourished.
I knew my children were sick but I didn’t know they were malnourished… I’d visit the traditional healer but it didn’t help. Now I bring them here and it works. Since Concern came the children have plumpy nut (a supplement that treats very undernourished children) and I see an improvement.
This is Octavie and her nephew Jolidor. Octavie is only 13 but is responsible for Jolidor after their mothers moved away to the city. Some days the children have nothing to eat and as a result Jolidor (aged two) is malnourished. He has been receiving a special food supplement to treat this for the last three months from the Boyali Health Post where Concern is working with volunteers from the community. Concern has also been organising cooking demonstrations for young mothers, showing them different ways of combining various ingredients and achieving a balanced diet for themselves and their children.
Some days we don’t eat anything.
With Concern’s support, Jolidor has a brighter future.
Zacharie Kandego, 51, sits by the river in the town Rendekouzou. Two seed fairs are taking place nearby, organised by Concern. Here, neighbouring villages are invited to participate and buy seeds through vouchers Concern has distributed.
Many rural farmers have been unable to grow food since the conflict. At this fair people were able to buy sesame, corn, squash, paddy rice and groundnut with their vouchers. What’s more, the residents of neighbouring village Kama, as in other villages throughout CAR, have put in place a system of mutual aid. Villagers assist the households which do not have the capacity to cultivate their own fields themselves and help each other with the labour.
Scroll through more of these stunning photos to get a real sense of life in CAR.
Here is Octavie and Jolidor at the Boyali Health Post where Concern is working with volunteers from the community.
This is Gladys Doro-Nzerintou at work as a Community Health Volunteer at Boyali Health Post where she learnt about childhood illnesses and how to screen children to spot the signs of malnutrition.
This is Elianna holding her daughter Laureine at Bossembele hospital. Laureine is 21 months old and severely malnourished. Concern organised transportation from her village to the hospital – the cost of which would be too high for most people.
Jabelle Yafiti stands with her 16-month-old daughter, Aime-Lazara. Aime-Lazara was dangerously ill and malnourished because she wasn’t getting enough of the right foods. She received treatment from a Concern-supported health centre and is pictured here fully recovered.
This is Delphine. She received training from Concern in nutrition and hygiene and now helps mothers and children like Jabelle and Aime-Lazara achieve optimum health.
Babele Marcial lives in a village called Bossoui in the Central African Republic. He has to catch rats and other wild animals so that he has enough food to feed his family.
As a family we have difficulties. We are living in not even a house – it is just a place to hide. I hope to get money to build a house. I don’t have anyone to support me, if we have a problem no one can help us.