Food fairs to improve food security in Chad
ACTED's intervention in the Sahel Belt, has responded to the basic needs of more than 8,000 vulnerable households, having organised food fairs for those living in areas without access to local markets.
Hawa is a 25 year old woman living in Oum-Hadjer, in the central region of Batha. She is one of a family of 15 people and has 3 children of her own to take care of. Hawa left school at a very early age. Since then, she works in the fields with the most basic of farming tools. Like 90% of households living in this department, agriculture is the main source of income for her family as economic activities are not diversified in this area. In order to make ends meet and buy more food for the family, Hawa and her mother do gardening for people.
When we asked Hawa about her food habits, she explained that people in Chad often only eat a traditional meal named “la boule”. Chadians eat “la boule” every morning, noon and night. This porridge made of millet or sorghum comes with a vegetable sauce, usually made of gombo. Very rarely, the meal can be served with dried fish or meat. Considering the very limited incomes of Hawa’s family, food rations are limited: Hawa told us that she and her family eat meat just once in the week. For her three children, Hawa cooks sweet porridge and gives them powered milk once every two days.
Food fairs: Not only food, but knowledge too
Food production/harvest shortfalls due to low rainfall in 2011, had a serious impact on the livelihoods of people in Chad. This situation also provoked a severe food shortage in the Sahel Belt, especially in the Batha Region, where Hawa and her family live. Hawa’s family has been affected by this food crisis and this year, her family was not able to cover their food needs during the lean season.
Hawa’s family has been identified by her community as a very poor and vulnerable household and as such has been included in the USAID/FFP food fairs program. She will receive food support equivalent to USD 215 for 5 months to cover the food needs of her and her family during the lean season. As a member of a severely food insecure household, Hawa has so far been to three food fairs. When she attended these fairs, she received food vouchers allowing her to buy food for her family, including cereals, beans, vegetables, oil, and meat.
The majority of the people who attended the food fairs were women all draped in lightweight and colourful saris. Chadian women are actively involved in housework and child rearing and as such are responsible for purchasing food; therefore it is important to note that they play a crucial role in introducing any behavior change.
With this in mind the food fairs were particularly well suited for engaging in large-scale awareness raising. During the fairs, Hawa attended small workshops delivering key messages on good nutritional and hygiene practices, and raising awreness as to the importance of exclusive breast-feeding for babies under six months old. Sahelian women are often unable to access education and therefore lack basic knowledge in terms of hygiene and nutrition. Hawa told us that these awareness raising sessions have allowed her to improve the quality of her child care and her awareness of the importance of hygiene practices.
ACTED’s multifaceted response to this serious situation has meant that not only has food security for the most vulnerable households been improved, but also that women in this region are now better equipped with the necessary tools to live healthier lives.
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