Seeds for change in Central African Republic

Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR).

Nearly 1 million people are still uprooted from their homes in CAR or in neighboring countries.

Eight out of 10 people rely on farming to survive, but conflict has crippled agricultural production.

As a result of failed harvests, disrupted markets and soaring food prices, families are struggling to get by.

Half of the population — about 2.5 million people — faces hunger.

The next few months are especially difficult; it is a time between harvests known as the “lean season” when food stockpiles run low.

How do farmers cope?

Simone, widow and formerly displaced farmer:

“Before the crisis, we lived easily. In peace, on our farms. We grew our own food,” says Simone (above), a farmer from Dimbissi village, in the northern region of CAR.
“During the crisis, they burnt my field, and killed my husband. They destroyed everything,” she adds.

Simone fled her village in 2014 after armed men took over the area. She has just returned to her village. This is the first time she is able to cultivate her land in two years.

Though content to be back in her village, Simone and other formerly displaced farmers like her tell of the time before the conflict when they had animals and tools, and could cultivate their land and grow food easily.

Now, with no oxen and plows left, everything needs to be done by hand.

In the case of women who have lost their husbands due to conflict like Simone, this is especially difficult as they have to manage everything by themselves.

Simone has no one to share the work with; planting is more labourious and time consuming than before the conflict.

But Simone keeps her hope alive — to have a good harvest this year, and be able to fend for her children and fight for them to get an education.

Nicolas, father of eight, and displaced farmer:

When violence erupted in CAR, Nicolas fled his village with his eight children and left everything behind; he did not want to suffer the same fate as some of the other villagers — death.

He has been displaced ever since, finding refuge in Makangue village in Bambari region, which still hosts a large number of people uprooted by the conflict.

The villagers have been doing their best to support families like Nicolas’s despite the difficult situation they also find themselves in.

Their generosity has gone a long way. A tailor was given a sewing machine. A local family shared their land with Nicolas so that he can grow food for his family.

Nicolas’s hope this year?

To have enough food for his children and to sell some of the harvest so that his children can go to school.

In the long-run, he hopes to return to his village and live in peace.

What is ‘seeds for change’?

With the onset of the lean season, which coincides with the planting season, FAO and WFP have been working in sync to bring seeds, small tools and food to 100,000 hungry farmers like Simone and Nicolas under an initiative called ‘seeds protection’ or ‘seeds for change’.

WFP provides groundnuts, maize, rice, sorghum, and beans, whilst FAO provides crop and vegetable seeds.

When times are tough, seeds meant for planting can become food; this is why it is important that farmers have food during this period, so that they can plant the seeds and not go hungry at the same time.

Though peace has been slowly returning to CAR, vulnerable populations are far from being back to normal. Many are still displaced and continue to need assistance to survive. Many others have returned to their villages and need assistance to rebuild their lives. Everything they had is gone, and they need to start from scratch.

Help WFP help them. WFP has only half of the funding that it needs to provide food as part of the #seeds4change initiative. Farmers in CAR can not risk to have only half of the support they need during this dire period of the year when they need support more than ever.

More information on why CAR can’t wait here.