By Ademola Alao in Liberia
As Ivorian refugees continue to seek safety in Liberia, the Red Cross is providing seeds and tools to enable the host communities to replenish their depleted food stocks. Around 180,000 refugees remain in Liberia and many communities are struggling to find enough food for the increased population.
1,250 families were chosen to receive tools and 50kg of seed rice. Aliou Boly, IFRC Emergency Coordinator, Sahel Regional Representation in Dakar, said fostering sustainable communities had been an important part of the intervention since December 2010. “We have been waiting for this planting season to support not only these generous hosts who exhausted their food reserves to assist their brothers and sisters from Côte d’Ivoire but also some of the refugees who have decided to stay in Liberia and farm,” he said.
Many farmers in Nimba County, where 70 percent of the refugees are staying, had already cleared their farmland in preparation but could not find seeds to buy. Moses Gono, a 50-year-old farmer, was upbeat about the distribution: “I am very happy for the materials the Red Cross has given me. It will really help me and my family in our farming because after I finished clearing my farm, I found I couldn’t get seed rice to plant. But with this gift from Red Cross there is no need to worry again.”
The food security part of the Red Cross operation targets the most vulnerable families who are unable to buy seeds and tools to start their planting activities. In addition, many households will receive support to start backyard gardening and grow vegetables. This will improve their nutritional intake as well as providing a potential source of income for produce that is above what the family needs. Training in post-harvest management will be offered to host and refugees families later in the year.
Many of the targeted communities in Nimba County were difficult to reach, with poor road access, damaged bridges, a lack of communication services, as well as scarce access to seeds specific to the area. At times, vehicles had to be abandoned with volunteers walking long distances carrying their relief items on their heads to the beneficiaries. Aliou Keïta, a Liberian Red Cross volunteer, said: “My motivation comes from the beneficiaries who express their appreciation when we reach them. I feel satisfied when I see smiles in their faces as they struggle to lift the bags of seed rice donated to them.”
The IFRC is seeking almost 4 million Swiss francs (4.3 million US dollars, 3.1 million Euros) to support the populations affected by the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire and its neighbouring countries.