The people of Central African Republic have been suffering from instability and widespread violence  since 2013, but the main cause of death remains hunger. A programme led by Caritas Norway  and Catholic Relief Services (Caritas USA) contributes successfully to increase food production in order to ensure internally displaced families access to a nutritious diet.

By Naema Klouche, intern at Caritas Norway

Fatima Zalingo is one of approximately 6,000 Muslims who are “locked” in the center of Boda town, not able to leave their neighborhood for fear of being attacked by anti-Balaka militia. (Foto: Catholic Relief Services)

Fatima Zalingo is one of approximately 6,000 Muslims who are “locked” in the center of Boda town, not able to leave their neighborhood for fear of being attacked by anti-Balaka militia. (Foto: Catholic Relief Services)

 -I’m too scared to leave, says Fatimatou Zalingo.

Since they fled their home in January 2014,  Fatimatou and her children have been trapped in an enclave in the village of Boda in the region of Lobaye situated in the South West of the country. Surrounded by anti-balaka militia threatening to attack, it is difficult to restart economic activities without external assistance.

1 million displaced
Poorly developed infrastructures and politico-economic mismanagement place the Central African Republic (CAR) as one of Africa’s least developed countries. Since violent civil unrest between christian and muslim groups started spreading throughout the country in 2013, nearly one million people have been displaced. The number of hungry has doubled, reports the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The serious security situation and the drought makes it difficult for farmers to cultivate their fields and to create positive development in the country. The internally displaced Muslim herders Puular community in the Boda Enclave is one of the Muslim communities that have been hardest hit by the crisis.

Caritas assisting more than 13 000
Food, firewood and paid work are hard to come by. Caritas is therefore assisting more than 13 000 people in the area, including Fatimatou and her family. We deliver emergency supplies like kindling for cooking, seeds and tools for gardening and other essential provisions to the affected families.

Since 2014, the project  has served over 4 000 households through the establishment of agricultural farmer groups.  The vegetable seeds received, the tools and the technical support given have enable the groups to grow sufficient goods to begin selling vegetables both within and outside of the Boda Enclave. They are now able to have a steady income through the small grocery store started in summer 2015.

Vegetables and social cohesion
Despite their initial reluctance to agriculture and farming practices, the Puular community became the biggest provider of vegetables for people in the region.

– Vegetables became an element of social cohesion, explains the project’s food security and livelihoods coordinator, Maiga Mahamadou.

Indeed, contact and dialogue have been established between Muslims and Christians due to the selling and buying of vegetables.

The communities are now acquiring sufficient food to meet members’ energy and nutritional requirements and to start a seed bank for the next agricultural season.

Humanitarian crisis
Despite this positive progress in some areas, the Central African Republic continues to face a major humanitarian crisis. Tensions between Christian Anti-Balaka Militia and the Muslim so-called Seleka are still vivid, and 2.7 million people are currently in need of immediate assistance according to United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).