Senegal: Farmers use cereal banks for life-saving deposits

Farmers in drought and flood-prone Senegal use cereal banks to store their grains and then access them during the critical hungry months.

By Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S., with reporting by Alegnesy Bies, World Vision Senegal.
Published June 26, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

The lean season has started early for many farming families in the West African country of Senegal.

A different kind of savings deposit

August is usually the critical month, but food stocks already are running low, and poorer families have cooked the last of their millet and rice.

Farmers in Bagana village, in the Kaffrine region of southern Senegal, are depending on their cereal bank to tide them over.

They deposit grains in a central safe storehouse and withdraw them later to sell or feed their families. When the harvest is small, they take a loan of grain.

The cereal bank has distributed 14.5 tons of grain to its members since 2003, says treasurer Moussa Cisse.

“We raised our own contribution before World Vision provided us support of about U.S. $3,000. We had the funds to buy the initial stock of millet,” Moussa says. “World Vision also helped us to build our capacity in the storage and preservation of good quality cereals.”

Cereal bank allows saving and borrowing for hungry months

In August, before the fall harvest, members of cereal banks receive the grains they have “banked.” If it’s not enough for their family, they can borrow more.

Nearly 68 percent of Senegal’s population of 13 million works in agriculture, depending largely on rain-fed crops vulnerable to frequent droughts and floods.

Before cereal banks were set up, farmers were often overwhelmed by debt. They slipped further into poverty by selling productive assets like land, livestock, and tools. Then, when the rains came, they weren’t able to buy seeds and plant them.

The Bagana cereal bank has 426 members. To become a member, male farmers put in 240 pounds of cereal; nine pounds is kept by the bank for an annual fee. For women farmers, the contribution is 194 pounds, with four pounds retained for the fee.

The World Food Program has contributed to cereal banks that World Vision established. The European Union also established 25 banks, bringing the total in Kaffrine to 45.

A food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region is affecting more than 18 million people, including more than 800,000 in Senegal. Cereal production for 2012 in the Sahel is down by 27 percent from 2011 numbers.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families in Senegal and the rest of West Africa who are impacted by this food crisis. Pray that all would find the nutrition they need, and pray that organizations would be able to work together to help avert a major crisis in West Africa.

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care to hungry children. Your donation will help deliver emergency food aid, agricultural support, and more to children and families at risk from food shortages.

Contact your members of Congress. Urge them to protect the International Affairs Budget from drastic cuts. This budget funds life-saving interventions around the world, including West Africa. Making up only about 1 percent of the entire budget, there are few places in the U.S. federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.