Life after war
Thousands of displaced persons in western Cote d’Ivoire are currently returning to the villages of origin, and are having to rebuild their lives. ACTED is supporting these households, undermined by last year’s post-electoral crisis.
Villages located on the axes between Liberia and Guinea are hard places to get to. Roads are often damaged and poorly kept by lack of funds, which limits access for most cars and trucks. Villages in the area therefore have poor capacity for resilience when confronted with shocks and perceive less humanitarian aid. Their sources of food supplies are mostly self-produced, though some is procured on local markets. Kitchen gardening has therefore become essential to food security, but it strongly depends on rains, generally few and further between. The farmers’ calendar is therefore disrupted, which causes drops in field productivity, as it was the case in 2011.
Feeding the family is the number one priority
In the area, even though houses were pillaged during the crisis, total destruction remains rare and returnees have mostly found a new place to live. Their main focus is therefore to gain access to food. “Markets are poorly supplied because of the state of the roads,” the villagers protest, “and the situation got worse with the crisis. Prices are also high. We have no choice to feed our families but to eat the rice we have left, with no possibility to sow more.”
In the area, the traditional crop growing process includes conservation of part of the harvest, to prepare for the following year’s sowing. However, seed stocks were plundered, burned or consumed during the crisis, and tools had disappeared. The 2012 agricultural season, which begins in April and on which depends the entire area’s food security, is seriously jeopardized.
ACTED therefore launched at the end of February a project supporting returnees in western Cote d’Ivoire, aimed at the Danane region, with support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. The program will allow to distribute agricultural seed and tool kits to the most vulnerable households.
Preparing for the future: education as a priority
The communities unfortunately have other needs. Many villagers are worried for their children’s future. The area’s schools are globally in a poor state and ill-equipped. Pupils study in difficult conditions, packed on a handful of benches, suffering from weather conditions under poorly insulated tin roofs. ACTED therefore plans to rehabilitate at least five schools to respond to the education and social cohesion challenge, by making the different communities work together for a common goal: the future of their children.
If the recovery of Cote d’Ivoire depends on the rehabilitation of its social and economic infrastructure, sustainable development cannot be foreseen without reshaping cohesion, an urgent task that needs to be started now.