Seed distribution bridges the gap until the next harvest

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By Aminata Sow in Gambia

Mahmoud Diop is a farmer living in Torro Bah, a village located at the North Bank, in Gambia. Before the food crisis hit his region, he was known as a benefactor because he used to distribute one part of his crops to the poorest families that were greater in need in his village. But now he can hardly feed his own family.

His house is composed of three families, but he is the one man there. Agriculture is the one activity he does to feed a big family composed around thirty members. Two of his brothers are dead and so he is taking care of their wives and children.

Last year, erratic rains caused crops in many areas in the Sahel region to fail. To survive, Mahmoud Diop - in common with many Gambians and millions of people in the Sahel - was obliged to sell all his cattle and others possessions.

“For several years I have not been able feed my family with my crops for seven months of the year. But this year is the worst,” he says.

With no labour and no seeds, he has selected a small part of his fields to cultivate and was waiting for the rain. Despite their young age, some of his children used to help him on the fields instead of going to school.

“I don’t have any animals, now except one donkey and a horse for the fields. But they cannot help me anymore as they are wounded. All my attempts to cure them was vain and I was feeling very lousy for this rainy season, which started now slowly,” Mahmoud says.

With the lack of rain in the 2011 season it wasn’t possible for Mahmoud Diop and thousands of agro-pastoralists families in the Sahel region to produce seeds and now all the reserves are gone.

In order to help Gambian families to replant their crops, Gambia Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has distributed food items, seeds and fertilizers to more than 500 communities in the North Bank and Lower River Regions of Lower Baddibou and Jarra East respectively.

The lack of seeds was the most serious aspect of the food insecurity situation in The Gambia. So, for many agro-pastoralists, the future seemed a lot darker and uncertain. With the rice and oil he has received from the Gambian Red Cross, Mahmoud Diop’s family will be able to hold on for weeks until the next harvest comes around.

“The Gambian Red Cross came just when it is raining and I am very happy for that,” he says. “The seeds will allow me to start the farming activities. I can say that for weeks, our food has been ensured and I am able to protect my family until the next rainy season.”