- Title: MALI / FILE: Cereal banks save farmers from food shortages
- Date: 10th August 2010
- Summary: TRAORE ENTERING THE CEREAL BANK
- Embargoed: 25th August 2010 13:00
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVAE5MZPKEWHWCV03Y6O6WCB3NCG
- Story Text: Kantara Coulibaly is a farmer in Nioro, western Mali. His farm lies in the Sahel, a region stretching across northern Africa including parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Sudan and Niger and currently affected by food shortages.
Coulibaly struggles to produce enough millet to take his family through the year and especially through the dry season when he cannot plant and has to rely on produce stored from more favourable seasons. He needs 15 kilogrammes of millet per day to feed his extended family of 20 and by the end of July he is often out of stock.
"In August I am out of stock and I have to buy millet," said Coulibaly.
During the dry season, small scale farmers like Coulibaly used to have to buy cereal on the market, where prices would go up.
Recently, a German non-government organisation, Welthungerhilfe, started providing assistance to overcome food shortages in the region. Together with local community leaders, Welthungerhilfe has helped establish cereal banks for farmers.
The banks buy millet and sorghum from farmers after the harvest season when prices are low and conserve this stock for the period when prices go high.
"Ten days before I expect to run out of Sorghum, I phone my brother who works abroad and he sends some money to buy from the cereal bank," said Coulibaly.
The cereal banks build up their stock after the harvest, when millet is cheapest at 32 U.S. dollars per 100 kilogrammes. Then the bank is closed until the first rains fall. The cereal is sold during the lean period, when farmers are busy planting and recovering from the dry spell.
Farmers buy grain at a fixed price of 33 U.S. dollars for 100 kilogrammes, at a time when market prices have gone up to at least 40 U.S. dollars.
Moume Traore is a caretaker of one of the cereal banks in Nioro. A village committee that manages the bank makes sure each family gets a fixed share at the cereal bank based on the family's needs.
"We evaluate the need of each family in the village to know what quantity of grain they need and we reserve this in the bank, and we sell accordingly. We don't want only those who have money to buy up all the stock," said Traore.
Families that cannot afford their portion from the cereal bank can negotiate with the village chief who usually gives credit to be paid back in kind after the harvest.
"The advantage of the cereal bank is that during the rainy season we have the cereal in the village and everyone has a share, instead of having to buy it from outside," said village chief Baye Coulibaly.
Food shortages have long been a problem in the Sahel, which lies on the southern edge of the Sahara desert.
Analysts say the proximity exposes farmers in the region to waves of sand rolling in from the desert annually, taking over chunks of farming land. Farmers also have to contend with birds and locusts that destroy their harvests.
"Last year's harvest was not good. There were no rains and lots of birds and locusts caused us to lose our crop," said Adama Diarra, a farmer in Nioro.
In neighbouring Niger, 7.8 million people or nearly 60 percent of the country's population are running out of food after erratic rainfall last year caused crops to fail.
Relief groups say Niger, one of the world's poorest nations, is at the centre of the region's wider food crisis that could be the worst in five years.
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