Cereal banks empower women and fight famine in Africa's Sahel region
Groups such as the World Food Program and Care are joining forces to create all-women-managed cereal banks in villages throughout the drought-prone Sahel region of Africa. They help protect against famine, but also empower women.
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Given women’s traditional role as primary caregivers who invest 90 percent of their incomes into their families (as compared to the 30 to 40 percent invested by men), it makes sense to employ them as managers of community cereal banks.
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“Women traditionally feed the village; we know when our children and neighbors are hungry,” says cereal bank treasurer Sakina Hassan, “Our intimate knowledge of hunger drives our management of the cereal bank.”
Cereal banks decrease communities’ dependence on unpredictable weather and provide villages with a much needed safety net during times of drought and famine. In addition to emergency food relief programs, these cereal banks helped save thousands of families throughout the region from hunger and malnutrition during the most recent food crisis in the Sahel.
These community granaries have also led to improved educational opportunities for women, empowering them to better provide for their families and their communities.
• Caitlin Aylward is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.