A new study shows how Women’s Welding Granaries are bridging the lean season gap for greater food security

The RFS Niger project, the Family Farming Development Programme (ProDAF), is supporting women’s groups to increase the food security and resilience to shocks of rural communities.

Women’s Welding Granaries, or Greniers Féminins de Soudure (GFS), were developed in 2013  by the Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region (PASADEM). The Family Farming Development Programme (ProDAF) in Niger, led by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has since scaled the initiative up, and is making great leaps under the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme.

Since 2016, ProDAF (who joined [RFS] along with 11 other countries in 2017) has been looking to the GFS initiative with the aim of strengthening the food and nutrition security of rural households, especially in the lean season.

The lean season in Niger occurs between June and September, the period between harvests, and is a precarious time for the rural families who make up 80% of the country’s population. Women and children are disproportionately affected by chronic food insecurity, which affects 42% of children under 5 years old.

The idea behind GFS is to simultaneously bridge the hunger gap during this time while providing an opportunity for women to empower themselves and strengthen their decision-making roles in their communities.

GFS are cereal stocks that are managed by women from vulnerable households, brought together by Mata Masu Dubara (MMD) groups. Meaning “ingenious women” in Haussa, MMDs are local women’s savings and credit associations that build community resilience to shocks, whether they be environmental or otherwise. In 2021, a 2 million tonne cereal deficit left 39% of the population food insecure and now in 2022, rising food prices due to the war in Ukraine are threatening food security once again.

But the combined forces of the MMD and GFS groups are fighting back in the Maradi, Tahoua and Zinder regions of Niger.

To implement GFS in these regions, the project constructed cereal stores that can hold 200 tonnes of grain, established management committees and provided 10 tonnes of millet to each of the 24 villages involved in the project in the Maradi region.

To better understand the impact of GFS in the RFS project sites, the National Representation and Technical Assistance Unit, or Cellule Nationale de Représentation et d'Assistance Technique (CENRAT), and ProDAF conducted a survey to see what the effects have been on the ground.

In total, the project targets 3669 GFS members (45% in Maradi, 31% in Zinder and 24% in Tahoua) with 8 villages per region practicing GFS. 244 women were surveyed in the study, including men’s focus groups in each village to form a holistic impression of the impact.

Here are some key results:

  • A total of 3578 bags of millet weighing 100 kg each were donated to the GFS groups in these regions
  • The length of the lean season was reduced by 41% in Tahoua, 33% in Maradi and 26% in Zinder
  • There was a 44% reduction in the number of households that had to work on others’ farms after the implementation of GFS – this allotted more time for them to work on their family farms, thereby strengthening household food production and security
  • The use of credit was reduced by 54% in Maradi, 20% in Tahoua and 26% in Zinder
  • The number of meals eaten per day increased in the three regions from:

-          1 to 2 meals per day: 32% in Maradi, 35% in Tahoua, 33% in Zinder

-          1 to 3 meals per day: 33% in Maradi, 51% in Tahoua, 16% in Zinder

-          2 to 3 meals per day: 20% in Maradi, 13% in Tahoua, 67% in Zinder

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