At the Largu Food Market, in Ituri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, merchants and customers crowd each other and shout over the noise of the stalls. Cécile Tabo Mapamadjo, 28, carefully examines the foods she has chosen.
“Here at the market, I found rice, fish, beans, but also corn, cassava, and palm oil. I am very happy with what I received here, because I know that we will be able to eat well and that the children will be happy,” says Cécile.
When it is time to pay, she pulls out colored papers with prices and photos of food printed on them – they are food vouchers. Cécile is one of more than 4,400 families who are part of an Action Against Hunger emergency food assistance project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace program.
By connecting buyers with local traders, our approach combines food assistance and local economic recovery while allowing program participants like Cécile to make their own food choices and maintain autonomy. The food vouchers are valued based on market prices analyses and calculated to help people meet all of their daily caloric needs.
Since 2017, Ituri province has experienced armed intercommunal conflict, so access to food is a daily challenge. People have fled violence, lost their property and livelihoods, and abandoned their farmland to seek safety. This combination of factors, along with long-term poverty in the region, has increased food insecurity.
“In recent years, there have been inter-ethnic conflicts here. Because of that, a lot of people moved, a lot of people were killed. We all live in a state of displacement, which causes a lot of suffering,” explains Cécile.
Cécile and her husband are agricultural day laborers, but their income is not enough to feed their four children. The food vouchers help bridge the gap. As part of the program, Cécile is also learning about nutrition through cooking demonstrations and sessions about how to detect malnutrition in their children at home.
Our teams in Ituri have also begun a new agriculture revival project to help these conflict-affected communities grow more food close to home.
"People forget their lands and become displaced. This creates difficulties to cultivate the land even when they return,” says Georges Lokana Budza Loga, a farmer and local leader. He received agricultural training on techniques to plant seeds, seedbeds, and nurseries, which he is now sharing with other farmers.
Equipped with new agricultural tools, seeds, and training, nearly 2,200 families in Ituri have planted their own fields and vegetable gardens. Each family has, on average, produced more than a ton of cabbage, onions, spinach, and amaranth.
“We thank Action Against Hunger because they did not just do one job. They did at least three different jobs. They gave the seeds to the populations, they gave food to the people, and they also helped the children who were in poor health and malnourished,” says Georges.