Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

A Four-Legged Insurance Policy Builds Resilience in Burkina Faso

In years past, when drought came to Piaga, Burkina Faso, Diadagdou Haro’s crops failed and he and his wife, Libabodimo Ouoba begged fellow villagers for food to feed their family of five. The meal wasn’t nutritious, but it filled empty stomachs. When you’re asking for help you can’t be picky, Diadagdou says.

This year was different. Drought came, crops failed, but the family is eating – food not begged, but bought.

The difference is that he now has goats he can sell to support his family, thanks to a project called CORE: Community-Led Recovery in the Sahel.

Lutheran World Relief began working in Burkina Faso in 1986 to address the food crises assailing the largely rural population. The organization initiated its original CORE project in 2013 to bring resilience to this area of the Sahel. CORE II, which began in 2016, is targeting more than 104,000 recipients by providing improved agricultural and animal production as well as increased income generation and stronger community-based organizations. One of the first goals is to increase farmers’ resilience so they can better weather climate shocks in this drought-prone region.

For Diadagdou, resilience means he no longer begs other villagers for food to feed his family because he has income options other than the crops he tries to grow. That’s because he and his family were chosen to participate in the animal sharing practice known as habbanayé. The family received three goats, two female and one male, and used those animals to build their own herd before passing them on to the next recipient.

Those three goats grew into a herd of 18 and gave the farmer a new income stream, making him less vulnerable to drought and other hardships.

This climate shock safety net came into play this year when rains ended before expected. The sorghum, beans and maize Diadagdou’s family eats and the sesame and ground nuts he sells did not grow. But this time there was no panic and no relying on outside help. The couple sold several head of their herd for about $110. That was enough to buy food and medicine for their children without asking for handouts.

If he didn’t have the goats as a safety net, Diadagdou would likely leave the country, possibly for the Ivory Coast or Ghana to look for work to support his family, he says. The goats provide a sense of prosperity and allow him to remain and work the land and herd.

Diadagdou and Libabodino are happily watching their herd continue to grow. Two of their goats recently gave birth, one to twins.

“By selling the goats we were able to make it through the last drought,” Libabodino says. “We’re continuing to breed more in case of emergency.”

The herd gives Diadagdou time to become more deeply involved in other parts of CORE II, such as employing water capture techniques and using seeds that grow faster and are ready for harvesting before the droughts come. The goats are an insurance policy providing him with the most basic of needs, he says.

“If you have food,” he says, “the other things can be taken care of.”

This post was written by Gary Fields, Senior Manager for Content, Lutheran World Relief