In Guinea-Bissau, Cash for Work helps farmers get back on their feet

In Guinea-Bissau, Cash for Work helps farmers get back on their feet

In Guinea-Bissau, Cash for Work helps farmers get back on their feet

In Guinea-Bissau, Cash for Work helps farmers get back on their feet

The sun is beating down at high noon. A team of men sings to motivate themselves, their bodies immersed in clay. Manuel is among the two dozen men passing thick clay the size of footballs, from one to the other, with the last person slapping it in place along the levee, the perimeter of one of tens of rice fields on the edge of the village. They are surrounded by mangroves, with saltwater seeping in all around.

Manuel Bidan Santa and his colleagues are farmers, repairing the dikes that protect their surrounding rice paddies.

“The clay is very heavy,” explains Manuel, covered from head to toe in the slick and sticky mud. “We work here during the rainy season. There are other areas that also need repair, but we can only work there during the dry season.”

With the ocean tides, these dikes will slowly erode, and repairs will need to be done every year. That’s normal. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, Manuel hasn’t had the time to attend to them.  He’s been playing catch up, but can never seem to make it.

“We haven’t really been able to make ends meet, and instead of spending time here repairing the dike, I’ve had to look for other means to feed my family. I can’t leave them hungry at home and come here all day.  So, I was coming for an hour or so at a time, but that doesn’t really get me anywhere.”

But since January, Manuel and other rice farmers from Iungun village are being paid to repair these walls as part of a Cash for Work programme under the Government of Guinea-Bissau’s Emergency Food Security Program (known by the Portuguese acronym PUSA-GB), funded by the World Bank and implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

PUSA-GB aims to mitigate some of the impact of COVID-19 on the food security of many residents in the country. Manuel is one of the 8,000 project participants earning 85,000 XOF (140 USD) each for their work on the repairs.

It is estimated that 72 percent of the population in Guinea-Bissau currently requires some form of food security support.

In addition to the paid employment program, PUSA-GB has supported 3,000 of the most vulnerable farmers through unconditional direct cash transfers of 85,000 CFA francs (approximately 140 USD) per family to cover the most urgent basic needs.

The project supports farmers across the country in several other ways, including the distribution of 25,000 agricultural tools (buckets, watering cans, hoes and rakes) and 1,278 tonnes of seeds and establishing Farmer Field Schools to promote best practices in agricultural production – seven focusing on rice and nine on maize.

The Government has also received 655,000 tonnes of fertilizer, 1,000 drainage pipes, and 720,000 doses of animal vaccines. Over 312,000 animals have been vaccinated and treated against potentially deadly diseases under the project.

For Manuel, the Cash for Work funds go a long way in helping him get back on his feet.

“With the money I receive, I can leave my family and come to work with peace of mind,” says Manuel. “I can go to work knowing that they will be able to eat and that my children will be able to go to school.”

This three-year project, with a budget of 11.3 million dollars, will conclude in December 2023.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.