Cereal banks empower Niger women
January 2011: Behind a walled compound in the village of Gangatarey, in the Dosso region of Niger, 6 women meet weekly to discuss plans for their business. The women run a cereal bank, established with support from Plan that provides food for the entire community.
Plan uses cereal banks to ensure that families have enough food until the next harvest, reducing their dependence on unpredictable rains.
In 2010, tens of thousands of people across Niger suffered from food shortages. Plan distributed 3,500 tonnes of food to 200,000 people struggling to survive in Dosso and Tillabéri. While immediate aid distribution staves off hunger in the short term, Plan has also been working with communities to develop a long-term sustainable solution to hunger.
Grain for all
Cereal banks help to ensure the availability of food during the lean period and equal access to grain for all, especially the most vulnerable. Plan guides local committee elections, training and cereal bank construction, empowering the whole community, especially women, to manage their own food supply.
Plan has helped 86 communities across Niger to establish grain banks. The all-woman management team in Gangatarey is unusual - most cereal banks, like other businesses in Niger, are run by men. The 6-woman team ranges in age from a young, unmarried woman to a grandmother of 11 children.
Driven by hunger
“Women traditionally feed the village; we know when our children and neighbours are hungry,” said Sakina Hassan, the cereal bank treasurer. “Our intimate knowledge of hunger drives our management of the cereal bank.”
The women are responsible for control of all cereal bank operations: sales, stock replenishment, logistics, security, finance and administration. Grain is sold at a lower than market price to enable the poorest to purchase locally when food is scarce.
Challenging gender roles
Gangatarey’s women made the cereal bank a community effort from the start when they organised the donation of more than 3,000 mud bricks to construct the granary. In the first year of operation, they sold 90 sacks of 100 kg of grain to the village - improving food security for 536 families, which they hope to double this year.
Running the business has entailed challenging traditional gender roles – but with Plan’s help they have developed their confidence, stock management and leadership skills, which has helped them gain respect.
“There are still a few people in the village, some of them women, who remind us where a woman’s place is - staying at home and caring for her family’s needs,” said Ms Hassan. “But more and more, people are changing their minds because they recognise how we are helping the community.”
Read more about Plan's work in Niger.
Learn about Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign to promote girls’ rights.