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About CORE

Resilience Plus: Community-Led Food Crisis Recovery in the Sahel (CORE) works to increase farmers’ incomes by intensively boosting local farm output through improved land management and crop and animal production, while increasing post-harvest handling and marketing of surplus production.

CORE is a joint initiative of Lutheran World Relief, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, and local partners Fédération Kishi in Niger, Union Tamani in Mali and Fédération des Diéma Tin Tua in Burkina Faso.

Objectives of the Project:

  • Diversifying, increasing and protecting crop and animal production for the poorest households.
  • Increasing households’ sales margins and incomes from agriculture.
  • Building the capacity of partner community-based organizations (CBOs) and their leadership.

Background of Problem

Since 2011, the Sahel region of West Africa has experienced a series of three relentless food crises. In 2012 alone, more than 18 million people across nine countries were hit by severe food shortages. During each of these crises, the most vulnerable families were forced to make difficult decisions such as limiting food consumption and taking on more debt. In order to purchase food, many were also forced to sell land, livestock or other assets.

The poorest and most vulnerable people were unprepared to withstand complex and severe shocks in 2011 and 2012. Erratic rains, low cereal production, insufficient regrowth of grazing pastures and persistently inflated food prices were just some of the shocks and stressors people faced. These stressors were exacerbated by armed conflict in Mali and Nigeria, in addition to the threat of a desert locust infestation. Although emergency response efforts successfully prevented a complete catastrophe, an estimated 8.5 million people remained food insecure and highly vulnerable to crises in 2013.

LWR and Resilience in the Sahel

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has worked in West Africa since responding to the severe drought and food crisis that devastated the region in the mid-1970s and currently works in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. LWR has worked in Niger since 1975, strengthening agricultural cooperatives in the Tahoua and Dosso regions. LWR began working in rural communities of Burkina Faso and Mali in 1986 to address the root causes of poverty and lay the groundwork for greater food and nutritional security. LWR currently works in the Nord, Centre-Est, and Est regions of Burkina Faso and in the Mopti and Ségou regions of Mali.

LWR’s extensive experience and strong relationships with communities in West Africa place LWR in a privileged position to understand local needs and coping strategies, permitting LWR to develop effective response strategies that bolster local capacities. LWR’s relief efforts take a long-term view and prioritize ways to enhance community recovery and resilience even during immediate crisis response.

Measuring and Learning in CORE

Like all LWR projects, CORE has been monitored throughout its implementation and is evaluated on a regular basis. LWR has a toolkit called Design, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (DMEL) to support staff and partners. This toolkit includes both tools made publically available by peer organizations and tools developed specifically for LWR projects, and is publically available to any organization that finds the tools useful. During the design of the CORE project, LWR staff members and partners used the DMEL tools to help them think critically about the problems faced in the focal communities, develop interventions to address those problems, and create systems for monitoring those interventions to ensure that they are effective. In addition to regular monitoring, this project is evaluated on an annual basis to assess whether it is achieving the desired results.

Meet Essita and Daniel

Essita Lankoandé is one of four women farmers elected to serve as a volunteer resource person in her community of Diéla in Burkina Faso. Her role as a resource person is to construct and model soil and water conservation structures on her own land. These conservation structures — called zaï — are pits in the soil that collect water and compost, a technique commonly used in West Africa to increase soil fertility. As Essita’s efforts improved her land and increased crop production, her husband Daniel became interested in the work and he began working alongside Essita.

“Previously, [my wife and I] didn’t have the faintest hope that we could cultivate this degraded parcel of land of ours, but based on the fruits of Essita’s work, believe me when I tell you that you can count on all of our landholdings being used judiciously like this next year,” said Daniel.

Essita’s role as a resource person and new expertise with soil and water conservation techniques empowered her to better contribute to management of her household land holdings.