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LWR and Resilience in the Sahel

LWR’s work is reaching more than 213,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

  • Over 72,000 men and women have received cash payments for rehabilitating over 1,200 hectares
    of communal land in NIGER and have benefitted from long-term agriculture and nutrition programs.
  • 60,000 conflict affected people in MALI have received food rations to help vulnerable families meet immediate food needs, promote livelihoods recovery and lay the groundwork for future resiliency by providing quality seed and animal production inputs.
  • Thousands of farmers in BURKINA FASO are benefiting from increased household income as a result of LWR’s Climate Smart Agriculture approach to improve adoption of new cultivation, harvest and processing techniques.


A serious food crisis has developed in the Sahel region of West Africa that puts an estimated 11.3 MILLION PEOPLE at risk for hunger. Throughout the region, families are struggling with drought, rising food costs and mounting food insecurity. In Mali, internal conflict has displaced 470,000 people, many of whom are women and children. Displaced people have fled to the capital and areas south, putting a strain on communities already struggling to cope with the on-going food crisis.

With generous support from individual and institutional donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), LWR is working in West Africa to increase resilience to future shocks by providing cash-for-work programs that meet immediate needs while investing in long-term solutions; improving agriculture production and natural resource management; and inspiring behavior change in household nutrition. LWR’s programming model emphasizes increased community resilience to frequent drought cycles and incorporates elements of natural resource management, improved access to credit and agricultural inputs, nutrition education and behavior change.

Sustained Commitment

LWR has worked in West Africa since responding to the severe drought and food crisis that hit the region in the mid-1970s. LWR has worked in Niger since 1975, with a concentration on strengthening agricultural cooperatives in the Tahoua and Dosso regions. LWR began working in Burkina Faso and Mali in 1986 to address drought-related famine, and continues to partner with rural communities 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 West Africa Regional Office based in Burkina Faso oversees all aspects of LWR’s work in our three focus countries, developing regional and country strategies and ensuring quality and efficiency in all LWR programs.

Bridging From Relief to Resilience

LWR’s established experience and strong relationships with communities in West Africa place us in a privileged position to respond quickly and effectively to emergency situations. All relief efforts conducted by LWR take a long-term view and prioritize ways to enhance community recovery and resilience even during the immediate crisis response. In collaboration with our donors, local partners and communities, LWR bridges the delivery of humanitarian assistance with sustainable development approaches to respond to drought and food crisis in West Africa and lay the foundation for resilience.

Cash-for-Work Through Natural Resource Management

In times of emergency, LWR and its partners use cash-for-work approaches to allow community members to earn immediate income to feed their families while at the same time carrying out critical actions designed to spark early recovery and build resilience. LWR’s cash-for-work
activities are designed to restore community assets and promote natural resource conservation and protection, contributing to improved food security by meeting immediate food needs and enhancing long-term protection of land assets vital to sustained resilience.

Coupling cash payments, which enable household to meet immediate food needs, with improving land assets is essential to LWR’s resilience-building approach.

Seed Distribution

In times of crisis, most subsistence farming households liquidate their seed supply, either by selling what they have or by consuming seed for nourishment. Seed distribution schemes intervene at a critical moment to ensure that farming households are able to replant for the rainy season and regain their livelihoods. Without this infusion, recurring crisis cycles continue to erode farmer capacity to cope. LWR uses certified high-quality seed in distributions to ensure that small-holder farmers are using inputs adapted to local conditions.

Sustaining Community Resilience

LWR is at the forefront of organizations working to build and sustain community resilience, through approaches that promote value chains and climate smart agriculture, make strategic investments in community-based organizations and enhance household nutrition.

Promoting Value Chains and Climate Smart Agriculture

LWR supports agriculture programs designed to improve farmer livelihoods and build resilience to future crises. Our work improves the lives of thousands of rural farm families in West Africa by making their participation in agricultural value chains more profitable and strengthening their livelihood base with diversified strategies. LWR works with partners to improve smallholder farmer cultivation, processing and marketing capacity. Organic or other specialty certifications facilitate farmer access to higher value markets and improved transport, warehousing, and financing further improve the prices they can receive.

By adopting Climate Smart Agriculture methods in agricultural production, LWR reduces marginalized rural populations’ vulnerability to ongoing environmental degradation and the effects of global climate change through long-term, sustainable development that build resilient communities. LWR programs support improved soil health through land and soil management methods including crop diversification, agroforestry, intercropping and organic farming practices. Complementary programming emphasizes efficient use of water through conservation and improved irrigation. Through its international networks, LWR connects farmers to researchers and extension services to expand access to improved crop varieties. Specific approaches are tailored to local contexts to ensure that appropriate techniques lead to the greatest long-term benefit.

Strengthening Community-Based Organizations

LWR supports organizational capacity development, aimed particularly at community-based organizations, which are on the front line for resilience and often serve as safety nets to their members during lean times. Specifically, LWR builds community-based organizations’ financial and institutional management system, technical, and governance systems. By empowering farmer associations and cooperatives to provide sustainable and quality service to their members, LWR strengthens sustainable business models for improved livelihoods and resilience.

Enhancing Household Nutrition

Building resilience requires addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability. An important component of vulnerability in West Africa is access to and use of nutritious foods. LWR responds by providing at-risk, communities vegetable seed and training in irrigated vegetable production. Another channel to improve access to nutritious food is increased livestock production, an essential element in many LWR programs in West Africa in order to provide protein through milk and/or meat. Through enhanced vegetable and livestock production, LWR aims to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable communities to secure lasting improvements in income and food security, which will sustain community resilience. LWR also promotes hygiene and nutrition behavior change communication techniques, which build on LWR’s history of innovative malaria programming. By coupling behavior change communication with efforts to expand access to nutritious foods, LWR supports community food security and resilience.