Tchima and her community get a little help from CARE to overcome the lean season

Tchima and her community get a little help from CARE to overcome the lean season image 1
Tchima Ibrahim Iro (left), 40, poses for a photograph in Sarken Yamma (Tahoua region, Niger). With funding from ECHO/WFP, CARE is providing income to vulnerable families so they can buy food and repay their debts ahead of the lean season. People receive cash in exchange for part-time work in projects identified by their communities, or as a handout in the cases where nobody in the family is able to perform manual labour.

CARE's cash-for-work program is supporting 11,377 families in the regions of Maradi, Tahoua and Zinder, Niger.

Participants work six days a week and get a cash payment of $50 a month. The work is completed in the morning, so participants have their afternoons free to earn additional income. In households where nobody can work, the community selects families who will benefit from the same amount of cash. Tchima Ibrahim Iro, mother of six, is one such beneficiary.

Because she is unable to work, Tichma relies on her neighbors to help her feed her hungry children. When begging doesn't make ends meet, she's forced to borrow small sums of money that add up to seemingly insurmountable debt. Thus, many poor people like Tchima in Niger and other places that face chronic food shortages become trapped in a cycle of hunger, poverty and debt that grows ever more dire with each passing year.

CARE's support has helped Tchima and other families like hers get back on track. "I have used some of the cash to pay back my debt and I have stopped begging," says Tchima with a smile.

Now that she has a small income, Tchima can purchase food for her family, thus reducing the burden she places on her neighbors. Plus, she's now able to support local farmers so they don't end up in the same situation.

Even though the primary goal of CARE's cash-for-work projects is to help people cover their immediate basic needs, the program brings longer-term benefits to the community. For example, project participants are turning an unused tract of land into pasture in Tchima's village. After removing weeds, they plant grain, which will germinate during the rainy season and create a new area for cattle to graze.

Tchima expresses her appreciation by saying how proud she is to be a part of a village who came together to create the chance for a brighter future.

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