It was a Sahrawi engineer, Taleb Brahim, who came up with the idea, and it was quickly adopted by the UN’s food aid agency, which provided the necessary funds to launch the initiative. Three hundred families living in the refugee camps are now beneficiaries of the project. Brahim himself is a resident of the camps. He presented his idea, named “Growing in the desert,” at the WFP Innovation Accelerator boot camp in Munich in 2017, where it was selected as the jury’s first choice.
Using trays of local barley, the Sahrawi families who benefit from the program grow plants that, one week later, can be used to feed their livestock. To protect them from the heat, the trays are kept in containers, in greenhouses or in mud-brick constructions. The positive effects on the livestock are unmistakable: an improvement in milk production in terms of both quantity and quality, and a drastically reduced mortality rate of goat kids, according to a report by the United Nations in Algeria.
“The WFP wants to improve the food security of households and ensure they have better access to meat and goat’s milk. We also aim to give them opportunities for job creation,” Romain Sirois, WFP Representative in Algeria, said. The organization, which has signed a contract with the Algerian company Agro Solution, ordered the installation of units consisting of stacks of trays (containerized units), in addition to units made on site, in order to produce fodder in large quantities.
“The containerized unit can produce up to 100 kilograms of green fodder per day, which is enough to feed around 20 goats, while the locally-made unit produces 60 kilograms,” Sirois explained. Around 50 smaller units, each capable of producing up to 15 kg of fodder per day (sufficient for five goats), were distributed to families during the pilot phase of the program, in partnership with the NGO Oxfam in 2017.
“I was given a small unit that’s adequate for my five goats – a few trays and some barley – and some training. After about a week or 10 days, enough fodder grows and my goats are now healthier,” one of the Sahrawi women beneficiaries of the program said.
Agro Solution is currently producing another 170 units, which should be operational by September. “By the end of this expansion phase, we should be reaching 220 families. But with a population of 173,600 refugees in five camps, there’s potential to further develop the project,” Sirois said. He explained that additional funding is required to carry out the entire expansion of the program – each family-sized unit costs USD 250 and each containerized unit costs USD 25,000.
Among the donations the WFP has received to fund the project are those made by the German government, via the Munich Innovation Center, and the Canadian Embassy in Algiers. A large contribution from the United States will enable the next phase of the program to be launched.