They have faced personal upheaval. Militias burned their homes and raped or killed their loved ones. Now these families who have fled their villages because of the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan are receiving help – in an innovative way.
World Concern’s “Cash for Work” program began more than a year ago. It allows thousands of hungry people to receive payment for work. The projects these laborers complete help their communities to become more sustainable.
“The communities love it,” says Merry Fitzpatrick, World Concern director of technical support. “The UN has applauded it. Other NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) are coming around to see how we do it and learn from us.”
World Concern focuses its efforts on the Dar Sila district in Eastern Chad, which is near the Sudanese border. Sudanese refugees spill into Chad to escape the violence, violence which continues west into Chad and causes further displacements of entire villages.
These refugees and displaced people end up in large camps. None of the camps can provide for itself, so these people who are used to subsistence farming must now rely on food distribution.
But instead of handing out the food freely, World Concern puts the displaced villagers to work as part of the innovative “Cash for Work” program.
In one of the first activities in Cash for Work, participants dug large ponds for catching water to be used for irrigation and animals. Now, they’re building low rock walls, called bunds, which reduce erosion on hillsides.
These rock walls make a big difference in the rainy season, as they slow the runoff down hillsides, forcing water into the ground, which raises the water table and makes the land more suitable for planting crops.
In exchange for the labor, participants receive vouchers which can be used to buy anything their families need, from food to personal necessities.
The vouchers are redeemed at once-a-month community fairs, which World Concern organizes. Price ceilings are put in place beforehand to ensure the new influx of money does not destroy the fragile economy.
“Last year we put $1 million into the local economy within about nine months and did not create inflation,” says Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick says that about 15,000 people have benefited from the program, people identified as most in need of assistance.
Fitzpatrick says without “Cash for Work,” World Concern might spend 40% to 50% of its expense on shipping and logistics to truck in the food, while putting its staff at greater risk of attack during the shipment and storage.
With the program, World Concern spends just 10% to 20% on shipping and logistics.
“Cash for Work” has allowed not only a streamlined delivery and choices for displaced people, but stimulation to businesses in a desperate region.